Four Sectors (The)

6, 7, 8

To introduce the four sectors of a civil society: government, market, nonprofit and household.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • list the businesses necessary in a community.
  • categorize businesses as for-profit, nonprofit, or governmental.
  • explain the importance of each sector to every day life.
  • Purposes (Handout One)
  • Local phonebooks, at least one per group (If they are not available, you may copy the yellow pages index section from your phone book.)
Home Connection 

Instruct students to pay attention to any activities during the evening that could be related to the first three sectors. Students may prepare for Lesson Two: Exploring the Community by asking their parents to share information about their community. Ask students to gather local newspapers to be used for Lesson Two: Exploring the Community.


  1. Set up three charts using the t-graph style and hang in the room. The label is to be left off the chart until the end of the activity. Choose three recorders to write the name of the businesses (on the left column of their unlabeled chart) as they are directed. The teacher will direct each recorder to write specific answers as they are given. Students are then asked to share the places, one at a time, from the list they have generated during the anticipatory set. The teacher will prompt one recorder to record each time a government location is mentioned. Another will be prompted to record each time a for-profit business is given, while the third recorder will be prompted each time a nonprofit is suggested. Once the lists have been created, ask the students to come up with some ideas as to why the places were classified into these three different groups. The teacher will then put the name of the category on the left side of each chart.​​

  2. Discuss the difference between for-profit and nonprofit. As an example, a state hospital may be a nonprofit business while a private hospital is a for-profit business. A private or public school may be nonprofit while a charter school may be for-profit or non-profit.

  3. Distribute local phone books and have students refer to the yellow pages index for additional businesses in that sector that may have been overlooked. (If you have a large class size, you may consider dividing each group into two smaller groups. One group could work on the purposes while the other group would use the yellow pages index to find additional listings.)

  4. Now label the right side of each chart with "Purpose."

  5. Example: Government Purpose

    Divide students into three groups. Assign each group either nonprofit, for-profit or government by giving each group one of the class charts. Distribute (or display on the overhead) a copy of Purposes (Attachment One). Have each group complete the chart by filling in the purpose of each place which has already been listed in the previous activity.

  6. Allow enough time for each group to share their findings with the class. The teacher may choose to ask a few additional questions directing the students' thinking toward the purpose of nonprofits… "Is there a need for an organization to help during time of disaster?" " Is there a need for an organization to provide services to the needy?"

  7. Introduce the fourth sector (households). Ask students to respond to the following questions:

    • How do each of the first three sectors relate to the household sector?
    • How is your every day life affected by the four sectors in the society? (Answers may include things like: a household is governed by rules, labor is done in exchange for profit, giving of time, talent, and/or treasure is often done on a volunteer basis.)
    • What conclusions and implications can you draw about the four sectors based on your investigation of these organizations?

The completed charts can be used to check students' understanding. The student responses to questions regarding the household sector may also be assessed.


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Identify the business, government, family, and civil society sectors.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Compare and contrast the roles of business, government, civil society sector, and family.
    3. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Recognize terms that describe the civil society sector.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss examples of civil society organizations from a list of categories of organizations.