Power, Power, Who Holds the Power?

9, 10, 11, 12

The learner will define the third sector and explain why it is important. Students will research United States nonprofit institutions, specifically those which minority groups accessed and used as an alternative power structure.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFour Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods
  • The learner will:
    • define and use the vocabulary of philanthropy.
    • research and describe historical institutions and leaders that acted as an alternative power structure in American society to improve conditions for the common good.
  • Student copies of "Learning to Give" Glossary of Philanthropic Terms (Handout One)
  • Student copies of Philanthropic Historical Web Sites (Handout Two)
  • Rubric for Historical Research (Handout Three)
  • Halperin, Samuel. A Guide for the Powerless and Those Who Don't Know Their Own Power:
    A Primer on the American Political Process.
    Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum, 2001, p.2, p.9.
  • Salamon, Lester M. and Helmut K. Anheier. Defining the Non-Profit Sector: A Cross-National Analysis. New York: Manchester University Press, 1997, p.3.


  1. Anticipatory Set: As students enter the room, address as many as possible by saying, "Welcome, Citizen Smith or Citizen Brown, etc." Ask students to signal with a "thumbs up, thumbs down or thumbs sideways motion" whether they felt a "positive, negative, or neutral" reaction to being addressed as "citizen." Discuss.

  2. Distribute "Learning to Give" Glossary of Philanthropic Terms (Handout One) and have the learners read the definition of the word "citizen."

    • Write the following journal statement on the board: Choose from one of the following two quotations and describe what the statement means to you.
    • "The highest office in a democracy is that of citizen." — Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter


      "As citizens, we have every right to raise hell when we see injustice done, or the public interest betrayed, or the public process corrupted." — John W. Gardner

      Give the learners about five minutes to write their answers, and take another five minutes to discuss their answers.

    • Have the learners read the following definitions: business, government, and nonprofit sector. Get examples of the terms from the learners.
    • Explain to the learners that the nonprofit sector is much more important than they may realize. According to Lester M. Salaman and Helmut K. Anheier: In the United States, the third sector [nonprofit sector] accounts for over one half of all hospital beds, one half of all colleges and universities, most of the social services, and almost all of the cultural activity. It has also given rise to a variety of social and political movements like the environmental, women's, and civil rights movements that have challenged business and government.
    • Go over the remaining terms in Handout One: "Learning to Give" Glossary of Philanthropic Terms. Divide the learners into groups of five, assigning two words from the list to each group. Give them time to design a short role-play illustrating the term, and have the rest of the groups write down what they think the term is. Announce the winning teams.
    • Give the learners Philanthropic Historical Web Sites (Handout Two) which lists philanthropic historical Web sites listing groups that were used as alternative power structures to create positive changes in American society. Form the learners into groups of two. Have each team choose a group within a time period that they wish to portray. The groups available are in five categories: African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, and women. There also will be four different time periods: 1800-1850,1851-1900, 1901-1950, and 1951-2001. Distribute Rubric for Historical Research (Handout Three) and discuss the rubrics for the task. If you have a computer lab, have the learners access the various Web sites that are listed or go to the library/media center and have them research various books and periodicals. Allow three days for preparation of the material and presentations to the class. Give extra credit to learners who use props and/or dress as a person in the group would have dressed during the time period, thus making the presentation more authentic.

The learner will complete a written paragraph concerning a philanthropic journal question. Participating in a cooperative learning group, the learner will help to design a skit/role-play of terms that are indicative of the three different sectors of a civil society that we are focusing on in this lesson. The learner will perform research on a historical philanthropic organization, and be able to tell the story of how the organization acted as an alternative power structure in American society to improve conditions for the common good.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Recognize and use a variety of terms related to the civil society sector appropriately, and identify the characteristics the terms describe.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Describe how women and minority groups have used the civil society sector as an alternative power structure.
      2. Benchmark HS.7 Identify and give examples of the important roles women and minorities have played in the civil society sector in history.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to protect individual rights, equity, and justice.