Nonprofits? (3-5)

3, 4, 5

Students will distinguish the nonprofit sector from the for-profit sector.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define and give examples of nonprofit organizations.
  • name and illustrate examples in the local community.
  • compare and contrast nonprofits to the for-profit sector.
  • Profit and Nonprofit Notecards (Attachment One) Each group needs a set of note cards, with 10 profit and 10 nonprofit organizations listed.
  • Recording Sheet (Attachment Two) and Recoding Sheet II (Attachment Three)
  • Assessment (Attachment Four)


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Students will be paired up with another student and given a set of note cards. Each note card will have either the name of a profit organization (10 note cards) or the name of a nonprofit organization (10 cards). See "Profit and Nonprofit Notecards" (Attachment One). Partners will be instructed to sort the note cards into two categories. Each student needs to record their pairings and the rationale for their work on Part One of the "Recording Sheet" (Attachment Two).


  2. Each group of partners will then pair up with another partner pair. Each pair will discusshow they sorted their cards. The two groups will merge and re-sort one group of cards.Each student will need to record their new results and new rationale on Part Two of theRecording Sheet II (Attachment Three).

  3. As the whole group meets again, a member of one group will come to the board and place their cards into two categories, explaining the reasoning for the groupings. The teacher will announce to the class how many mistakes there are, and a second group will have the opportunity to come up and make changes to the groupings. Additional groups will be given the opportunity to make changes if needed to arrive at the lists that represent for profits and nonprofits (at this time the groups have not been given these labels).

  4. Groups will then be instructed to discuss the characteristics of each group. Each member of the group will record the characteristics on the Recording Sheet. The teacher will then lead a large group discussion regarding the common themes and characteristics of each group by asking, "What do the elements in Category B have in common?" (Possible answers include: help people, voluntary, for public benefit, provide a service.)

  5. The teacher will point out that Category A includes for-profit organizations while Category B organizations are called nonprofits. Each group will then come up with their definition of nonprofit organizations. Definitions will be read to the class and listed on the board or overhead. Students will vote on the definition that they feel is most appropriate. (Nonprofit organizations are those whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company.)

  6. In small groups, ask students to compare and contrast the roles of the nonprofits to those of the profit-based companies. A small group discussion in which each group reports will follow. Questions for group consideration might be: Why do the organizations in each group exist, what is there purpose? What are the benefits to the community of having for profit organizations, nonprofit organizations? How would the community, nation, world be different without organizations in these two categories? Do we need both for profit and nonprofit organizations in a community?


Using Attachment Four: Summary and Reflection ask students to identify and list some of the more common characteristics of the two groups (A and B). Then on the back of this sheet have the students identify and list three nonprofit organizations and three for-profit companies and identify some of their more specific characteristics. When this task has been completed, ask the students to return to the front of this attachment and write a brief paragraph in response to the following question: How might the quality of life in our community, nation and the world be different if there were no nonprofits organizations?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Define the terms "profit" and "not-for-profit."
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define and give examples of civil society sector corporations.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.1 Name examples of civil society organizations in the community.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify and describe how civil society organizations help the community.