Investigating How Our Community Needs Are Served

9, 10, 11, 12
To explore some ways of addressing public policy issues and introduce students to the United Way of America organization and its state and/or local United Way organizations.
Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period
The learner will:
  • research the United Way using print and Internet Web sites.
  • organize information and share their material both orally and in writing.
  • World Book Encyclopedia
  • Research the Web site:
  • Local United Way Pamphlet. Contact your local United Way: 1-800-411-UWAY (8929)
Notes for Instruction:
    If you do not have a local United Way, call United Way of Michigan and ask them to send you the state pamphlet. 1-800-411-UWAY (8929)
  • philanthropy
  • public policy issues


  1. Anticipatory Set:Ask students "What do you think of when you hear the term 'United Way'? Can you name any United Way agencies? What is their mission or purpose, whom do they serve and what do they have to do with philanthropy?"

  2. Give students about five minutes to respond to the questions either in their journals or orally.
  3. Guide discussion and describe the purpose of today's research. Distribute United Way pamphlets. Remind them to gather important information like date founded, time line of events and fact sheets from the web.
  4. Take class to the media center to research the United Way in small groups. Each group must use the following resources: World Book Encyclopedia, the Internet Web site at, and at least one additional library resource such as books or magazines articles on the United Way. Have the pamphlets available for your students as well as the telephone numbers for your local or state United Way.
  5. Each student will write a draft "newspaper" article answering the "Who, What, Where and When" questions based on their research.
Evaluate students' draft articles. At the conclusion of the entire unit, students will write an essay on the following questions: "As involved citizens, which United Way agency would you volunteer for in the community and why?" "Which agency do you believe has the greatest need for volunteers, and why?"
Cross Curriculum 
If students can participate in Service Learning, have them choose one of the United Way agencies in their area. After research, implement a Service Learning project either in the agency or with the agency staff. This could be feeding the hungry in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter or assisting staff from the local domestic violence shelter in designing and playing games with the children, respectively.

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.2 Provide an example of an organization (or a service that it contributes) from a list of categories of civil society organizations.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.7 Explain why the civil society sector rather than the government or private sectors address particular economic areas.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.