Void Filled by Nonprofits

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners recognize the value of nonprofit organizations and identify how nonprofits meet citizen needs when government can't.

PrintOne 45-Minute Class Session

The learner will:

  • explain why nonprofit organizations are essential in a democratic society.
  • compare and contrast private and public foundations.
  • analyze one nonprofit organization
  • Investigating a Nonprofit Organization (handout) Spanish version (handout)


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask, "How are the needs/ problems/ issues of citizens addressed if the government isn't able to solve them fully?" Discuss.

  2. Define nonprofit as a business organization that provides goods and services without seeking to earn a profit.

    There are many sub-sectors of the nonprofit sector in which organizations with similar interests or focuses operate. Nonprofit organizations can be classified into the following seven types (sub-sectors):

    • Arts (e.g., Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Shedd Aquarium, New York Symphony Orchestra)
    • Education & Research (e.g., Public Broadcasting Service, Teach for America, Learning to Give)
    • Environment & Animals (e.g., The Nature Conservancy, Humane Society, Chicago Botanic Garden,)
    • Health (e.g., Mayo Clinic, American Heart Association, American Red Cross)
    • Religion (e.g., First Presbyterian Church, Princeton Theological Seminary, congregations)
    • Social Services (e.g., Catholic Charities U.S.A., Heifer International, Gleaners, food banks)
    • Foundations: These include community foundations (focused on particular geographic counties or regions), family foundations, private independent foundations (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Ford Foundation), and corporate foundations (such as the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Wells Fargo Foundation).
  3. One example of a nonprofit is a foundation, which is an organization that distributes grants to not-for-profit organizations or, in some cases, to people. Foundations receive their own funds originally from individuals, families, corporations, or other nonprofits.

    Foundations usually create endowments, which is an invested sum of money from which grants are made (from the interest earned).

    A grant is a financial donation given to support a person, organization, project, or program.

  4. Types of Foundations (Public foundations receive most funding from general public, and private foundations receive funding from a single donor or a few donors):

    • Family foundations are usually founded by an individual or a family and are generally operated by members of that family. Examples: The Annenberg Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
    • Corporate foundations are created and funded by companies as separate legal entities, but are operated by a board of directors composed of company officials. Examples: Dow Chemical Company Foundation, Domino's Foundation, Daimler-Chrysler Corporation Fund, and the Ford Motor Company Fund
    • Independent foundations operate independently from their original donors or original source of funds. They may have been started by a family, but the family has ceased to serve on the board. 
    • Community foundations are operated by and for the benefit of a specific geographic region. They receive their funds from a variety of donors and provide a way for donors to establish endowed grantmaking funds without incurring the costs of starting a private foundation.
    • Service club foundations generally have a somewhat narrower grantmaking focus than do community foundations and may or may not have endowed funds (local Rotary Foundations)
  5. Have students choose one nonprofit organization  (in their area of interest) from researching needs in their area. They fill in the handout: Investigating a Nonprofit Organization. 

    Students will share their research with the class.

  6. Point out career opportunities in the nonprofit sector and compare the requirements and responsibilities for similar jobs that can be done in the nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors.

  7. Using what they learned, together the group writes an acrostic poem about philanthropy. Write the word "philanthropy" on the board. Have the students come up with a word or phrase for each letter within the word that directly relates to the concept of philanthropy. For example P = people in action; H = helping one another is a must; I = individuals working together to make a difference.


The research paper and presentation will count as the assessment.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.
    2. Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and contrast the characteristics of different types of foundations.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.11 Discuss why organizations in the civil society sector work to protect minority voices.
      2. Benchmark HS.8 Explain how a robust civil-society sector supports civil society.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 02. Careers In The Nonprofit Sector
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Explore requirements and motivations for a career in the civil society sector.