Helping the Needy--What Now?

6, 7, 8

The purpose of the lesson is to create an awareness of local agencies that provide services for needy people, teens, and families in the community. Students will also learn the motivations for giving and see how help is provided to the community through the four sectors of the economy. Students will research and select a community agency and plan a service-learning project.

PrintTwo Class Periods plus time to plan and carry out a Service-Learning project

The learner will:

  • name the four sectors of civil society and give examples of how they meet needs differently.
  • define and give examples of the seven motivations for giving and serving.
  • identify local nonprofit organizations that address a specific need.
  • plan a service project addressing an identified need.
  • student copies of the handout The Four Sectors of the Economy 
  • student copies of the handout Social Organizations 
  • student copies of the handout Service-Learning Planning sheet 
Teacher Preparation 

Before students arrive, push all the desks to the back of the room so that you have a large open space. Write on the board,  “Take out a pencil and paper and write about being homeless.”

Say this to the students as they arrive, "Your desk is your home in this classroom and it’s no longer available to you. In addition, you must give up your worldly possessions (backpacks, paper, pencil, etc.) by putting them on the back desk. Please look to the board for further instruction."

Home Connection 

Students can interview a parent about agencies that provide services to children, families, or other adults who are homeless or in need.



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    As students arrive, they find all the desks pushed to the back of the room and this written on the board: “Take out a pencil and paper and write about being homeless.”

    As students walk into the room, say, "Your desk is your home in this classroom and it’s no longer available to you. In addition, you must give up your worldly possessions (backpacks, paper, pencil, etc.) by putting them on the back desk. Please look to the  board for further instruction.

    It will be come obvious to your students that they cannot do this. Discuss how this feels and how this relates to the feeling of being homeless.

  2. Process the activity by asking:

    • What happened here?
    • How did you feel about giving up your possessions?
    • What did you do when you couldn't do the assignment?
    • How are you feeling about what happened?
    • Do you think this is how people feel who experience this lack of resources (food, shelter, school, supplies)?

    Tell students to sit on the floor for the introduction to the lesson on the four sectors of the economy and how they relate to addressing needs.

  3. Give everyone a copy of the handout The Four Sectors of the Economy. Display the glossary on Learning to Give website and discuss the meanings of the words government, for-profit business, non-profits, and family.  Pose the questions below and have students fill in ideas on the handout. (The teacher will provide paper and pencil as a philanthropic act.)

  4. Pose these questions:

    • If you had a family, what could they do to help you now?
    • What could government do you help you?
    • What could businesses do to help you?
    • Is there anyone else who can help? (Friends, neighbors, organizations)
  5. Display the research-based motivations for giving on the board. Refer to these motivations to discuss why someone (from the four sectors) would want to help others who are homeless. 

    • makes good sense
    • religion
    • good business investment
    • fun - socialite
    • feels good and right
    • repaying someone - reciprocity
    • family tradition

    How/why would government, family, business, or non-profit agencies want to give to you? Discuss the following possible answers.

    • enlightened self-interest (to sacrifice a small part of their time and resources to the benefit of the whole, which, in turn, benefits themselves);
    • altruism (selfless concern for the welfare of others); and
    • egoism (theory of ethics that sets as its goal the benefit, pleasure, or greatest good of oneself alone) relate to philanthropy.
  6. Discuss some sample non-profit agencies in your community (county). Explain to students how to find organizations on the Internet that help people who are hungery, homeless, or who lack needed resources. Search under social service organizations in your community. Needs to be met could include food, shelter, health, clothing. Consider soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food pantries, rescue missions, etc. Refer to the previous lesson and information they found about local philanthropists and philanthropic organizations. Review the local agencies that assist to meet needs in their community.

  7. Divide students into groups who will each make a case for one agency they would like to support with their time, talent, or treasure. They will then find out more about that nonprofit organization.

  8. Have each group identify an agency to interview. After brainstorming the information to be discussed during the interview and practicing the interview process, students may interview, by phone or in person, a representative of each agency, using Social Organizations—Information Sheet (handout).

  9. Each team should prepare and give a short presentation (poster, power point, flipgrid, etc…) for the class about their organization. Tell students to include in their presentation:

    • the mission of the organization
    • the major recipients of the aid provided by the organization
    • where the funding comes from
    • percentage of total budget spent on direct service to clients and/or education
    • projected needs of the clients of the organization or the organization itself.
    • the presentation should end with a recommendation regarding a service-learning project for the agency.
  10. Through group consensus identify the agency for which the class will provide a service.

  11. Once an agency has been selected, have students complete a worksheet and/or a timeline for completion of the project. Use Service-Learning Timeline (handout) to plan and complete a project.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will implement a service project to fulfill a community need.

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.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark MS.1 State the purpose of a mission statement and describe how civil society organization mission statements relate to philanthropy.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Describe how a specific civil society organization in the community operates.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Locate and map civil society organizations in the community.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
      3. Benchmark MS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Explain and give examples of enlightened self-interest, egoism, and altruism as they relate to philanthropy.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Identify specific learning objectives from the academic core curriculum that are being applied in the service-learning project.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      3. Benchmark MS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.