Volunteering - Why is it so Important? (11th Grade)

9, 10, 11, 12

The learners explore characteristics of "For-Profit" and "Not-for-Profit" businesses and organizations. They identify the role of volunteerism and research the incentives often used to attract volunteers. They will use this information to promote student volunteerism. 

PrintOne 50 minute class period

The learners will:

  • compare and contarst "For-Profit" businesses and "Not-for-Profit" organizations.
  • identify and articulate the important role volunteerism plays in “Not-for-Profit" organizations.
  • explore why people volunteer, identifying many of the incentives for volunteers.
  • determine how incentives can be used as a motivational tool to encourage others to volunteer.
Teacher Preparation 

It is important to be sensitive to the possibility that someone in your class may have some personal experience with homelessness, hunger and poverty.


 Analyze one nonprofit's mission statement according to how motivating it is to encourage support and volunteering.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Have the words "For-Profit Businesses" and "Not-for-Profit Organizations" posted at opposite ends of the classroom. Discuss the learners' prior knowledge of these terms. (Definitions: For-Profits, n) A term describing the Internal Revenue Service’s designation of an organization whose income is being used for the benefit or the private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company and subject to all of the taxes levied on business ownership and profits by local state and federal tax laws; Non-Profits- n) A term describing the Internal Revenue Service’s designation of an organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company; separate tax treatment exists based on whether it is charitable or not.

  2. Tell the class that you will read a list of characteristics often associated with businesses/organizations and they are to move and stand near the "For-Profit Businesses" or the "Not-for-Profit Organizations" label in which they think this particular characteristic is more likely to be found. If they feel that it is something that could be found equally in either a "For-Profit Businesses" or a “Not-for-Profit Organizations" they can stand in the middle of the room to indicate this decision. Read through this list of characteristics of businesses/organizations one at a time allowing the learners to their register their opinions and briefly discuss when there appears to be a wide range of opinions about why this might be so.

    • Passion for Mission: Believes strongly in what is being done.
    • Atmosphere of "scarcity": Important to make every penny count.
    • Bias toward informality: Values participation and consensus.
    • Dual bottom lines: Both financial and mission accomplishment are important.
    • Program outcomes are difficult to assess
    • Governing board has both oversight and supporting roles
    • Third-party funding
    • Mixed skill levels of staff (management and program)
    • Relies on participation of volunteers
  3. After each characteristic has been given, voted on and discussed where appropriate, ask the class to share any insights and/or questions they might have. Lead them to the conclusion that many of these characteristics of businesses/organizations can be found in both "For-Profit Businesses" and "Not-for-Profit Organizations" with the exception of one characteristic and that is "relies on participation of volunteers." Have the learners define Volunteer/Volunteerism (Definition: (n) One who offers himself for a service of his own free/The act of performing a service or good work for others without pay.) Ask why this might be true and why "Not-for-Profits" rely heavily upon volunteers.

  4. Download and print a copy of Why People Volunteer https://www.dummies.com/article/business-careers-money/business/nonprofits/considering-why-people-volunteer-200627/. There are eight incentives offered here. Separate each incentive description from the others and form eight groups. Give each group one of the incentives of Why People Volunteer: Incentives for Volunteering.

  5. Instruct them to read their assigned incentive, discuss if this is an example of an incentive for teens to volunteer, and be prepared to share a summary of their discussion.

  6. Conclude this lesson by having the learners, based on the summaries shared, discuss and reach consensus about which of these incentives, if any, are why teens might likely choose to volunteer. As a class brainstorm other factor that may serve an incentives for teens to volunteer.

  7. Then have them formulate an action plan to recruit their peers to volunteer, using the identified incentives for teens.


The learners will be assessed based on their whole and small group participation reflected in their depth of understanding and questioning as well as the appropriateness of their contributions.

Cross Curriculum 

Students come to a consensus on a volunteer project that matches their talents and interests and addresses a local need.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
    2. 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. Benchmark HS.2 Provide an example of an organization (or a service that it contributes) from a list of categories of civil society organizations.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify the major operational characteristics of organizations in the civil society sector.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and contrast the basic terms and operations of the for-profit, government, family, and civil society sectors.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Describe and compare the characteristics, legal roles and responsibilities of civil society sector boards and how civil society organizations operate.
    4. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify how subgroups and families in society demonstrate giving, volunteering, and civic involvement.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
      2. Benchmark HS.6 Describe nonprofit advocacy organizations and their relationship to first amendment rights.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Describe why a civil society sector corporation may produce goods and services without the profit incentive.
      2. Benchmark HS.11 Analyze the impact of volunteerism on the economy of communities.
      3. Benchmark HS.13 Give examples of how philanthropy has reallocated limited resources through giving and citizen action.
      4. Benchmark HS.4 Give examples of how civil society sector giving by individuals and corporations can impact communities.
      5. Benchmark HS.6 Explain how economic systems encourage or discourage philanthropy and the civil society sector.
      6. Benchmark HS.7 Explain why the civil society sector rather than the government or private sectors address particular economic areas.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.8 Explain how a robust civil-society sector supports civil society.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark HS.11 Discuss the concept of corporate citizenship and corporate responsibility for the common good.