Grade 6-8

A Moo-ving Experience

Time: 45 mins,
Updated: October 23 2020,
Author: Cheryl McGaughey


Students will be able to:

  • Explain the purpose of nonprofit organizations.
  • Recognize the differences between nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

In this economics lesson, students will explore the purpose of nonprofit organizations.



Ask your students what would they think if they saw a herd of full-size, painted sculptured cows on the streets of New York City? Or in downtown London? Or in their hometown? Tell students there is an organization called CowParade© that helps support fund-raising events for local nonprofit organizations by providing them with cows to decorate. Explain that they will learn more about CowParade in this lesson as they learn about the role nonprofit organizations.


Ask your students if they know what the Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club of America and Sierra Club all have in common? Explain the following to them: These organizations and thousands of other similar groups are nonprofit organizations. Under the Internal Revenue Tax Code, a nonprofit organization is defined as any corporation, community chest, fund or foundation that is organized and operated exclusively for religious, scientific, public safety, literary or educational purposes. A nonprofit organization must be operated exclusively for the public interest. Nonprofit organizations include charities, churches and other associations and foundations. While some corporations and business firms may provide similar services, it does not necessary mean they have a nonprofit status. Ask students if they can name any differences between a corporation/business firm and a nonprofit organization. (Answers will vary but should note that corporations/business firms have a different mission. For-profit organizations are designed to generate profits from providing goods and services to consumers; nonprofits do not focus on profits and are generally dedicated to a designated cause or purpose.) Tell students they will participate in a drag and drop activity to help them identify various nonprofit organizations. (Note: This activity may be done with the class as a whole or with individual students.) Debrief the activity by reviewing the differences between for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Group Activity

Tell students nonprofit organizations, often called charitable organizations, are involved in many different interests or causes, such as education, political issues, the environment, religion, athletics, etc. Explain that they all have one common feature: a need to raise funds to provide services and activities that align with their mission, and they often provide these services at little or no cost. Even when nonprofit organizations charge for their services, that amount usually covers only the cost or a portion of the cost of the services provided. Remind them that for-profit businesses and organizations charge a price that covers the cost of the good or service plus an amount above the cost to generate a profit. As a result, nonprofit organizations are always searching for new, interesting ways to raise money. Tell students a new type of nonprofit fund-raiser was developed in 1996 in Switzerland, and it has been adapted in many cities around the world. It is called CowParade©, which is an art exhibit of full-sized, painted and decorated cow sculptures. The sculptures are placed in cities for several months and then auctioned off with the proceeds going to the charities. Put students into small groups and have them complete the Moo-ving Experience Group Task Sheet. Review student answers. [Answers will vary].

Individual Activity

Tell students they have been selected to design an advertisement for a nonprofit group in their community that will be holding a CowParade© fund-raiser. Have them give an example of how the cows might be painted or decorated to represent their local community or state (for example, a cow might be painted with a desert scene for Arizona or with apples representing the Big Apple for New York City). Distribute copies of the cow outline for students to use. Have students share their drawings with the rest of the class.


Have students list three things they learned about nonprofit organizations from this lesson.


Activity 1

Have students research a nonprofit organization in their community. The research should include an interview with the leader of that organization. Remind them that their interviews should focus on services or functions this organization provides, the fundraising activities or events they sponsor, and how can individuals like themselves can get involved. (Note: This assignment could be completed individually or in small groups.)