Non Profit Structure and Operations

Even though more than 20% of the workforce currently holds a job in the nonprofit sector, many people still don’t know very much about what is a nonprofit.

But a nonprofit is just a type of corporation or organization, whose purpose is charitable, rather than profitable. This does not mean that nonprofits do not have any money, but that the goal of the organization is not to make money, but to provide some sort of service to those in need.

Every nonprofit operates in a similar fashion, and is structured in the same three parts, regardless of the work that they do. The three parts are:

1) Programs and Services – The core of any nonprofit organization is the programs and services that it provides to its community. These programs can be very specialized, or can serve a more general purpose. Nonprofit programs and activities include youth services, disaster relief, advocacy, environmental protection, counseling, artistic pursuits and a whole host of others. Any activity that serves an existing need in any community can be part of a not-for-profit organization or charity.

Programs and services in a nonprofit are funded by contributions from a number of sources, including individual gifts, foundation grants, government contracts and corporate sponsorships. There are many ways to support nonprofit programs outside of donations, like volunteering.

2) Governance – The governance of an organization refers to the board of directors, or the body of the organization that makes planning and guidance decisions. The board of directors of a nonprofit organization meets regularly to discuss high-level matters of the organization, like long-term fundraising, expansion of programs and services or other strategic planning initiatives. Board members are generally donors or others associated with either the organization itself, or the cause or issue that it promotes.

3) Administration/Management – The administration of a nonprofit organization includes the executive director, fundraising staff and other managers and staff members who work behind the scenes, and not directly in programs. The administrative personnel of a nonprofit organization can look very similar to that of any for-profit organization, from payroll to human resources to accounting.
In the nonprofit world, even though the focus is rarely on the bottom line, administrative staff and managers are an essential part of ensuring that programs and services are delivered.

If you decide that you are going to look for a nonprofit job, you should be familiar with the three major elements of any nonprofit organization. Of course, there are some organizations that might fall outside of these general structural guidelines. Trade unions, for example, are not for profit organizations categorized under “associations”. They refer to a group of workers who have organized to maintain relations with their employer and ensure that they are receiving adequate wages and benefits.

Another major type of nonprofit organization is foundation. These charitable organizations may not carry-out their own services, but instead donate large amounts of funding to other nonprofit organizations so that they can carry out their own work. Foundations, like other nonprofit organizations, also have a board of directors and administrative staff, but may not need many staff people to carry out program activities.

If you are familiar with how organizations work as well as the types of nonprofit organizations, you are on your way to finding the right nonprofit job for you.

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