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Organizational Structure of Not for Profits

The organizational structures of not-for-profits vary, depending on objectives and legal status.

The organizational structures of not-for-profits vary. Despite differences between these groups, some common organizational features exist in most not-for-profits, according to "Nonprofit Organizations" by James J. Fishman and Stephen Schwarz. Organizational structures of these groups vary from simple, with one person undertaking all activities for the entity, to complex, with a board of directors and employees.


The type of legal structure forming a not-for-profit dictates the organizational structure of the entity. Not-for-profits commonly incorporate. On the other hand, there are nonprofit organizations that do not incorporate and are organized as associations. These groups do not file a legal document with the government, including articles of incorporation, during the formation process.


Small not-for-profits can forgo the formal organizational structure of a corporation, according to "Nonprofit Organizations." For example, a nonprofit group dedicated to cleaning up a neighborhood park does not require incorporation. On the other hand, a nonprofit that solicits cash donations, had employees or deals with the public in some manner benefits significantly from incorporation, according to "How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation" by Anthony Mancuso.


Features of not-for-profit corporations are a board of directors -- sometimes called a board of trustees -- that oversee the operations of the organization. The board oversees employees who undertake the day-to-day activities of the organization. Features of an unincorporated not-for-profit include more informal management. Typically, there is no formal board overseeing operations but rather an individual or committee that directs activities.


One of the common misconceptions associated with not-for-profit organizational structures is that these groups must incorporate. In fact, the need to incorporate and adapt a more formal organizational structure depends on such factors as fundraising activities as well as types of services rendered or activities undertaken, according to "How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation."


Each state maintains laws that impact the structure of not-for-profits. The process of organizing a not-for-profit must include an investigation and understanding of these legal requirements. For example, the laws of each state establish organizational and structural requirements for not-for-profits that provide health care services.


  • "how to form a nonprofit corporation"; anthony mancuso; 2009
  • "nonprofit organizations"; james j. fishman and stephen schwarz; 2006


Article Written By Mike Broemmel

Mike Broemmel began writing in 1982. He is an author/lecturer with two novels on the market internationally, "The Shadow Cast" and "The Miller Moth." Broemmel served on the staff of the White House Office of Media Relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science from Benedictine College and a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University. He also attended Brunel University, London.