Two Basic Types of Organizations: For-Profit (Business) and Nonprofit

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development and Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development with Nonprofits.

Sections of This Topic Include

For-Profit Organizations
Nonprofit Organizations
Additional Perspectives on Nonprofit Organizations

Also See the Library’s Blogs Related to Types of Organizations

In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Types of Organizations. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Library's Consulting and Organizational Development Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Nonprofit Capacity Building Blog

Also see
Free Management Library Materials Apply to Nonprofits and For-Profits
Related Library Topics


NOTE: Many people would argue that a nonprofit organization is also a business organization, if they believe that a business is an organization that provides value to consumers and gets suitable value in return.

For-Profit (Business) Organizations

A for-profit organization exists primarily to generate a profit, that is, to take in more money than it spends. The owners can decide to keep all the profit themselves, or they can spend some or all of it on the business itself. Or, they may decide to share some of it with employees through the use of various types of compensation plans, e.g., employee profit sharing.

(We'll read later about the legal forms of a for-profit, including sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations. More information is available back in the main category Introduction to Organizations.

Nonprofit Organizations

(The following information, in large part, was developed by Putnam Barber, President of the Evergreen State Society in Seattle, Washington)
A nonprofit organization exists to provide a particular service to the community. The word "nonprofit" refers to a type of business -- one which is organized under rules that forbid the distribution of profits to owners. "Profit" in this context is a relatively technical accounting term, related to but not identical with the notion of a surplus of revenues over expenditures.

Most nonprofits businesses are organized into corporations. Most corporations are formed under the corporations laws of a particular state. Every state has provisions for forming nonprofit corporations; some permit other forms, such as unincorporated associations, trusts, etc., which may operate as nonprofit businesses on slightly (but sometimes importantly) different terms.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gets involved because corporations are, in general, required to pay federal corporate income taxes on their net earning (another technical term, pointing to a slightly different way to the idea of a surplus of revenue over expenses).

Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code lists several circumstances under which corporations are exempt from these taxes. Section 501(c)(3) -- the famous one -- describes corporations (1) serving charitable, religious, scientific or educational purposes (2) no part of the income of which "inures to the benefit of" anyone.

Tax-exempt nonprofit corporations can, and do, operate in all other particulars like any other sort of business. They have bank accounts; own productive assets of all kinds; receive income from sales and other forms of activity, including donations and grants if they are successful at finding that sort of support; make and hold passive investments; employ staff; enter into contracts of all sorts; etc.

There are some specialized tax rules and accounting practices that apply to nonprofit corporations. If they are of a certain size, they are required to disclose many details of their operations to the general public and to state regulators and watchdog agencies using IRS form 990. This form shows any salaries paid to officers or directors and to the five highest-paid employees and contracts if any receive over $50,000 in the tax year (at the time of this writing in 1998). The form also requires the organization to divide its expenses into "functional categories" -- program, administration and fund-raising -- and report the totals for each along with the amounts expended on each program activity.

To understand more about nonprofits, see Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development With Nonprofits (for consultants and internal leaders in USA and Canada)

Additional Perspectives on Nonprofit Organizations

Is There a Difference Between For-Profits and Nonprofits?
Sources of research about nonprofits
Who Can Benefit from Nonprofit's Activities?
How Are Nonprofits Classified?
Stereotypes of Philanthropy in Popular (?) Culture
What is a Nonprofit Topic?
Best of the Best – Book Wish List for Nonprofit Folk

also see "Information Specific to Nonprofits -- About Unique Nature and History"


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For the Category of Organizational Development:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

Managing Organizational Change

Growing Your Organization



Managing Organizational Change

Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides complete, step-by-step guidelines to identify complex issues in for-profit or government organizations and successfully resolve each of them. This book is also helpful to organizations that are doing fine now, but want to evolve to the next level of performance. This is one of the truly comprehensive, yet practical, books about this complex subject! Includes online forms that can be downloaded. Many materials in this Library's topic about guiding change are adapted from this comprehensive book.
Consulting and Organization Development With Nonprofits - Book Cover Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development With Nonprofits
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides complete, step-by-step guidelines to identify complex issues in nonprofit organizations and successfully resolve each of them. This book is also helpful to organizations that are doing fine now, but want to evolve to the next level of performance. This is one of the truly comprehensive, yet practical, books about this complex subject! Includes online forms that can be downloaded. Many materials in this Library's topic about guiding change are adapted from this comprehensive book.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Growing Your Organization

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See for For-Profits

Strategic Planning -- Recommended Books

Business Development -- Recommended books

Financing Your Business -- Recommended Books

Product Development -- Recommended books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books

Also See for Nonprofits

Strategic Planning -- Recommended Books

Social Entrepreneurship (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Fundraising -- Recommended Books

Program Management -- Recommended Books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books




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