Differences Between Profit and Non-Profit Organization

An organization is a social arrangement which pursues collective goals, controls its own performance, and has a boundary separating it from its environment. It is a business which has a primary goal of making profit and a proposed goal such as helping the environment.

A non-profit organization is an organization which does not distribute its surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but instead uses them to help pursue its goals. Examples of NPOs include charities (i.e. charitable organizations), trade unions, and public arts organizations. Most governments and government agencies meet this definition, but in most countries they are considered a separate type of organization and not counted as NPOs. They are in most countries exempt from income and property taxation.

Differences between Profit and Non-profit Organization

Ownership is the quantitative difference between for- and not-for-profit organizations. For-profit organizations can be privately owned and may re-distribute taxable wealth to employees and shareholders. By contrast, not-for-profit organizations do not have owners. They have controlling members or boards, but these people cannot sell their shares to others or personally benefit in any taxable way.

While they are able to earn a profit, more accurately called a surplus, such earnings must be retained by the organization for its self-preservation, expansion and future plans. Earnings may not benefit individuals or stake-holders. While some non-profit organizations put substantial funds into hiring and rewarding their internal corporate leadership, middle-management personnel and workers, others employ unpaid volunteers and even executives may work for no compensation. However, since the late 1980s there has been a growing consensus that nonprofits can achieve their corporate targets more effectively by using some of the same methods developed in for-profit enterprises. These include effective internal management, ensuring accountability for results, and monitoring the performance of different divisions or projects in order to better benefit from their capital and workers. Those require satisfied management and that, in turn, begins with the organization’s mission

There are a variety of perspectives, models and approaches used in strategic planning. The way that a strategic plan is developed depends on the nature of the organization’s leadership, culture of the organization, complexity of the organization’s environment, size of the organization, expertise of planners, etc. For example, there are a variety of strategic planning models, including goals-based, issues-based, organic, scenario (some would assert that scenario planning is more of a technique than model), etc. Goals-based planning is probably the most common and starts with focus on the organization’s mission (and vision and/or values), goals to work toward the mission, strategies to achieve the goals, and action planning (who will do what and by when). Issues-based strategic planning often starts by examining issues facing the organization, strategies to address those issues and action plans. Organic strategic planning might start by articulating the organization’s vision and values, and then action plans to achieve the vision while adhering to those values. Some planners prefer a particular approach to planning, eg, appreciative inquiry. Some plans are scoped to one year, many to three years, and some to five to ten years into the future. Some plans include only top-level information and no action plans. Some plans are five to eight pages long, while others can be considerably longer.

For-profit and nonprofit financial statements have many similarities. For that reason, nonprofit personnel would benefit from reading the links in the section above, “For-Profit Business Planning”. Some of the terms are different, but in most cases they can readily be translated into words more commonly used in the nonprofit sector. For example, “balance sheet” is what nonprofit call a “statement of financial position”, “profit and loss statement” (or income statement) is essentially the same as a “statement of financial activities”, and so on.

One of the key difference between a for profit and a non profit plan is the marketing section. In a for profit business, the served customers are generally those who provide the revenues needed to cover expenses and continue operations. For a non profit, often the served constituents do not provide this sustaining funding, and it must be sought from a third party – donors. This means the marketing plan must describe both how the organization will communicate its services to its service target market and how it will communicate its need for funding to its funding target market. This means detailing these two separate marketing messages and two strategies for marketing.

Another key difference is the “non profit” part of the business plan. Financial plans for a non profit do not have to show net profit, and, if they do, there must be some explanation of what those retained earnings will be used for. They cannot be distributed as dividends, as the organization is technically owned by the public and not by the directors or board. However, profits can be accumulated for the purposes of creating an endowment or capital fund for future expenditures. An accountant should be consulted for any decisions of this nature.

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