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Nonprofit Organization (NPO): Definition and Example


A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a not-for-profit organization, is a type of entity that does not redistribute its surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but instead uses them to pursue its purpose or mission. The main goal of an NPO is not to make profit but to benefit the public, specific group of individuals, or the membership of the NPO itself. For example, charities, universities, and public arts organizations are often NPOs.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Nonprofit Organization (NPO): Definition and Example” is as follows -Nonprofit Organization (NPO): /ˌnɒnˈprɒfɪt ˌɔːrɡənaɪˈzeɪʃn/ (EN-POH)Definition: /ˌdefɪˈnɪʃən/and: /ænd/Example: /ɪɡˈzɑːmpəl/

Key Takeaways

Main Takeaways about Nonprofit Organization (NPO): Definition and Example

  1. Definition: A Nonprofit Organization (NPO) is a group organized for purposes other than generating profit and in which no part of the organization’s income is distributed to its members, directors, or officers. NPOs typically exist to help a cause, provide a public benefit or service such as environmental preservation, humanitarian aid, or education.
  2. Financial Structure: Although NPOs are not in business to make a profit, they still need to generate enough income to cover their operating expenses. They do this primarily through donations, grants, and membership fees. Any surplus they earn (after covering their costs) must be reinvested back into the organization’s mission and cannot be distributed to stakeholders.
  3. Example: One example of a non-profit organization is the American Red Cross, which provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education in the United States. The organization relies on volunteers and donations to carry out its humanitarian work.


The business/finance term “Nonprofit Organization (NPO)” is important due to its unique financial structure that differentiates it from other types of organizations and businesses. NPOs function as entities that are structured to promote a cause, charitable effort, or offer public service, rather than to earn and distribute profits to shareholders. They are typically identified by their tax-exempt status which is facilitated by their focus on public benefit rather than monetary gain. Examples of NPOs include environmental conservation group, educational entities, healthcare organizations, and many more. This model impacts the economy by fostering socioeconomic growth and community development, providing services and functionalities that may not be sufficiently covered by the private sector.


Nonprofit organizations (NPO) are entities that are conceived to serve a community, public, or collective benefit, rather than to accumulate and distribute profits for owners or investors. They are instituted for the social, educational, charitable, scientific, or religious purposes, and the scope could range from poverty alleviation, health services, environmental conservation, arts and culture promotion, to academic research. NPOs, witnessing their income primarily from donations, grants, membership dues, or fundraising events, re-invest these revenues back into their mission-related endeavors. Therefore, they play a critical role in addressing pressing public issues and aiding societal development.For instance, consider the American Red Cross, a renowned nonprofit organization dedicated to providing emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education. This NPO not only provides immediate support in disaster situations but also offers training in first aid and CPR, collecting and distributing blood products and educating people about health and safety. Thus, its function eclipses making profits and squarely focuses on serving societal needs. This example summarizes the prevailing purpose and use of Nonprofit Organizations globally.


1. The American Red Cross: This organization was founded in 1881 and is known worldwide for its disaster and crisis response, mainly providing disaster relief and health and safety training. They solely rely on the donations from the public, income from their First Aid and CPR training programs, and money obtained from the sales of their blood products. Due to its operational model that does not seek to make profits, it qualifies as an NPO.2. World Wildlife Fund (WWF): Founded in 1961, the World Wildlife Fund’s primary objective is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth. They conduct their programs and initiatives across the world and are dependent on donations and contributions from individuals and corporate entities. The WWF is globally recognized as a non-profit organization.3. Doctors Without Borders: This global NPO provides medical relief and assistance to people in conflict zones, in countries affected by endemic diseases, and in areas with inadequate healthcare. They operate independently of any political, military, or religious objectives. Funding primarily comes from private donors providing one-time or regular donations. As they are driven by humanitarian objectives and do not operate for profit, Doctors Without Borders is a good example of a non-profit organization.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Nonprofit Organization (NPO)?

A Nonprofit Organization (NPO) is an entity that is dedicated to furthering a particular social cause or advocating for a shared point of view. It is an entity that does not distribute its surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but instead reinvest it back into the organization to help them achieve their mission.

Can Nonprofit Organizations generate revenue?

Yes, Nonprofit Organizations can and do often generate revenue. What differentiates them from for-profit organizations is that any profits do not enrich the organization’s owners or members. The funds generated are solely used for the pursuits of the organization’s objectives.

Can Nonprofit Organizations have paid employees?

Yes, Nonprofit Organizations can have paid staff. In fact, it is not unusual for large NPOs to have many paid staff fulfilling various roles within the organization. However, they often rely heavily on volunteer work too.

Can someone own a Nonprofit Organization?

No, Nonprofit Organizations do not have owners. They generally have a board of directors or trustees who oversee the governance and operations of the organization. The board is responsible for ensuring the organization is run efficiently and effectively, and that it achieves its mission.

How are Nonprofit Organizations funded?

Nonprofit Organizations can be funded in various ways including donations from individuals, grants from government agencies or private foundations, and revenue from selling goods or services. They can also organize events such as campaigns or benefit performances to raise money.

Give an example of a Nonprofit Organization?

There are many well-known NPOs. One well-recognized example is the Red Cross – an organization dedicated to preventing and alleviating human suffering in emergencies globally.

What are the potential tax implications for a Nonprofit Organization?

In many countries, NPOs do receive certain tax benefits, such as tax exemptions on income or property taxes. However, these are determined under the specific laws and regulations of each particular jurisdiction.

What is the procedure to become recognized as a Nonprofit Organization?

The process varies by country. Typically, it involves filing documents with a government department, such as a state office or a national charity regulator, to obtain official recognition as a Nonprofit Organization. It is advisable to consult with a legal expert or do thorough research on the procedures specific to your location.

Related Finance Terms

  • 501(c)(3): This is the most common type of nonprofit organization in the United States, typically referring to educational, religious, or charitable organizations that are exempt from federal income tax.
  • Donations: This term refers to the gifts or contributions given by individuals, businesses, or other entities to support the operations or programs of a nonprofit organization.
  • Charitable Purpose: This refers to the primary mission or goal of a nonprofit organization, which is typically aimed at serving public or community interests, such as education, religion, or public welfare.
  • Board of Directors: This group of individuals are usually elected or appointed to oversee the activities, operations, and strategic planning of a nonprofit organization.
  • Public Benefit Corporation: This is another type of nonprofit organization. Unlike traditional nonprofits, public benefit corporations can engage in for-profit activities, but their primary goal must be to serve the public good and profits cannot be distributed to shareholders or members.

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