What is a Nonprofit Organization?

Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) offer beneficial programs and services to the public, often to specific sectors. These charities and organizations are designed so that monies left after paying modest salaries and operating expenses are used to fund designated services or programs. For the most part, the programs and services provided are within the spheres of social or religious causes, education, health care, the arts, or scientific research.  Some like Kars 4 Kids are for car donations.

Status as an NPO offers certain benefits, such as paying a lower rate for income taxes or none at all. Such organizations are also eligible to apply for government and other grants. The legal status as NPO carries the designation of 501(c). This designation tells donors they may deduct their charitable contributions to such organizations from the amount of income tax they must pay. In this way, individuals of means give back to society for the benefit of all.

The purpose of social nonprofit organizations is to offer a means for confronting various societal ills with an eye toward correction or improvement. Such organizations may focus on human rights, substance abuse, homelessness, or hunger. Examples of social nonprofits include Amnesty International (ensures human rights) and Habitat for Humanity (provides affordable housing).

Tuition Scholarships

Educational nonprofit organizations will help fund educational opportunities, offering scholarships and grants to cover tuition costs for students who might not otherwise get the educations they deserve. In other cases, educational NPOs may provide items essential to education, such as computers, to students who may come from low-income homes. Examples of educational NPOs include the well-known Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Kars4Kids, the car donation charity whose proceeds underwrite school scholarships, educational afterschool programs, and camps for children.

Nonprofit organizations that focus on providing health services may institute vaccination programs in third-world countries, or underwrite research that might someday offer a cure for a deadly disease. Health service NPOs include the Mayo Clinic (research and treatment) and Doctors without Borders (provides medical services in war-torn or natural disaster-struck countries).

Community Bridge Builder

There are many nonprofit organizations which serve to provide funding to artistic endeavors and the fostering thereof. MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art, was founded as a nonprofit in order to be a bridge to the community in furthering the understanding of modern and contemporary art. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was created to showcase and nurture young, new talent, according to the vision of JFK.

The environment as a cause, came late to the scene, some say beginning in 1970, with the first Earth Day celebration. In spite of being a newcomer, there are hundreds of nonprofit organizations that serve to protect and nurture the environment. Two examples are Greenpeace, which uses “non-violent” means to expose and confront environmental issues, and Friends of the Mississippi River, which serves to improve and protect its namesake within the Twin Cities.