Exploring the Non-Profit Sector: How does Literature define the Field?

Exploring the Non-Profit Sector:  How does Literature define the Field?

It is first and fore mostly important to consider the environment where and context in which the Institute for the Blind operates. An understanding and a degree of knowledge with regards to this environment is crucial if research is to be optimally conducted in the field.  The Institute for the Blind operates in the non-profit (NPO) or charity sector, and as a program of Badisa, the Institute for the Blind is registered as a non-profit organization (NPO number: 011-891), as well as a Public Benefit organization (number: 930 006 348).  A definition of this complex sector needs to be analyzed, and the following standard theoretical definition of the term “non-profit organization (NPO)” is provided by the Business Dictionary (2011): “Associations, charities, cooperatives, and other voluntary organizations formed to further cultural, educational, religious, professional, or public service objectives. Their startup funding is provided by their memberstrustees, or others who do not expect repayment, and who do not share in the organization’s profits or losses which are retained or absorbed. Approved, incorporated, or registered NPOs are usually granted tax exemptions, and contributions to them are often tax deductible. Most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are NPOs and are also called not for profit organizations.”  Nonprofit organizations are usually classified as either member serving (addressing the needs of only a select number of individuals) or public.

 According to Morris (2000: 26), it has long been recognized that individuals and communities choose to associate and meet their needs for goods and services through institutions other than states, markets, or households. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, there have been “increasingly formalized attempts to organize the study of these institutions through the development of a language and set of theories that delineate a distinctive sector.”  In terms of the theoretical definition, NPOs therefore are mostly charities or service organizations – they may be organized as a not-for-profit corporation or as a trust, a cooperative, or they may be purely informal. Sometimes they are also termed foundations, or endowments.   A nonprofit organization is formed for the purpose of serving a public or mutual benefit other than the pursuit or accumulation of profits for owners or investors. “The nonprofit sector is a collection of entities that are organizations; private as opposed to governmental; non-profit distributing; self-governing; voluntary; and of public benefit” (Salamon 1999: 10 in Luckert 2011). Luckert (2011) continues to state that the nonprofit sector is often referred to as the third sector, independent sector, voluntary sector, philanthropic sector, social sector, tax-exempt sector, or the charitable sector.

 Resource mismanagement can be regarded as a particular problem with NPO’s.  The nature of this type of organizations allows for employees not being accountable to anybody with a direct stake in the organization.  An employee for example may start a new program without disclosing its complete liabilities.  Liabilities are promised to employees on the full faith and credit of the organization but not formally recorded anywhere, leading to accounting fraud.  NPO’s therefore can very easily be greatly affected by financial problems unless strict controls and measurements are instated. 


Morris, S. 2000. Defining the Nonprofit Sector: Some Lessons from History. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, (11)1: 25-43.

Luckert, Kate. 2011. Nonprofit Organizations (Definitions and Examples) [Online]. Available: http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper41.html [2012, March 27].



About kieks

Who am I...? well, firstly, at 22 it's still not so easy to answer this supposedly simple question. I'm a different person today than I was a year, or even 6 months ago. Maybe tomorrow I fall in love, meet a new friend, be part of a miracle, experience a tradegy or listen to an inspirational song and see things differently than I do today... But at this moment in time, in a nutshell I would say that I'm completely content. What can you say about yourself that would make you more special, or any different than the person sitting next to you, except for your height, hair colour and shoe size..what makes ME different? extraordinary? unusual? exceptional? The answer lies deep, deep down to the furthest and yet unreached bottom of my soul - a place still waiting to be fully discovered, explored and exploited... the quest to find that piece of extraodinariness is a long and tough yourney of its own, for some (better) days the answer floats up to the surface and glows for a while in the life's sunlight...other days that same glistering confidence of yesterday seems to sink away to a place where it's light is almost impossible to see...About myself? Who am I? I am the girl who, inspite of stormy seas, believes that, by letting your extraordinariness float on the surface you see the light reflect on the faces of those who look at you...

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