A non-profit organization (often called "non-profit org" or simply "non-profit" or "not-for-profit") can be seen as an organization that doesn't have a goal to make a profit. It may be entirely funded by voluntary donations.
It may be a formal incorporated not-for-profit corporation that does not have shareholders, though it may have members and issue membership certificate s or require member loans. It may also be a trust or association of members. The organization may be controlled by its members who elect the Board of Directors or Board of Trustees. Not-for-profit organizations may have a delegate structure to allow for the representation of groups or corporations as members. It may be a non-membership organization and the board of directors may elect its own successors.
It may have a tax exempt status or it may be a de-facto group of individuals operating for a common purpose. For example, it may comprise a voluntary group of individuals who are dedicated to developing an open content online encyclopedia, that allows any member of the public who has access to an internet connection and a world wide web browser to make a contribution of knowledge, information, editing, formatting, or programming skills.
Such "organizations" are often 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 called foundations, or endowments that have large equity funds . Most foundations give out grants to other not-for-profit organizations, or fellowships to individuals. However, the name foundation may be used by any not-for-profit corporation -- even volunteer organizations or grass roots groups. A non-profit organization may be a very loosely organized group such as a block association , or a trade union, or it may be a complex structure such as a university, hospital, documentary film production company or educational book publisher.
Most jurisdictions have laws governing the setting up, running, and reporting requirements of these organizations. In many aspects they are similar to business entities though there are often significant differences. Both non-profit and for-profit entities must have board members, steering committee members, or trustees who owe the organization a fiduciary duty of loyalty and trust.
The largest non-profit organization is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of approximately $27 billion. The second-largest is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which has an endowment of approximately $11 billion.
Laws on non-profit organizations
- Commonwealth non-profit laws
- European Union non-profit laws
- People's Republic of China non-profit laws
- Republic of India non-profit laws
- Republic of Japan non-profit laws
- Russian Federation non-profit laws
- United States of America non-profit laws
Examples of non-profit organizations
- Action Without Borders idealist.org
- AEGEE European Students Forum (Europe-wide student organisation)
- AMORC (registered as non-profit educational organization in USA, charities and educational activities)
- Apache Software Foundation
- A.U.M.P. Church
- Better Business Bureau
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- BWARS -the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society
- Council on Hemispheric Affairs
- Food and Friends Supplies food to AIDS patients and breast cancer patients 
- Hong Kong Jockey Club
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Institute For Domestic And International Affairs
- MacArthur Foundation
- Miss America
- Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sin
- Nature's Classroom
- Operation Lifesaver
- Project Gutenberg
- Public Interest Research Groups
- Randolph Mountain Club
- REAL: Youth to Youth US-based non-profit that supports literacy in rural India
- International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
- Shark Trust
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
- Toastmasters International
- Transnational Corporations Observatory
- Upakriti US-based non-profit that supports under-privileged children in India
- Wikimedia Foundation
- Wild Dolphin Foundation Protecting dolphins and habitats through research, advocacy and education
- World Monument Foundation
- WWF Preserving wild animals