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What is an International Non-Profit?

Jim B.
Jim B.

An international non-profit is an organization that does work in different parts of the world without the intent of gaining profit. Many of these organizations have charitable intentions and are often funded by private organizations with wealth that is endowed from a trust or some other philanthropic endeavor. Non-profits may include workers and leadership who are paid salaries, or they may contain volunteers. In most cases, international non-profit organizations are afforded tax-free status and can be international in terms of scope or membership.

Most businesses or companies offer their goods or services to their consumers in exchange for money in an effort to make a profit. There are, however, other organizations that offer their services without the expectation of profit. They may do so for charitable reasons or to promote their cause, but their intent is never to make money. An organization that falls into one of these categories and is not limited to a single country is known as an international non-profit organization.

Man holding a globe
Man holding a globe

It is important to note that an international non-profit organization is not actually forbidden from making money. On the contrary, the organization itself is allowed to make a profit, or a surplus as it is called by these groups, and it may use this surplus for the purpose of the organization itself. For example, it may save the money for future initiatives or invest it in a project that furthers the organization's goals. What it can't do is use that surplus as a way to benefit the members in charge of the group.

Many non-profit organizations make their decisions based on a board of trustees that oversees the group. These trustees can be elected by members of the organization itself, or the trustees themselves may have the ultimate word. Non-profits may consist of volunteers only, but on an international level it is more common for non-profits to offer their management and staff a salary as a way of compensating for the time and effort required to reach the goals of the organization.

There are many different agendas for international non-profit organizations to try and fulfill. Charitable organizations, like those that try to bring food and shelter to downtrodden areas, provide medicine for the poor, or even help out during some sort of natural disaster, are commonplace on the international level. Other international non-profits may seek to promote a specific agenda on a worldwide scope, such as an educational organization trying to foster learning across the globe. Finally there are organizations devoted to promoting goodwill between nations, much like the International Olympic Committee's efforts to conduct the Olympic Games.

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