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Organizational Structure | should you choose a practical or futurist?

It is nearly impossible to operate an organization without having any sort of structure. Some people are oblivious of the need for these structures and miss out on many very important opportunities. In your opinion, would you consider your organization effective? Whatever your response, let us quickly explore what organizational structure is and how to make the best of it.

What is an Organizational Structure?

An organizational structure is an internal working mechanism of an organism. It defines the relationship between the various individuals in that workspace. It shows what roles exist within an organization and the associated responsibilities. When an organizational structure is detailed, it shows who fills each role within the organization. Irrespective of how well defined the structure is, it is filled by the people who work there.

What should be in a standard Nonprofit Organizational Structure?

In my opinion, every organization is unique and has different circumstances. For instance, I started my nonprofit with one friend and it was just us working together. In time a third person joined us. You see, with each new addition to the organization, the structure changes once more. There are large organizations with up to a thousand employees while others like mine have only a few staff. Hence, it is safe to say that there are no standards. Though there are certain commonalities you would expect in most structures. Let’s consider them below.


Most nonprofits have one or more boards depending on their needs. In some countries, Nonprofits are required to form a Board of Trustees at incorporation. Many founders also desire an advisory board to assist them in many decision-making activities. There may also be a management board that oversees the daily running of the organization. While an advisory board is often made up of individuals outside the organization, the management board comprises high-level staff. Learn more about how to form an effective board.

Chain of Command

There is always a chain of command showing the linkages between the various offices in the organization and who reports to who. Organizations become a sort of madhouse if it is unclear who ought to report where and when. While some organizations manage to pull off a functional workspace without a clear-cut chain of command, it is a good practice to clearly state who is in charge at every level. Another good practice here is to avoid lumping too many responsibilities into the same office. for instance, if there is a head of finance, they should not double as the head of social justice or any other units. Likewise, lumping administration, human resources and finance is a horrible thing to do because one single individual would have too much power and can bypass sensitive checks and balances to effect transactions that will cost the organizations in the long run.

Typically a good organizational structure should reflect some stratification. A simple guide would be to have top management, mid-management and entry-level employees. This creates a clear progression path for your staff and they can start working towards the positions they may aspire to. This practice will empower the staff to stay competitive and motivated as they gun for higher positions.

So would your organizational structure be practical or futuristic?

Many founders desire to have a robust organizational structure but lack the resources to operationalise it at the moment. They may wonder if to create a structure that works at the moment or a futuristic one that will prompt the organization to desire growth. In my opinion, practical organizational structures work all the time. It reflects the staff strength you have at each moment and leaves little space for any vacuums. While futuristic models keep the organization ambitious, they may never fill out the offices they have at any time. This creates opportunities for failure and inadequacies.

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