1.3 What types of organisation are there?
Organisations can be classified in different ways. One way is according to their over-arching purpose, or primary objective. Broadly, organisations may be classified as ‘for-profit’ (i.e., commercial) or ‘not-for-profit’ entities. ‘For-profit’ (commercial) organisations may have several different objectives. For a very long time, it was generally accepted that maximising the wealth of the owners and continuing in existence were the primary objectives of profit seeking organisations. However, as organisations also aim, for example, to provide goods and services to customers and employment to employees, it is perhaps more reasonable to suggest that increasing, rather than maximising the wealth of owners, is a more fitting objective. ‘Not-for–profit’ organisations comprise a large variety of organisations including charities, clubs, cooperative firms/social enterprises and public sector organisations. Public sector organisations are owned, funded and run by central or local government. They include:
- public hospitals
- the armed forces (military)
- most schools and universities
- government departments.
These organisations exist to provide services which, for various reasons, it is considered impractical or undesirable for the commercial sector to provide.
Whereas commercial organisations, charities and social enterprises must generate sufficient funds from their activities to sustain themselves on a continuing basis, public sector organisations are funded by government. Nevertheless, constraints on government expenditure mean that resources are limited. Consequently, economic scarcity requires that virtually all organisations be run effectively and efficiently. As a result, many of the management principles employed by the commercial sector are also employed in the not-for-profit sector, requiring extensive use of management accounting in all sectors.
A traditional view of differences between sectors is illustrated in Figure 2. However, these distinctions are becoming blurred, as indicated by the overlapping circles. Commercial organisations are increasingly pursuing social responsibility objectives, while not-for-profit organisations are increasingly adopting commercial criteria to ensure the sound financial management of scarce resources.
Maximisation of shareholder value has long been the publicly stated objective of most business enterprises. It is likely, however, partly as a result of the global financial crises that began in 2008, that the publicly stated objectives will be expanded to embrace more stakeholders, such as employees and the local community.
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