Creating the Organizational Structure
Non-profit organizations come in all shapes and sizes. A poetry group that gives free readings at a café once a month is just as much a non-profit organization as an international agency mandated to protect a certain species of wildlife.
There are, however, two main types of non-profit organization: those that are incorporated and registered as non-profit charitable organizations, and those that are not. If you are incorporated, your organization will probably function very much like any other corporation, and that means you need a formal structure.
The structure that your organization has at the beginning will be determined by your Articles of Incorporation and your constitution. There will be corporate officers, a board of directors and a staff that reports to the board, or to an executive director appointed by the board.
Aside from the officers, the board and the staff, non-profits have one thing that most for-profit corporations do not: volunteers. In many ways, volunteers function as an extended staff. They are often assigned to the programs offered by your organization where they can most directly serve the people you're trying to help.
There are thousands of books and papers written on the topic of organizational theory and there is no one way to set up your organization. There are good ways and there are bad ways, with a huge grey area in between.
One of the key roles of the board of directors is to constantly analyze what is working and what is not. If you adopt an organizational structure that is not helping you meet your goals, you'll need to change it.
A good director will never be afraid to reassess the organizational structure and initiate changes. Some directors may even feel that changes need to be made periodically to structures that are working, just to keep things from growing stagnant. The point is, the ability to adapt and to continually strive for excellence can only be a benefit, both to the organization and to those it serves.