Two of the many methods of approaching the philanthropy and corporate social responsibility umbrella are non-profit and charity. They can be defined as one and the same, but different in the approach and execution of the work that is done.
A charity is a type of non-profit that facilitates or engages in activities for the betterment of communities. The existence of a charity is specific to a humanitarian or philanthropic cause, with the funds received allocated towards the goals and purpose of the charity or to support another charity. Charities may include providing shelter, food, education and other services.
A non-profit is defined as an organization legally curated to serve a social, public, or collective benefit, without generating a profit for the owners. Nonprofits are established for the public benefit and are usually devoted to religious, educational, charitable, literary or scientific purposes or some combination of these activities. The term “non-profit” does not mean that the organization cannot make a profit, if the organization generates more money than required to run its operations, the excess or profit is invested back into the organization.
By definition, they intend to serve the same purpose but have key differences that differentiate them. The differences I found that differentiate a non-profit and a charity can be categorized;
A nonprofit does not have any spending requirements, while a charity has specific spending requirements that align with its goal. Nonprofits may engage in activities that are not directly charitable, their spending can cover a broad spectrum of operational costs. Charities are expected to direct a significant portion of their funds towards charitable activities.
2. Tax-exempt status
A registered charity is fully exempt from paying an income tax, whereas non-profits are generally exempt from paying income tax, but have to pay tax on capital gains or property income. Donations to nonprofits may or may not be tax-deductible, depending on the organization’s legal status. Charities often enjoy tax-exempt status as well, and donors to charities may be eligible for tax deductions on their contributions. However, strict regulations often govern how charities allocate their funds to maintain their tax-exempt status.
3. Donation receipts
A registered charity can issue an official donation receipt which allows their donors to receive a tax credit for their donation, whereas a non-profit organization cannot issue a donation receipt to their donors. Non-profits, including charities, are often required by law to issue donation receipts for contributions. The specific regulations vary by jurisdiction. Charities are typically subject to stricter regulations regarding the issuance of donation receipts, especially if they want to maintain their tax-exempt status
4. Reporting and Accountability
Non-Profit Organizations are accountable for their operations, nonprofits may have more flexibility in reporting how funds are used, especially if they are not exclusively engaged in charitable work. Charities are generally subject to more stringent reporting requirements, especially concerning the allocation of funds to charitable activities.
In summary, nonprofits and charities aim to serve the public interest and improve the lives of those in need. The main difference between the two is that nonprofits are able to generate income to put towards their mission, while charities are often dependent on private donations and grants. Both offer a valuable service to their respective communities and serve important roles in society.
A great blog on What Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is?