Service Organization Structure


Service organizations may be for-profit or not-for-profit such as a home health agency. They may be large with thousands of employees serving in wide geographic areas such as the American Red Cross. They may be small and local with only a few employees. Some organizations may serve one specific group such as people with Alzheimer’s Disease. Or they may serve a wide variety of people with varied needs for assistance. What they have in common is a mission to provide services and organizational structures that relate to governance, administration and program.

Board of Directors

  • Service organizations can be large or small, simple or complex, but they all have a governance mechanism. A group of church volunteers who deliver lunches to people who are unable to leave home may not be organized in a formal way. However, some individual or small group will be in charge of obtaining the meals and the same or a different volunteer will arrange the schedules for delivery.

    Most service organizations are incorporated, with requirements dictated by state law. Legally, their control is exercised by a board of directors, paid or unpaid. The board has the responsibility to follow the laws, determine policy, hire the executive director or CEO or president, and see that money to run the programs is available. In addition to the governance structure, the board may also determine the administrative structure.


  • While the board members are ultimately responsible for the organization, the executive director has the responsibility to see that the organization is structured so that the services can be delivered efficiently and effectively within the policy guidelines established by the board members. She is responsible for the program structure.

    In large organizations, the executive director may have deputy directors for areas such as human resources, finance, planning, community affairs, fund raising and operations. There may be assistant directors for service in geographic areas or to each client group. For example, one may be in charge of all aspects of child day care services while another has responsibility for adult day care services. Alternatively, the organization may be structured, so that all day care services are under one assistant director, while another has responsibility for medical services at the day care centers.

    In a small organization, the executive director may be directly responsible for managing all the services with the help of a part-time bookkeeper.


  • Staff members often have jobs that cut across all parts of the organization's structure. An evaluation specialist is likely to work with everyone who provides services. Bookkeepers and maintenance workers will often find themselves interfacing with many people on different parts of the organization chart.

Service Providers

  • Whether highly-trained social work professionals or aides who assist other workers, the service providers most often represent the organization to the public because they maintain contact with the program participants and their families. They are the functioning part of the program structure.


  • In commercial service organizations as well as not-for-profit organizations, volunteers can be important to the success of the mission. They supplement the program structure by providing services, caring and experience at the critical point of contact with the program participants.

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