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Step-by-Step Research Paper on a Non Profit

Updated on October 07, 2016
VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Why Research a Non-Profit?

Writing research essays can seem a daunting process, and often seems like a dry exercise. I started teaching this unit on writing research papers about non-profits because I find that today's college students are passionate about wanting to help people and create positive change.

Most of my students do their paper on either a non-profit they are already involved in, or one that tries to solve a problem that they are concerned about, like poverty, kids who don't read, people who are homeless, or abandoned animals.

My step by step method includes examples of how to organize and do transitions. In addition, I have links to other help for writing a great research essay.

Included in this Article:

Introduction Ideas

Body Part 1: Describing the problem

Body Part 2: Organization Overview

Body Part 3: Evaluate Organization

Conclusion Ideas

Topic Ideas for Research Papers

Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other organization that helps poor, homeless or disabled.
Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other organization that helps poor, homeless or disabled. | Source

Easy Research Writing Tip

Writing Research Essays is easier if you break the paper up into parts. That is what I do in these instructions. You could adapt these instructions to other topics. I use the book Perspectives on Argument by Nancy Wood. If you are allowed to choose any topic, you might want to consider following this outline which breaks up the paper into manageable sections and generally leads to an excellent paper with interesting conclusions.

Non-Profit Research Paper Overview

Writing a research paper about a non-profit organization allows you the chance to incorporate a variety of evidence and perspectives. You will also do a variety of types of writing in the paper. Ultimately, your paper will be an evaluation of this non-profit, attempting to decide whether they fulfill the mission they have set out for themselves and whether they effectively serve their clients. Here is a basic description of the smaller parts of the paper:

  1. Description: Introduce the issue and describe the problem like an Explaining Paper.
  2. Exploratory: Explore the different positions on the problem. You will explore different views on one or more of the following: What is the problem?What causes the problem?What are the different solutions which have been suggested or tried?
  3. Profile: Profile one non-profit Organization which attempts to solve the problem (use your survey of the Organization as the basis of this). This part of the paper is like a Summary of Organization's website, as well as other information you may have found from other sources.
  4. Evaluation: Establish criteria for analyzing the effectiveness of this Organization, and then evaluate how effective this organization is at solving the problem.
  5. Conclude with your personal response or plea to the audience (you will imagine an audience that is interested in either volunteering or giving money to this non-profit). This is like the Response in a Summary Response Paper.

Helping the Needy

Introduction of Research Paper

Describing the issue and problem: Your introduction should describe the issue and the problem, perhaps ending with a question or thesis statement (although in some cases the thesis/claim may not be fully stated until the conclusion).You can mention your organization in this introduction and/or use information from your organization to help you introduce the issue.If you want to address a specific audience, be sure to make your introduction appeal to that audience. Of course, you can use the typical introductory techniques like: statistics, stories, anecdotes, quotes, vivid descriptions, startling facts, or personal testimony.

Research Essay Introduction and Conclusion Ideas

start of real story
end of story
made up story about problem
conclude with solution
vivid picture of problem
vivid picture of solution
statistics about problem
how solution will solve
interesting quote or conversation
conclude conversation and do plea to reader
Your personal story
What you want to do now
Non-Profits that help provide micro-financing for women.
Non-Profits that help provide micro-financing for women. | Source

Body Part 1: Explore the Problem of Research Paper

Whatever topic you are researching, the next step should be to explain to the reader what the problem is. You will be exploring the rhetorical situation, audience, and positions on this problem. Here is how to organize this section easily:

First paragraph: Define the problem.If there is disagreement over the definition, then you can tell the different views about that.

Second paragraph: Analyze the rhetorical situation of the issue. Answer questions like the following:

  1. What is the history of discussion about this problem?
  2. What is the reason people are interested in this problem now?
  3. Who is interested in this issue and why?
  4. What current events are happening that affect the way people talk about this issue?

Third through fifth paragraphs:

Identify and summarize the major positions both past and present.The positions will probably be ideas about the cause of the problem and/or views about what to do about the problem (you should explain at least three different positions, tell who holds them and their reasons for doing so). You can organize this either by talking about one position in each paragraph, or you can organize by topics (causes in one paragraph, solutions in another, effectiveness in the third). You will answer questions like the following:

  1. What causes this problem? What are the different views about the cause?
  2. What solutions have been suggested? What solutions have been tried?
  3. What groups believe in these different causes/solutions and why?
  4. Include evidence from your sources and cite these with parenthetical references (author page).
  5. What solutions have been effective? Evidence?

Research Essays about Social Issues

Nature Conservancy:  How can we protect endangered species?
Nature Conservancy: How can we protect endangered species? | Source

Are you a:

See results

Body Part 2: Profile of Organization

Next, you will explain one group which has tried to solve this problem, this is the non-profit charity. Your profile of this organization will be like a definition or explaining essay. Generally, you can use evidence from the organization's website for this section. If you are able to do a site visit and interview an employee that is also an excellent way to get evidence for this section

Transition to this section by indicating how your particular organization fits into the rhetorical positions you described above.

Format: How you organize this section will depend on what you find most interesting about your organization.You want to make this a vivid description for the reader so that they will feel like they have a good grasp of why this organization exists and what it does.

Content: Each of the following questions could be a paragraph you would include, but you do not have to do them in this order or cover all of the questions:

  1. What is the history of this organization? Who started it? When, where, how and why?
  2. Does it have ties to a national organization? Are there any unique local aspects?
  3. What is the philosophy of this organization?
  4. What are their claims about the facts of this problem?
  5. The causes? The best policy to create positive change?
  6. What does this group want to do?
  7. What are their goals?
  8. How to they seek to reach those goals?
  9. What programs to they offer?
  10. Whom do they serve? What are the clients like? Is there a typical client? Does this organization limit the scope of the clients they serve or is it open to anyone?
  11. Who supports and/or volunteers? What draws them to this organization?
  12. How is the organization funded?
  13. Has this organization changed over time? How has it changed? What sorts of changes would they like to do in the future?
  14. How do they measure the success of the program? Are there specific examples of change this organization has accomplished? Any failures?
  15. Do not do your own evaluation at this time—that is the next section-- but you can discuss how the organization self-evaluates.If you include a paragraph about this, it will be a nice transition to the next section.

Body Part 3: Evaluation of the Organization

An Evaluation is a value claim which judges whether something is good/bad, effective or ineffective.In order to do an evaluation, you need to first set up criteria for judging. In the case of judging this organization, you can consider this from one of four possible perspectives

  1. The Client the organization serves.
  2. The Donor or Volunteer.
  3. The Organization Leaders.
  4. The Community (which would be people like yourself who are outside the organization and considering its effectiveness at solving a problem).

Each of these perspectives may have a different view on how effectively this organization meets goals. You will want to set up your own criteria for judging the effectiveness of the organization but you can also talk about how the donors, clients, and the leaders view the effectiveness.The comments from these sources can be used to support or contrast your evaluation.

Transition to this section by using a question or main claim statement. Here are some sample transition sentences:

  • How effectively does (name of organization) meet the goal of (problem they want to solve)?
  • (organization name) does an excellent/adequate/poor job of (what organization wants to accomplish).
  • Or you can give a qualified judgment: In spite of (problem, concern, or lack of resources), (organization) effectively meets the needs of ( what it does).
  • If you used the evaluation of the organization to end the last section, then you can use a reference to that as your transition:________ states that this organization is effective because_________.Other members of the community (agree/disagree).

After this transition, you will need to clearly articulate what would make this organization successful, in other words, describing the criteria for the evaluation.

You can do this by listing what the positive outcomes would be if the organization solved this problem.You can also look at the organization’s goals for criteria, or interview clients/volunteers.You could also compare it with similar organizations either locally or nationally.Three possible organizational methods for this section:

Criteria Evaluation Method: use the list of criteria to organize this section, using one criterion per paragraph and then telling how well the organization meets those criteria.In evaluating how well it meets that objective, you can discuss the different views of the four perspectives above.

Examples of criteria for evaluating a food pantry: Does it have broad support in the community?How many clients does it serve? Do clients seem to like and use the food given? What is the percentage of overhead costs vs. the amount given to the poor? Are there clear instances where the food made a difference in people’s lives?

Four Perspective Evaluation Method: Each paragraph would talk about the evaluation of a different group: the organization leaders, the clients, the volunteers/community and you. Probably you would put your opinion last. In this organization technique, you would want to point out what criteria each group uses to evaluate and note any differences.

Example: At a food pantry, the organization leaders might say they are successful because they serve a lot of clients.The clients may say they are unsuccessful because their criterion is the type of food they get and they don’t like what is provided.The volunteers might say that the food pantry is successful at providing food and that the clients are ungrateful.You might observe that allowing clients to choose their own food would make a more successful food pantry.

Compare and Contrast Evaluation Method: To do this method,you will need to have at least one other organization which tries to solve the same problem but by another method (or perhaps they do the same thing but more or less effectively).

  • Your claim statement would be:“Organization X is more/less effective at solving the problem of Y than organization M.”(You might want to add “ because.....” if you can think of a specific reason why one is better).
  • You will then list how this organization is more/less effective and why.
  • It may be that the evaluation will be mixed.One organization is better at some things and the other organization is better at other things.
  • The ways that you compare them are the criteria in this organization method.You will devote one paragraph to each criterion describe how your organization compares to the other(s) in meeting that criterion and also evaluate why you think one organization does better.

Example of comparison criteria between a Church food pantry and Caritas Citywide Food Pantry: you can compare number of clients served (Caritas serves more), how clients are treated (perhaps at a church food pantry the clients feel more like people and not a number), how clients feel about food provided (perhaps the church food pantry lets them choose what they want rather than just accepting a bag of food), what is available to clients besides food (perhaps the church also provides help in finding jobs, emotional counseling, and money for bills, while Caritas does provide some money for bills but does refer clients to other services).

Conclusion of Research Paper

Your conclusion should be one or more of the following:

  1. Personal Response. Your own response to this issue and the work of this organization (especially if this has caused you to want to work in this area in the future).You can talk about what you learned, how you felt, and what you personally want to do about this issue.
  2. Plea to Reader.A plea to the reader to care about this issue and perhaps join in the work of this organization.
  3. Suggestion for Organization. A suggestion for how this organization (or other organizations) could better solve the problem.
  4. Vivid Story. If you have one particular story you want to tell, which could be of your own visit to this organization or something you learn in an interview, you can use it as a frame story—part of it at the beginning and the final part in the conclusion.

Why do a Research Paper on a Charity?

Students today want to make a difference: I started teaching this unit for my research essay because I know that today's college students are passionate to make a difference in the world.

Learn where you can help now: Most of my students volunteer to work with the poor, elderly or children who need a mentor. I've found that most of the students who do this project have a renewed sense of mission, and many of them decide to give their time, talents and money towards helping the charity they investigate.


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