Org 1 - Introduction to Organizational Structure

  Organizational Structure

Indicators of Quality for AT Reuse 1.1  Legal Status

The AT reuse program has an appropriate legal status based on the types of operations it conducts and its organizational structure.


Part 1:  Introduction


The term "assistive technology device" means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.1 

An individual or group of individuals proposes to start an organization for assistive technology (AT) reutilization. Before the organization can operate legally, it must choose a legal structure under which it will file with the state to operate as a for-profit business or a nonprofit organization. That step must be preceded by key decisions made on behalf of the organization by the organizers.



Who will articulate the mission, vision, values and goals for the organization? Who will provide the resources to sustain the function of the organization? Who will perform the operational tasks – employees, volunteers or a combination? Who will oversee the work of employees and volunteers? Who will assess the performance of the operation against its intended purpose? All of these tasks are performed through key functions in the two facets of organizational structure – governance and management.  



Strategic oversight and

financial support


Board of Directors


Planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling mission-related activities

CEO/ President/




Daily operational tasks to serve users and supporters



              Table 1.  Organizational Structure


Governance is the strategic oversight and financial support provided by a board of directors. Management is the planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling of operations and activities to fulfill the mission. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance in creating an organizational structure that best serves the purpose and activities of the proposed organization, and to outline the steps necessary to incorporate and file for tax-exempt status.


Is this information of use to an existing organization? Perhaps the organization does not function as efficiently as it could. Organizational structure can be changed even after years of existence, but it requires the willingness and cooperation of the existing governance and management. The start-up guidance provided here may serve as an informal audit tool to examine how the organization might be restructured with consideration for changes made since its inception.2 But, first and foremost, this document is a roadmap for the selection of governance and management structures and for the incorporation process.


Identifying organizational decision makers


The first major decision is to identify who will make those pre-organizational decisions. The organizing group should hold an initial meeting of the principal individuals who wish to be involved. Some may aspire to direct, manage and/or support the organization. This must be the core group of committed individuals because key decisions about the nature of the organization must be made prior to the time that it officially exists. Do the founders expect to participate in the oversight and operation of the organization? In which of the AT activities will the organization engage? Where will the organization get the necessary resources to support and sustain operations? Who will manage the day-to-day operations? Those decisions also include formulation of purpose, writing of bylaws and selection of the board of directors and officers of the corporation. The founder or founders may need professional assistance in answering those questions that lead to the selection of legal status under which the organization will operate.


Specifying AT activities


What kind of organization will this be?  What services will be offered to users? All ATR organizations engage in one or more of the following activities:


Device exchange – a means of matching donors and users without intervention by a third party. This often takes the form of searchable databases on the Internet. Reassignment – accepting donated devices and making them available to users in the donated condition Refurbishment – accepting donated devices and repairing them to working order Re-manufacturing – rebuilding used devices to something other than the original manufacturer’s specifications and function. (Not recommended for AT reuse programs because of potential liability issues.) Recycling – disposing of unusable devices in a legal and environmentally appropriate manner, usually for breakdown into component parts or materials 3

This decision may be driven by the target user population. Who will be served by the organization or activities? Some choose to serve general populations in need of durable medical equipment (DME) while others focus on providing computers and other digital technology. Some organizations narrow the focus to one highly specific user need. The needs of the user group should dictate the activities.

Scope of operation (types of activities) and volume (number of users and devices) determine staffing needs. More activities require a greater diversity of skills – or more people with specific skills. In addition to the basic services related to AT devices, other related services impact staffing needs. Will the organization staff pick up donated devices? Will it deliver devices to new users? Will it provide technical assistance to users? Will it track warnings and recalls and notify users?



1 Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, amended in 1994. Retrieved June 5, 2008, from

2 Garber, Nathan. Governance Models: What’s Right for Your Board. ©1997 Nathan Garber. Used with permission.

3 National Task Force Study Group on the Classification of Assistive Technology Reuse Activities.





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This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.


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Other Information

Title: Org 1 - Introduction to Organizational Structure
Module: Organization
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Administrator
Sub Title:
Organization Source: Pass It on Center
Last Reviewed: 05-05-2010 4:14 PM