Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For-profit and non-profit

As I moved from the student world to the "real world," I've been the influence of money a lot more. Recently, my classmates and I were in one of those lovely all-day seminars (on a Saturday, no less) for school. It was about non-profit business management, as many psychologists go on to run non-profits. As we all know, money is essential for living in today's time. I find that unfortunately because it moves our focus off the truly important pursuits.

Anyway, I've been struggling a lot recently with the influence of money and when it is legitimate (and necessary) to have earning money be a priority. I have always thought it needs to be something to be considered, but should not be at the top of a priority list. I always thought companies were interested in bettering the world and making better products (i.e. a computer company's main goal should be to make a better computer with making more money a nice benefit from that). However, our speaker emphasized that the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit businesses is just that: The former's primary goal is to make money.

I cannot wrap my mind around that. While basically the purpose of all of my jobs has been to make money, it was also a means to an end--to get myself through school, for instance. That feels different than creating a career and company out of the pursuit of money. Is there ever a time that is okay and acceptable, particularly for a Christian?

I have also been learning that despite the designation of not-for-profit, such organizations have money as a major priority. Granted, some of it is needed to survive. Money is necessary to do good work a lot. But when does raising that money cloud the objective of doing good work? How do we try to maintain proper priorities? I'd love some insights on this...


  1. The best for-Profit and non-profit organizations are similar in one respect - they succeed or fail depending upon the passion of key personnel - not the passion for making money - but to create or to lead. For example, Apple Computers turns a profit because it turns out products that make sense to consumers - not because Apple wants to rake in as much profit as possible. That they do well is because they care about making quality, worthwhile products, as opposed to using the cheapest components to turn the biggest profit possible. Do they care about turning a profit? Absolutely. Do they - or any innovative company - care about making money? "Absolutely. But they have created a corporate culture that recognizes that creating a quality product that respects the consumer is a more effective path to achieving that goal.

    In the non-profit world, it's important to understand that these organizations - the worthwhile organizations (however you define that) do not pursue money for money's sake. They must pursue money to achieve the greater good they hope to contribute to our world. Yes, it takes up a great deal of their time, but their boards and advisors understand that fundraising is critical to keep up their good work (again, however you might define that).

    In any organization, keeping the appropriate focus and institutional values is a product of quality leadership.

    To maintain your own "proper priorities," volunteer in positions of leadership in non-profits you care about - become involved in their fundraising efforts, and make it a point to help set the example within the organization to keep the positive focus. And in trying to be a positive influence and example, you will constantly test and challenge yourself to keep your own focus and your own values intact.

  2. I love what you said. Excellent points! Thanks!!



Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).