for-profit philanthropy, an oxymoron?

1 Mar

My issue has always been the lack of “mission-based management” in for-profit businesses. I feel like it’s so easy to forget what you were originally fighting for, when the end goal is money, and not what you are fighting for. I also think that when people elect to work in the nonprofit sector, which generally means lower wages, they’ve elected to work for and are dedicated to the cause.

So, I’m worried about people losing sight of the mission. The funny part is, I don’t believe in altruism either, at least in the strict sense. I think for everything you do there is a motive lying somewhere, and it’s better to define it before you begin.

Example: When I spent last summer volunteering in Colombia did I want to help? Yes.
Did another part of me also want to learn Spanish? Yes.
Did another part of me want to grow my personal network, skills, and resume? Yes.
Did another part of me want to explore the world? Yes.
Did another part of me want to experience the foreign factor? No. (I didn’t actually know that much about it before I left, it was an added bonus once I arrived)

So was it selfless? No.

This article, A Capitalist Jolt for Charity, in the NYT made me question my normal “nonprofit or bust” mentality.

I can’t deny the facts: “Very few nonprofits get big. Only 144 of the more than 200,000 nonprofits established since 1970 had grown to $50 million or more in revenue by 2003.”

But I still worry that “outside investors raise the risk that the original social ideals will be lost in a single-minded pursuit of profit.

Epals is a for-profit business that is providing amazing tools for education. I had to call my sister, who is a 3rd grade teacher, right away to tell her about the site when I discovered it, because man I wish that they had the site when I was in school.

I think the for-profit sector definitely has the ability to spur incredible social change, I’m just apprehensive because I’ve spent so much of my time gearing up for heading straight to the nonprofit sector forever.

Oh, the for/nonprofit conundrum.

So what do all of you guys think: do efforts to improve the world belong in the nonprofit or the for-profit sector? Where will these efforts have the most success?


2 Responses to “for-profit philanthropy, an oxymoron?”

  1. Meena Zia March 2, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    Molly, this is a very perplexing issue, but even if you join a non-prof, you can have your cake and eat it too because you can save the world and have a home in my spare bedroom in my house.

  2. Bruhaha March 6, 2008 at 12:32 am #

    Read this post from a couple months ago. I thought I shared this link on my blog, but apparently not. I suggest going there and here for some non-profit working advice.

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