Blurring the line Between Profit and Nonprofit

It used to be simple.  I would buy tires at Sears and drop my change in the Salvation Army bucket.   I would leave my donation in the offering basket at church and give my credit card to the checkout guy at Target for my DVD.

Now you ask me to buy/give at the store, online and by phone. I’m told that you are a business/charity.  That makes me a donor/customer.  I feel proud/happy that I’ve contributed/purchased something that I need/believe in.

The forward slash connecting line combines things I’ve never put together before.  Makes me curious/suspicious.  But I know you’ve received something for your mission/profit.  Thanks for explaining to me this is a social benefit/business.

Innovative collaborations are occurring in the profit/nonprofit world.  This brings risk that the unique advantages of both business and charity may be lost- the warmth/purity of motive from a nonprofit charity and the competence/accountability of a business enterprise.  Collaboration also opens the door to humanizing business by bringing conscience and compassion to bear while expecting more from charitable causes.  More results, more transparency and more efficiency.

In addition to changing the nature of both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations,  the synergy and community created through cooperative efforts will allow each to do more than it could ever do alone.  The trust and freedom from producing a bottom line for investors along with the administrative and technological advancements of the business world can extend the reach and value of this new hybrid.

Any give and take must be cautious since nonprofits can’t afford to lose their most valuable assets- social connectedness and creative problem solving to make the world a better place to live, whether it’s financially profitable or not.   Standard business practices and sales performance goals can limit a worthy dream, create competition or dissatisfaction that create division.  Extreme compassion or dependence on volunteers that give time only as they are available may cause a commercial enterprise to go out of business.

So we experiment and use feedback to measure success in multiple bottom lines- people/profit/planet/community/productivity/integrity/sustainability/goodwill/hope.

That’s where I draw the line.


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