Business: Why Start a Not-for-Profit, by Rishi Deva
For years, the Canadian musical artist Parvati has been operating with social and environmental conscience. Her creative work has been inspired by activist initiatives such as her North Pole journey to raise awareness of the melting polar ice, her tsunami peace prayer, a reforestation campaign, and ongoing support for the international charity Embracing the World.
In response to the proposed spring 2015 seismic bombing by big oil companies in the Arctic Ocean, Parvati and a group of similarly dedicated friends worked collectively to create www.parvati.org. They decided to name this new activist company Parvati, not after any one individual, but in reference to the meaning of the name: an awakened Earth. Last week, parvati.org received official incorporation status as a not-for-profit organization.
Why create a not-for-profit organization? What is the difference between a not for profit and a for profit company? The primary difference between a not-for-profit and a for profit organization is that a for profit business focuses on financial gain, while not-for-profits focus primarily on serving their community.
Often, social, environmental and activist organizations are not-for-profit. Since shareholders invest for the purpose of gaining profit in the form of dividends, shareholders are few and far between in the not-for-profit sector. Instead, not-for-profits need to be much more creative in how they generate income to operate. This type of investment usually comes in the form of grants, bursaries and donations.
The typical corporate attitude is best described by Yale economist Robert Shiller who is quoted as saying, “One problem with philanthropy is that it’s unrewarding: You give away the money, and that’s it.” While I do not agree, his quote is appropriate to understand the key difference between the for profit and the not-for-profit business models. Shiller’s argument does not hold true for people and organizations who feel that serving one’s soul voice and/or serving others is the greatest reward.
The best example of service to the soul voice can be seen in the arts industry. Not focused solely on profit, it needs public and private funding to balance the disproportionate work-to-income expenditure. Almost everyone in the arts puts in thousands of unpaid hours, yet would not trade their experience for a high-paying corporate job.
Where Shiller’s argument may hold some merit is that many not-for-profits run with inefficiencies not normally found in the corporate for profit sectors. It was not until I studied the international charitable organization “Embracing The World” that I saw how not-for-profits can run with greater efficacy and efficiency than most Fortune 500 companies. Through the support of volunteers and with a phenomenal leader at the helm, Embracing The World sets yearly targets. Every year, not only do they meet their goals, they exceed them.
This kind of efficiency is possible for not-for-profits, when there is clear intention, 100% accountability and willingness to serve a defined need. Such is the intention of parvati.org. It has a clear focus on driving social change and restoring ecological balance through mobilizing activities that serve a long-term vision: ensuring that we leave this planet better than we inherited it.
Parvati.org was born through a collective of stewards who know that we do not own this planet, but share it. We have an unwritten contract and responsibility to leave this world a better place than when we came to it.
Parvati.org’s first mandate is to stop the proposed Arctic seabed bombing by big oil companies. Its medium term goal is to bring about an international marine sanctuary in the Arctic such that the waters and its inhabitants are respected and protected from the interference of shipping, fracking or drilling.
Whether or not you decide to work as a not-for-profit or for-profit company, you have the opportunity to act in service to your soul voice and the greater good. May clarity and effectiveness be watchwords for you as you create abundance that benefits all.
Since 1994, Rishi Deva, founder and CEO of RishiVision and entrepreneurial coach, has empowered thousands of businesses. Rishi has an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurial studies and a BBA in accounting. He has spent nearly twenty years coaching, consulting, managing and supporting thousands of businesses from new startups to active global leaders.