This semester I've taught a course I designed for Georgia State University's Creative Media Industries Institute (www.cmii.gsu.edu) on Leading a Nonprofit Arts Organization. During the semester the students investigate various aspects of nonprofit leadership, including fundraising.
In one assignment I ask students to examine two nonprofit fundraising campaigns. In semesters past, students might choose, for example, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, or Harvard University and the ALS “ice bucket challenge.”
This semester, for the first time, students included efforts like Spike Lee’s crowdsourcing to fund a new film and video game developers’ use of Kickstarter to generate working capital. My students did not easily differentiate between nonprofit and for-profit entities. Even after we addressed the differences in class, many saw the two worlds as being more alike than different: each needed money and turned to the public to make its case.
If university students – and this was a bright, savvy, sophisticated group – see a blurry line between the nonprofit and for-profit worlds, what might that tell us about how the wider world views that distinction? And what are the implications for us going forward?