Internet and Social Media Safety Training
“For Profit” vs. “Not-For-Profit” Programs
Is One Better than the Other?
Traveling throughout North America, I have met many “for profit” and “not-for-profit” businesses, organizations, and societies that are delivering excellent internet and social media safety and digital literacy/citizenship training to both youth and adults. As a “for profit” incorporated company, which we are, I am often asked, “What makes your presentation and company different from what a not-for-profit company offers?” My answer, “Other than vendor content and delivery, not much really!“
From strictly a business standpoint, there is not too much difference between a for profit and not-for-profit organization. Both need to bring in more revenue than they spend on operational costs to survive, and to do this, either deliver goods or services to the public. The biggest difference between a for profit and a not-for-profit is how any financial gain, after looking after operational costs, is distributed.
In a for profit organization, the profits that are not re-invested in the organization are distributed to the owners of the corporation as cash dividends. As a for profit company, the corporation also owes corporate tax on any profit (total revenue minus total expenses) which is deemed to be income for the corporation.
In the case of a not-for-profit organization, the profits, which are not taxed, are used to provide goods or services to the group or groups the non-profit was formed to help. Not-for-profit organizations also have the ability to apply for provincial and federal grant money that is often not made available to for profit organizations.
Although the above noted fiscal differences may be clear, often, such as in our case, it is not. Even though we are a for profit company, we purposely keep our costs low to ensure that our programs are affordable and competitive in today’s fiscally-prohibitive environment, especially when delivering our programs to cash-strapped schools. What profit we make is immediately funneled back into our company to help keep costs low. As a for profit company, we have also provided free programs to organizations who could not pay for the training, and we have also provided presentations by donation where 100% of all money raised was donated to organizations such as the Women In Need Society, the Women’s Sexual Assault Center, and the Victoria Transition House. In fact, it is not uncommon for us to run a deficit as a company, and I have not personally taken a salary since we incorporated back in 1993. I know that many not-for-profit organizations, as well as many for profit organizations, struggle to stay a float in today’s economy; however, I also know some executive directors of both for profit and not-for-profit organizations that get paid a very healthy wage, travel first class or business class, get picked up and dropped off via limousines from the airport, and stay in executive suites when they travel. All of this comes out of their organizational profit revenue stream under the heading “operational costs.”
Contrary to popular belief, not all for profit companies believe in funneling all profitable revenue into the pockets of their share holders at the fiscal expense of their client. It is not uncommon to hear from school administrators that we “should be charging more for what we offer,” but as a company we have made a conscious decision not to do so, to make our training financially attainable to school districts and schools that are fiscally bootstrapped in today’s economy. Although we are a “for profit company,” that really runs more like a “not-for-profit,” we are very content in what we do and how we do it. For us, it’s not all about the money. It’s about the safety of our kids and preventing online victimization and predation. That is why we say, “We are a for profit company, striving to do well, by doing good for others by providing the best training at the best prices.” If we do make a small profit as a company, which one day we hope may happen, what is ethically or morally wrong with doing so, and should that really be a reason why not to contract a “for profit” company over a “not-for-profit?”
So when it comes to choosing a not-for-profit over a for profit internet and social media safety program, make sure you do your homework and choose one that best meets your organizational needs and that is well respected and highly recommended by the industry and the clients that they serve.
Digital Food For Thought