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Why Should Non-Profits Get a Break?

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, September 22 2010

Designer, thinker, and 37Signals proprietor Jason Fried asks the tough question: what is it about the "non-profit" business model that entitles those organizations to discounts on the web-based software products his company makes? Here's Jason:

Why should a non-profit organization pay less for software (or supplies or food or rent or…) than a for-profit company? How is an automatic discount for a non-profit fair to a full-price paying for-profit? They both have employees, budgets, goals, financial pressures, etc. If you don't look at the tax code or the sign on the door, they are the same.

You might ask the same question about non-profit breaks on conference tickets, magazine subscriptions, and much more. Jason's thinking here seems rooted in the assumption that businesses can do "good" just as well as self-proclaimed do-good organizations can do it, and that understanding might sound striking to certain ears, and perhaps those of us of certain generations. But it seems of a piece with the idea that the nature of work is changing faster than our old categories for what it is we're all doing to make a buck (even if we re-invest that buck into our organizations). I'd be curious about the degree to which Jason's thinking is shared by other developers, freelancers, and start-up organizations of all stripes.

We're a world, now, where Google's both an advertising-funded corporate behemoth and an ideas-driven "think/do" tank, and that all seems relatively normal. But it seems like the questions of "who's doing what and what does it all mean" are only going to grow more common.

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