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Hey Church, What kind of nonprofit are you?

Hey Church, What kind of nonprofit are you?


Nonprofit organizations have a long history in American culture. The tradition charity finds it roots in Judeo-Christian and Greek cultures (Worth, 2014). Worth also shows that the Internal Revenue Service classifies nonprofits into ten major groups such as humanities, religion, health services, and education asexamples (2014). This post will focus on the similarities and differences of nonprofits based on the economic and voluntary models.

Many nonprofit organizations are commissioned to help others and accomplish that mission as well or as long as possible. Brainard and Siplon classify nonprofits into two models that express the functionality of the nonprofit. The first model discussed, the economic model, follows the understanding that all nonprofits should have similar management principles to ensure the success of the organizations. The second model, the volunteer spirit model, is based on the premise that every organization is unique and must handle common problems in different ways (Brainard and Siplon, 2004). Economic model nonprofits have a structured management system that is driven toward growth. Volunteer model nonprofits have a democratic management style and concentrate on immediate results (Brainard and Siplon, 2004). Worth shows the volunteer (philanthropic) model has few paid staff and is dominated by volunteer hours that keep the organization expenses low. The economic (commercial) model is comprised of staff that is paid the market rate that increases the need for continued financial support (2014). The volunteer model also looks as its workforce as focused on others, the economic workforce is more likely to be focused on self (Brainard and Siplon, 2004). Brainard and Siplon show that many scholars believe economic model nonprofits need to renew their focus on their voluntary spirit roots (2004).

A primary concern expressed by Brainard and Siplon is that economic model nonprofits are more focused on people as financial donors and fail to understand the value of volunteerism (2004). Volunteer model nonprofits view members as their greatest resource. The members can build a sense of community and purpose due to the higher amount of human interaction (Brainard and Siplon, 2004). Volunteer nonprofits can focus on the immediate mission and ignore the bottom line; however, this freedom also builds the stereotype of poor management (Worth, 2014).

Scripture does not favor one model over the other. Scripture shows that both the economic model and the volunteer model are valued. The church itself has elements of both models. Jesus and Paul both encouragement financial giving in Matthew chapter twenty-three and 1 Corinthians chapters eight and nine. The nation of Israel was reprimanded in Malachi chapter three for withholding their tithe from the storehouse. The country was praised in the book of Nehemiah for taking the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. A temple servant named Anna was rewarded for her service to the Lord by being able to live long enough to see the Messiah. God loves both models discussed in this post. His concern would be the heart in which the individual volunteers.

Brainard, L.A. & Siphon, P.D. (2004). Toward Nonprofit Organization Reform in the Voluntary Spirit:  Lessons From the Internet, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 33(3), 435-457.  doi: 10.1177/08997564004266021
Worth, M. J. (2014). Nonprofit Management: Principles and Practice, Third Edition.  Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

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