02/05/2013 - 21:16

Charity versus business – what’s the difference?

02/05/2013 - 21:16


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The lines are becoming increasingly blurred between not-for-profit groups and business.

Charity versus business – what’s the difference?

The business world is never black or white. This is especially the case when we widen our view to include not-for-profit groups such as charities, arts organisations and sporting bodies.

I think, in the past, the line between business and community organisations was more clear cut or, perhaps, there were simply fewer entities filling the grey area between them.

But that has changed.

Sport is a good example. In Australia, few businesses would be as businesslike as the AFL. Yet venture to any oval or park in the suburbs and you’ll find amateur sports being engaged in by people for fun.

They will be members of clubs run by parents and players for the simple pleasure of ensuring the game they love is played.

But nearby may be a recreation centre where a business might serve up any sport that people want, often far removed from the association that has traditionally nurtured it.

In the arts it is the same. Public and private galleries display works from homemade craft to blockbuster names selling for thousands of dollars. Which is the business, which one is the plaything, which is there for the community?

People who love music have long turned their passion into businesses; establishing bands, running festivals, selling records or providing the backing sound for advertising.   

Even charity blurs the lines. Some charities are completely voluntary; others have professional managers who engage specialist fund-raising businesses to help them find the money to carry on their good work.

Some charities run big events to generate income. Some events have become so big they literally run the charities that started them.

I see a morphing of all these things that makes all these types of organisation very hard to place neatly into a box.

Cycling can be a professional sport but thousands take to our streets every weekend just for the fun of it.

Like Business News published recently, numerous charities offer bike rides to raise money. Many of these riders are inspired (or were) by the professional cyclists battling each other in sports events such as the Tour de France.

Where does the circle end, or begin – with the invention of the spoked wheel, I presume?

I make no judgements on any of these many hybrids. I simply raise the issue because I am increasingly confused about what drives so many organisations and the people who run them.

Perhaps, it does not matter, so long as people have fun and good deeds are done?

What do you think?



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