The Nonprofit vs. For-profit Difference in Senior Housing
by Janelle Meyers, CSA , LALD
Having 28 years of experience working in senior living has given me the opportunity to be part of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Many people wonder, is there a difference between for-profit senior living and not-for-profit senior living? The short answer is yes. There is a difference. Here are some things you should know.
One of the biggest differences between for-profit and nonprofit organizations is financial. Nonprofit organizations normally invest profits back into the operation of the organization. They are also accountable to state and federal reporting due to their nonprofit status. For-profit organizations answer to shareholders or other investors. Both need to make money to ensure high quality and their long term viability.
Another difference in nonprofit and for-profit senior living is their motivation. First off, for-profit senior housing is designed to make a profit. That is not to say that money is their only goal. Furthermore, some for-profit senior housing communities are managed by a non-profit company. This can be a win-win for both owner and operator. In this situation, the for-profit owner pays the nonprofit operator to run the community. One benefit of this arrangement is a mission focus for the operation that fuels both organizations. Most nonprofit senior housing is often affiliated with a group. This could be a religious organization, professional or ethnic affiliation. It is common for these groups to be mission driven and service focused.
When it comes to the quality of care in a for-profit vs. nonprofit organization it is subjective. Factors like management and staff stability matter. The culture plays a big part in customer enjoyment. Hiring capable staff to provide care for assisted living, nursing homes, memory care or residential care homes is a challenge. This is true in both for-profit and nonprofit senior housing.
Differences in approach to delivering quality come from the motivations mentioned above. For instance, for-profits may put a bit more emphasis on efficiencies in streamlined operational practices i.e. Brookdale and LifeSpark’s infrared monitoring. Whereas nonprofits like Ecumen, Cassia and Ebenezer put a bit more focus on developing broader wholistic programming including spiritual care and intergenerational services.
Do your research.
When visiting senior living ask questions. Ask a for-profit what advantages their approach offers vs the non-profit communities. Ask a non-profit both: What is your mission? And how will I notice the mission being lived out each day? Transparency and a clear willingness to satisfy you in your questions will in part reveal how they run their businesses. It will help you make an informed decision on whether for-profit or nonprofit senior housing will suit you.