Monday, February 4, 2008

The Fourth Sector

Andrew Jones has a little blurb on "the Fourth Sector" which he posted last week.

Basically, the fourth sector overlaps the private, public and volunteer/charity sectors and consists of "businesses" "doing good" and yet still "making money" (please excuse the excessive "quotes" ).

The fact that the lines between such enterprises can be so fuzzy is nothing but exciting in my opinion and while I've wondered about this idea more than I've actually thought about it, I wanted to introduce my dear readers to the concept.

I've always wondered what a for-profit charity, or a for-profit faith community would look the fourth sector another example of a creative "third way?"

Extra Reading: NY TIMES: Businesses Try to Make Money and Save the World


AJ Renton said...


In Canada, a charity can not be for profit. Non-profit is in fact the definition of charity according to law-makers. We don't officially have things called charities in Canada, they are non-profit groups.

However, for-profit faith communities are possible. They won't be able to make-out tax receipts, but they can stil exist. Some would argue the Christian Bookstore (or many other more pallatable businesses) is just that.

I think it possible and most valuable to have a faith community that is a non-profit group with abilities to tax-receipt, that also works together to run for-profit businesses like coffee-houses and thrift stores. Though the faith community itself cannot own the busniesses, members of the community can (in partnership or solo) and the profit can go partly or entierly to the use of the community.

What is a faith community, expect for the joining together of members with a specific purpose and belief anyways? I would suggest that Lambrick has many for-profit businesses as part of the faith community, as many of our people are fine and just business owners.

James Kingsley said...

thanks for keeping the ball rolling andy! i'm in agreement with a lot of what you've got to say. all that said, i am sometimes suspect on why "churches" in particular seem "non-profit" has to be part of their DNA....

the weary pilgrim said...

I think Andy's words reveal the frustrating grey area that faith communities have to work with. I know when I was involved in a rural church with some acreage, we cultivated some of the land some for flowers, and some land was cultivated by a group of guys that had experience growing grapes and were vinters. The thought was we could just sell the produce, flowers, grapes and wine and put it into a sort of out reach fund.
It sounded simple, but then there were all the loop holes...the grey area of profit non-profit; business licsence...taxes. The only way we could avoid it was if it was 100% non-profit and the money generated if going to outreach had to be dispenced almost immediately.
It is frustrating...but, i think it is to the advantage of faith communities to pursue this " fourth sector ", I think there is great profit in this and not just $$$. It would be interesting to talk to Pernell Goodyear about their " Freeway Cafe."

AJ Renton said...

True comments about the value of pursuing the fourth sector, and that they needn't be limited to dollar figures. I think the faith community being involved in the local community in any life-giving way is of amazing value and necessary witness. And not just with our Christian Bookstores!

I think the way the Place and others across Canada have supported and encouraged their artists (who are trying to make a living) is an example of the faith community being for-profit but also for-local-life.

michael said...

I think that over its history the Catholic church has been a "for profit charity" very often.

I'm assuming that James is not using "charity" in the legal sense, but in the connotative sense of an organization that functions with a charitable purpose.

That's a difficult tightrope to walk. Are you helping those in need or profiting from their plight.

One example could be something as innocuous as a cafe run out of the fellowship hall in a church. Something more questionable would be a fund-raising company that canvases for donations and keeps a percentage for itself.

A for-profit charity sounds good, but money does funny things to people. I think it would difficult to maintain.