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Actually...what is a nonprofit?

Let's be honest. It is safe to say that the majority of people out there have heard the term "nonprofit" and they understand that nonprofits ask for donations, but do you really know the difference between a nonprofit and a for-profit business?

Becki here. When I first started my career journey in the nonprofit world, I had many friends ask me questions about my work. The most common question I got received was, "Actually, what is a nonprofit?" A part of me wonders, if they didn't have a friend to ask, would they know the answer? Because nonprofits are so well known, I think that there are many people who choose not to ask the deeper questions because they don't want to sound ignorant or out of the loop. So, consider this post as a helpful friend giving you some deeper insight into those questions. I think that if you're going to engage with nonprofits by donating, volunteering, or using their services, it's important to know what makes them tick. With that, if you read nothing else from this post, I want to encourage you to ask questions without fear. Imagine the voice of your 4th grade teacher in your mind saying, "There is no such thing as a stupid question.".

What is a nonprofit? How is it different from a normal business?

At our core we are a counseling center but there are many for-profit counseling centers out there, so what makes us different as a non-profit? Simply put, we provide counseling sessions to our community with no intention of making a profit. A for-profit center will structure their programs to always make money, we don't!

Here's an example: Our program, Mazey's Dream, provides services to low-income clients and we charge only what the client can afford to pay. We are not asking these clients to pay full price because it's more important that they receive the help they need. However, our expenses remain the same so we fundraise to cover the costs that the client cannot afford to pay. We are not making money off these sessions; we are fundraising only enough to fully cover our expenses.

If you want to get into the nitty gritty, you are welcome to google search 'requirements for nonprofit status' and you'll get a list of the requirements we must follow on a state and federal level to remain a registered nonprofit. You must have a board of directors, licensure with the state, comply with many different rules, and resubmit your nonprofit status annually. Not to mention, as a nonprofit that receives support from grantors and individuals, we are responsible to you to utilize the funding in the ways that you've been promised. The purpose of it all is to make sure that nonprofits are fulfilling their mission and not taking advantage of a system designed to make our communities better.

Do you have more questions? Ask me! I want you to understand it all. Especially as we enter another season of giving, the better you understand why nonprofits need your support, the better you will feel about supporting them. With that, this is Becki signing off to go raise funds for AATPC!

Questions? Email me at


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