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Development Discussion Paper
Thanks for Nothing? Not-for-Profits and Motivated Agents
Maitreesh Ghatak and Hannes Mueller
November 2009
Paper No' EOPP 014:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: L31, J32, L33, J42

Tags: not-for-profits; intrinsic motivation; labor donation; free riding

We re-examine the labor donation theory of not-for-profits and show that these organizations may exist not necessarily because motivated workers prefer to work in them, or that they dominate for-profits in terms of welfare, but because the excess supply of motivated workers makes the non-profit form more attractive to managers. We show that if firms had to compete for motivated workers then not-for-profit firms would be competed out by for-profit firms. Therefore, the choice between not-for-profit and for-profit provision is not always a question of resolving incentive problems but also one of distribution of rents between management and workers, and consequently, the relative scarcity of workers plays an important role in this choice.