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Abstract for:

Thanks for Nothing? Not-for-Profits and Motivated Agents

Maitreesh Ghatak,  Hannes Mueller,  November 2009
Paper No' EOPP 014: Full paper (pdf)
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.