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


  • Ghatak, Maitreesh
  • Mueller, Hannes Felix


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ghatak, Maitreesh & Mueller, Hannes Felix, 2010. "Thanks for Nothing? Not-for-Profits and Motivated Agents," CEPR Discussion Papers 7663, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7663

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


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

    JEL classification:

    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out


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