Why I hate 'non-profits'. And why social justice is like Netflix and Spotify

I hate the word non-profit. It doesn’t do justice to reality. As a charity, I prefer to think of us as in the profit-making business. For good reason, too.


You see, just like any other company, we need to generate an income that’s greater than our expenditure. This income supports staff, volunteers, schools and students. If we don’t, we have a huge problem on our hands.

This problem is so massive because, unlike many businesses that create products or sell services in a crowded marketplace, our "customers" cannot just go elsewhere. If we pack up shop, there may very well be no one left for them to turn to.


When you live without access to basic services, when you live without legal certainty, when you live with your human rights torn asunder each and every day, suddenly the work of ‘profitable’ non-profits can be the difference between a life worth living and destitution.


So here comes the ask. Like many other charities, we want to rely on monthly donations. Why? Because they allow us to plan for and implement long-term solutions. It’s the same reason that The Guardian’s desperate for you to become a subscribing member. Hell, it’s even the reason Netflix uses its subscription-based payment model. Regular, month-by-month payments allow all kinds of businesses to plan much more effectively for the future.


And when you give to a charity, there’s no need to think you’re not getting something as real as that Netflix account, or Spotify premium. Because you are. The only difference is that you’re not the primary beneficiary. Someone else is. What do you get? You get to be an investor in something quite remarkable, powerful and fundamentally positive. You get to invest and become an agent in social change. Though we're not yet at the stage of producing high budget mini-series to demonstrate our impact, that impact is very real.


In the last four years, I have been supported so much by friends and family. That support has enabled me to continue this work and get where we are today. But if you want to go a step further, then however small it may be, I warmly encourage you to sign up for one more subscription in this subscription-based life. Embed social justice into your every day; help make a non-profit, profitable; automate goodness and impact. Not for you or me, but for those who need it most.


(At AFE, we're changing the way we finance our social impact initiatives. Let me know what you think, and do consider setting up something monthly here - and if you're already one of my amazing friends that do so, see if you can convince a friend to join in!)