Burning Man: A Case Study of Altruism Thriving in a For-profit Organizational Form and the Rationales for LLC-to-Nonprofit Conversion

36 Pages Posted: 10 May 2013 Last revised: 28 May 2013

Yuan Ji

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; Yale University - Law School

Date Written: May 8, 2011

Abstract

Burning Man is a temporary city of over 50,000 citizens that exists for one week every year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Burning Man is perhaps best known in popular culture for its celebration of interactive art, experimental community building, gift economy, and ritual burning of a large wooden structure in the shape of a man. The case study of Burning Man is used to illustrate that an altruistic organization, one that is ideologically committed to the provision of public goods and not driven by profit, can nevertheless thrive in a for-profit legal form while staying true to its mission. Depending on organization-specific conditions, the nonprofit form can be, but does not necessarily have to be, the best structure for the provision of altruism and public goods (or quasi-public goods). As an organization evolves and becomes more complex overtime, however, the organization form that best serves its mission can change as well. Still, the nonprofit form alone neither guarantees altruistic commitment nor is immune from abusive practices within the management or board of directors. This Article discusses the theories on nonprofit formation that make persuasive rationales for Burning Man’s conversion to a nonprofit structure; it also makes specific recommendations for better organizational accountability and transparency in the Project’s current and future operations.

Keywords: Burning Man, altruism, altruistic organization, public good, nonprofit, organizational form

Suggested Citation

Ji, Yuan, Burning Man: A Case Study of Altruism Thriving in a For-profit Organizational Form and the Rationales for LLC-to-Nonprofit Conversion (May 8, 2011). Hastings Business Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3, p. 449, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2262607 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2262607

Yuan Ji (Contact Author)

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati ( email )

1301 Avenue of the Americas, 40th Floor
New York, NY 10019-6022
United States
212-999-5800 (Phone)
212-999-5899 (Fax)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
197
Rank
125,545
Abstract Views
1,480