Burning Man: A Case Study of Altruism Thriving in a For-profit Organizational Form and the Rationales for LLC-to-Nonprofit Conversion
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; Yale University - Law School
May 8, 2011
Hastings Business Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3, p. 449, 2013
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 36
Keywords: Burning Man, altruism, altruistic organization, public good, nonprofit, organizational form
Date posted: May 10, 2013 ; Last revised: May 28, 2013