Burning Man: Moving from a For-Profit to a Nonprofit, the Ultimate Act of Gifting
by Jennifer Walske
This case study focuses on Burning Man as an organization, and how its leadership intentionally moved from a for-profit limited liability corporation to a nonprofit 501(c)(3), in keeping with a long-term view of the Burning Man community's best interests. Burning Man was started in 1986 by two friends who burned a wooden effigy on Baker Beach in San Francisco. Since then, the event has grown significantly in attendance and scope, with more than 70,000 participants in 2017. For one week of each year, the expansive grounds of 'the playa' - an area of Black Rock Desert, Nevada - is transformed into a temporary city, with well-marked streets, camps, and luminously large pieces of art that can reach over 70 feet tall. Nothing can be bought or sold during the event except for coffee and ice, as part of the organization's emphasis on decommodification and gifting. Four years ago, the organization initiated the process of transitioning to a nonprofit structure. This case study describes the motivations behind that decision, along with its associated challenges and benefits.
(1) Determining the challenges and opportunities given Burning Man Project's transition from an LLC to a nonprofit organization, especially given its 30-year history, and the six founders involvement with the event since its founding. (2) Understanding what led to Burning Man's various organizational changes, including the initial LLC and then, fifteen years later, the nonprofit entity. It's important to note how the organization's values were institutionalized throughout each change. (3) Identifying challenges concerning BMR's plans for having impact on a global scale, while being geographically constrained in its current location (i.e., Black Rock City), due to limitations around transportation to/from the event, as well as permitting, and not having historically invested in its geographically distant partner organizations.
Pub Date: Dec 31, 2017
Discipline: Social Enterprise
Subjects: Corporate Volunteering, Organizational values, Nonprofit organizations, Change management, Long term planning, Social issues, Corporate social responsibility, Organizational culture, Growth strategy
Product #: B5906-PDF-ENG
Industry: Arts, Entertainment & sports, Tradeshow exhibition & event planning
Geography: United States
Length: 26 page(s)
Berkeley Haas Case SeriesFollowThe Berkeley Haas Case Series is a collection of business case studies written by faculty members at the Haas School of Business. Cases are conceived, developed, written, and published throughout the year, on subjects ranging from entrepreneurship and strategy to finance and marketing. Each case includes a teaching note for use in the classroom.