Monthly Archives: January 2015


In 1966, Robert Brustein founded the Yale Repertory Theater — a non-profit artistic company with a resident company of actors. The theater’s revenues came from Yale University, other funding agencies and ticket buyers. In 1979, Brustein moved his theater to Cambridge (changing its name to the American Repertory Theater) to keep it focused on professional, rather than student, drama. While this theater requires a more permanent commitment (perhaps investment in specific human capital) from its actors than standard theaters do, it is far from being a cooperative. Robert Orchard (managing director of the theater, cited in Ayala and Falstad, 1988) writes “what the company does ultimately reflects his [Brustein’s] choices, his tastes, his ideals.”

Many, if not most, not-for-profit firms are started by entrepreneurs. In 1864, Jean-Henri Dunant, after witnessing the bloody battle of Solferino, founded the Red Cross. Dunant co-founded another significant non-profit, the World’s Young Men’s Christian Association, and (after spending most of his life in poverty and obscurity having neglected his business affairs) won the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. In 1892, the American John Muir founded the non-profit Sierra Club.