Nonprofit Assisted Living: How It Compares to For-Profit Options


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What is nonprofit assisted living?

Nonprofit assisted living communities are operated by nonprofit organizations that invest any profits back into the organization. As part of their tax exempt status, these groups provide a benefit or further a cause.[01]

Usually an assisted living community is part of a larger nonprofit group. The larger organization may be small, with only a handful of assisted living locations. Other nonprofits have thousands of locations.

Both nonprofit and for-profit assisted living communities offer the same types of care services. Your loved one can expect the following at assisted living communities:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and grooming
  • Scheduled activities
  • Common amenities such as a garden, game room, and theater
  • Meals
  • Other services, like housekeeping and transportation

This standard of care can be found at any community, whether run by a nonprofit organization or not.

A Place for Mom partners with several nonprofit assisted living communities, including:

These are just a handful of our partners — for nonprofit assisted living near you, reach out to a Senior Living Advisor for help.

How do I know if an assisted living community is run by a nonprofit group?

The easiest way to find out whether a community is a nonprofit is by looking at its tax filing status. The IRS designates nonprofits as 501(c)(3) organizations, which means they’re exempt from paying taxes.[02]

You can use the IRS’ tax exempt organization search tool to check if an assisted living facility is a nonprofit. Search by organization name or employer identification number to see if a community you’re interested in is listed.

What are some benefits of nonprofit assisted living?

Nonprofit communities can be a wonderful fit for many seniors and their families. They don’t have to be tied to a particular religion, but many are, and many seniors find value in these communities.

Stacy Scherr studied the differences between how nonprofits and for-profits deliver social services and received a doctorate in sociology. She has also been a Senior Living Advisor with A Place for Mom for over 12 years.

Scherr notes that some family members call A Place for Mom with nonprofit assisted living in mind. In one example she gave, a caregiver knew that as a devout Catholic, their parent would want a community that offers daily mass, which would make a Catholic assisted living community ideal.

It’s important to note that not all religiously affiliated communities are run by nonprofit organizations. Many for-profit assisted living communities offer on-site religious activities or complimentary transportation to attend religious services.

However, living in a community with faith as its focus can offer more for devout seniors:

  • Residents are more likely to see visible reminders of their faith throughout the community, which can be a comfort.
  • Holy days or special observances may be included in the activity calendar.
  • There’s a possibility that residents will enjoy the fellowship and understanding of religious traditions that simply wouldn’t be as present in a nondenominational community.

Perceptions about nonprofit assisted living

When Scherr speaks to families about assisted living, she encourages them to keep an open mind, especially if family members have preconceived ideas about what nonprofit assisted living can offer. The two biggest things Scherr hears from families center around the quality of care and the cost.

“Some people have a perception that nonprofits are better, and I don’t think that’s true across the board,” Scherr says. “Out of that comes the feeling that if I go to a nonprofit, they’re going to put that money back into the community.”

Although any money the organization doesn’t need for bills and upkeep does go back to the nonprofit, that money may go to a different part of the organization — not necessarily the resident’s specific assisted living community. It’s also worth noting that for-profit communities often do reinvest in their communities to attract new residents.

Because each assisted living community — whether operated by a nonprofit or for-profit organization — is different, it’s best to avoid assumptions and take an open approach to which communities you consider.


Quality of care and amenities

Scherr has advice for families who are convinced that their loved one will receive better care at a nonprofit community.

“What I tell families is [that] there may be broad differences across the spectrum,” Scherr explains. “If you looked at all nonprofits in the country, or all nonprofits in the state, there may be some differences. But, at the individual level, it’s going to be much more about the executive director and what their experience and expertise is.”

The director can influence the day-to-day operations of the community, as can other staff members and caregivers.

It’s important to tour communities to see the interactions between caregivers and staff, and to check out the quality of the facility’s amenities. You’ll gain a better understanding of how care is delivered and the environment your loved one will live in.

At any community, consider the following questions:

  • Do caregivers and residents seem to know each other well? Do they call each other by their first names?
  • Do caregivers seem overworked and tired, or happy to work with residents?
  • Are caregivers responsible for many residents during their shift, or for a small number?
  • Are amenities clean, safe, and free of bad odors?
  • Do residents appear happy?

If you’re touring a nonprofit, ask if the assisted living community has received any grants that would help improve the quality of life of the resident. Typically only nonprofits can apply for grants, so this question wouldn’t apply to all communities.



While some nonprofit assisted living communities may be more affordable, others will have prices similar to what you’d find in a for-profit assisted living community. There are many factors at play that can affect monthly rent at assisted living facilities, including:

  • The community’s location
  • Your loved one’s care needs
  • The size of their room
  • The amenities offered by the community
  • Additional services, such as trips to the community’s beauty parlor
  • Pet rent, if applicable

While some nonprofit assisted living facilities are owned by charitable organizations, they’re still required by the state to show their financial solvency in order to operate. Nonprofit assisted living communities may not be trying to make money, but they still have to cover existing costs such as:

  • Salaries for employees and caregivers
  • Building repairs and maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Food costs

Some families make further financial assumptions about nonprofit communities. Scherr notes that sometimes families think the organization will allow their parent to stay no matter what.

“[They’re thinking] that their parents will be cared for when they run out of money. And that’s not necessarily true,” Scherr says.

Some nonprofit communities offer a benevolence fund to help residents pay rent, although that fund may not be available right away for new residents.

“Some nonprofits do a financial assessment before they accept you into the community,” Scherr says. “What that does is give you some type of life care contract. If you run out of funds, they’re not going to kick you out,” Scherr says.

Essentially, this arrangement allows seniors to continue to live in the community after paying rent for a period of time, in some cases after the senior runs out of funds. However, this arrangement could be in jeopardy if the facility changes ownership.


Change in ownership

It’s normal for both nonprofit and for-profit assisted living communities to experience a change in ownership. In many cases, this doesn’t affect the senior to a large extent. Who they pay will change, but it’s unlikely that they’ll have a high increase in cost.

However, if a nonprofit assisted living community is bought by a for-profit company, that may affect financial agreements between the senior and the nonprofit organization.

If the assisted living community is sold to a for-profit business, seniors may lose the assurance that their care will continue to be provided.

Scherr noted that early on in her career with A Place for Mom, a nonprofit community closed because it was too expensive for the community to bring the building back up to code. This left families turning to her and other advisors for help, because they’d been counting on their parents staying in this nonprofit community after they ran out of money.

If you’re interested in finding a nonprofit community for your loved one, the Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom can help. They have a good understanding of the different communities in your area, and they can refer you to ones that are a great fit for your loved one.

If you’re concerned about changing care needs, Scherr notes that nonprofit groups have several available options for different care types, such as independent living, memory care, or nursing homes. Be sure to ask what options are available for your parent.

While it’s not always possible to guess what medical or financial changes will happen in your parent’s future, Scherr offers families this advice:

“You make a decision based on the information you have today. And then you reevaluate at different points in time. And that’s regardless of any type of community that you’d go to.”

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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