Not-for-profit vs. For-profit retirement communities: Interview with our CEO

By Sarah Sexton | Publish Date December 14, 2020

“Kirkwood began as a not-for-profit created by the Independent Presbyterian Church to offer continuing care retirement to seniors.”


In parts one and two of our blog series, we talked about the differences between not-for-profit and for-profit retirement communities as well as the benefits of choosing the NFP over the FP organizational structure. We defined an NFP retirement community as an organization that keeps all of its earnings within the organization which is the main difference between the two types of Retirement Communities. Some of the benefits we talked about include the organizational and motivational structure as well as the resident voice in the future of the community. Today we will hear from our President/CEO, Chad Carter about his experience and what he believes sets us, as a not-for-profit, apart from other communities.

What are some of the main things that set Kirkwood apart from similar for profit retirement communities? Our decisions are made based on what best for the resident and their outcomes versus the shareholders bottom line. Once operational cost are met, a small margin is budgeted to ensure we are able to carry out our mission driven focus which is unlike our for-profit competitors. Their decisions are based on the need to create profits for their shareholders and investors.

Explain the purpose and significance of the board for us as a not for profit organization. The significance of our board is the fact that these individuals volunteer their time and talents for the success of the organization. None of our board members are compensated in any way – no stock options, stipends or any other form of payment. They are also local and know the community and its needs well.

What is a benefit of choosing a NFP community over an FP community? The benefits of a NFP community are numerous. But the most important being that our administration and board of directors are able to freely make the best choice for the residents we serve every time because we are not tied to shareholders and “the bottom line”.

In your experience, have you seen any benefit to working for a NFP community over a FP community? I would not voluntarily do this type of work for a FP community. Resident care and a profit motive are diverging realities. To provide good care costs a tremendous amount of resources. I believe that at all times you have to do what is right for the care of residents and every time you actively choose what is right, it will cost you money. For example, think of the extreme measures we have had to put in place with our compensation for nurses and care staff during this time of COVID-19. Because of the hazard pay and other incentives we are able to provide due to our residents-over-profits structure, we have not felt the severe staffing crunch that many of our FP competitors have.


The Residents

Our residents come from different backgrounds and bring their unique qualities, talents, and life experiences to complete the Kirkwood community. Here are just a few reflections from some individuals who call Kirkwood their home.

I fell in love with the cottage and the view from my back porch. I am excited to have a yard for Ginger, my poodle, to play in and my own garage, all within an established retirement community!

Charlotte Hamilton Current Resident

My husband and I looked at a number of places when deciding to move to a retirement community. For the most part, we found communities that said, ‘We’re going to take care of you.’ But Kirkwood was different. It wasn’t just about taking care of us. It was also about having fun, having friends, and living life to the fullest. The attitude at Kirkwood was positive and the atmosphere was comforting. We simply couldn’t resist. Without a doubt, the location was ideal. The Cahaba Room that overlooks the river, the mountains, the trails – there were just so many things about life. The community was lively. It was alive.

Alice Brooks Current Resident

We realized we were approaching an age where we might need more assistance than what just downsizing could provide. Knowing we have my sons nearby and the levels of care should we need it is comforting, and the beautiful hillside, river, and the woods makes it that much more appealing. We don’t know of any other community that has the woods, the various levels of care, and so many different amenities.

Phyllis and John Guschke Current Residents

We were moving my parents down from the Cleveland area to be near us. I looked at almost every retirement place in the Birmingham area. The second I turned into Kirkwood’s drive and drove up the hill, I knew that I’d found the perfect place for my parents to live in Alabama. In the six years that my parents have been at Kirkwood, I have always felt nothing but love and helpfulness from every staff member. Everyone is always helpful with a pleasant attitude. You can truly see and feel the family atmosphere. I’m happy that my parents can call Kirkwood their home.

Brenda Sheehan Kirkwood family member

When we learned that Cedar Ridge was being developed, that seemed to fit our needs very well. It is the ideal place for the next phase of our retirement.

Carol and Arthur Stephens Current Residents

One thing that we feel is very important here at Kirkwood by the River is the relationship that we have between the staff and the residents. They are dedicated to making our life here as safe and secure and pleasurable as possible. That goes a long way.

Fred Rogers Current Resident

The community's cottage living surrounded by a wooded, natural environment with access to future healthcare services is what attracted us to Kirkwood!

Rick and Jane Ricketts Current Residents