Not-for-profit vs. For-profit retirement communities: What are the benefits?

By Sarah Sexton | Publish Date November 17, 2020

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


Not-for-profit: What are the benefits or advantages of choosing a not-for-profit (NFP) retirement community?

In part one of our blog series, we defined an NFP retirement community as an organization that keeps all of its earnings within the organization. Once the community’s operational budget has been met, any other revenue is invested back into the organization to improve its programs and services, enhance the community’s campus, and ultimately benefit residents. For-profit (FP) organizations have obligations to investors and shareholders before using funds to invest in the community. A non-profit community’s primary commitment is to its residents. This priority defines the organizational and motivational structure.

Kirkwood by the River’s not-for-profit organizational structure begins with the church that founded our organization 40 years ago. We are an independent community rather than a conglomerate governed by a larger company. Our governing board of directors is 100% local to Birmingham. Many of the board members have invested interest in the community, such as a parent or relative. Our CEO, CFO, and Health Administrator who oversee the community’s day-to-day decisions are all onsite.  This organizational structure benefits Kirkwood residents because the people who make decisions for the present and future well-being of this organization all reside in town and are focused on our singular community and its residents.

An NFP organization’s motivations and its governing body differ from those of an FP organization because there is no financial investment at stake. The board and president want what is best for the community without a profit-at-all-costs interest in the financial outcome. Governing heads of an FP organization are motivated by paying their investors and proving worth to shareholders.

The last benefit of choosing a not-for-profit retirement community is that residents have a voice. Residents’ needs and wishes figure prominently into the vision and how it is carried out daily. Our Kirkwood Residents Association meets to discuss various aspects of the community and work with the administration to develop solutions and ways to better the organization as a whole.

 As we continue to take a more in-depth look into not-for-profit retirement communities and what sets us apart when it comes to choosing a new home for yourself or your loved one, we hope you will join us! If there are any specific questions you have or topics you would like us to cover – please feel free to drop in the comments or email lsanderlin@kirkwoodbytheriver.com!


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