The Nonprofit Difference and Heritage on the Marina

Heritage on the Marina has a long history as a philanthropic organization in San Francisco. Under its original name, San Francisco Ladies’ Protection and Relief Society, Heritage on the Marina has operated as a 501c3 non-profit organization since 1944, almost a century after it was first established. But what does it mean to be a non-profit organization? And how does that benefit San Francisco and the people who live here? 

One common misunderstanding about non-profits is that they don’t – or shouldn’t – earn a profit. The confusion is built into the name. But the primary difference between a for-profit and not-for-profit entity is not that one earns a profit and the other doesn’t; the difference is who benefits from any profit. In a for-profit, the benefit goes to the owners and shareholders. In a non-profit, the benefit goes to the organization, its mission and those it serves.

Providing housing, meal services, social and recreational activities, supportive care and more, Heritage on the Marina allows long-time San Franciscans to live and age in a beautiful, walkable neighborhood with easy access to care when they need it. As a non-profit provider of aging services, “the money comes back into the community and is invested in the residents and resident programs and in the infrastructure,” says Mary Linde, CEO.

One significant difference between Heritage on the Marina and for-profit senior living communities is that the organization provides financial assistance to residents who can no longer pay their monthly fees, allowing them to continue living in their home. “We budget for this every year. When residents outlive their assets, and they often do when they’re in such good care settings, we’re able to supplement their monthly income so that they can stay here,” says Linde. “In a for profit, when the money is gone, you’re gone. We don’t do that to our residents.”

Heritage on the Marina also invests its resources into capital improvements, maintaining the historic landmark Julia Morgan building and the rest of the community’s facilities. With a large physical plant, simply maintaining the buildings in their current state is a significant investment. Linde shares, “In a building like ours, we’re spending over $2 million a year in capital improvements.”

Even with a significant capital budget, there are always surprises, such as an elevator repair that may take more than the budgeted amount but is vital for ensuring residents are able to move safely about the building. This is why non-profits such as Heritage on the Marina also build cash reserves with income that exceeds budgeted expenses. Currently, Heritage on the Marina relies on its investment portfolio to supplement funding when expenses exceed income, but the organization is working towards long-term financial sustainability while staying true to its mission and its values.

As one of only three non-profit Life Plan communities in San Francisco, and as the steward of the historic Julia Morgan building, Heritage on the Marina believes it is important to continue to offer its care and services to seniors who want to live out their lives in the City. As Linde states, “We have to be financially sustainable to support the residents we promise to serve and to care for. We want to be sustainable so we can serve in San Francisco in perpetuity.”

This drive to serve San Francisco for the long term is one of the reasons why Heritage on the Marina is in the midst of a new planning process to rebuild the community. Its goal is to honor the organization’s heritage while establishing a solid financial model for senior living that is sustainable and mission-driven, providing living and communal spaces that will improve the lives of its current residents and appeal to new people in the years to come.

To learn more about Heritage on the Marina’s plans for the future, click here.

To review the organization’s 990 (IRS tax filing for non-profit entities), click here.

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