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Problematizing service in the nonprofit sector: from methodless enthusiasm to professionalization

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Over the past forty years the nonprofit sector has experienced a steady rise in the professionalization of its employees and its operations. Some have argued that this trend is in

Over the past forty years the nonprofit sector has experienced a steady rise in the professionalization of its employees and its operations. Some have argued that this trend is in large part a reaction to the requirements foisted upon the nonprofit sector through the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1969. While some scholars have detailed a number of unintended consequences that have resulted from this trend toward professionalization, in general scholars and practitioners have accepted it as a necessary step along the path toward ensuring that service is administered in an accountable and responsible manner. I analyze the contemporary trend in professionalization of the nonprofit sector from a different angle--one which seeks to determine how the nonprofit sector came to problematize the nature of its service beginning in the early twentieth century, as well as the consequences of doing so, rather than reinforce the existing normative arguments. To this end, I employ an "analytics of government" from an ethical and political perspective which is informed by Michel Foucault's conception of genealogy, as well as his work on governing rationalities, in order to reveal the historical and political forces that contribute to the nonprofit sector's professionalization and that shape its current processes, institutions, and norms. I ultimately argue that these forces serve to reinforce a broad movement away from the charitable impulse that motivates individuals to engage in personal acts of compassion and toward a philanthropic enterprise by which knowledge is rationally applied toward reforming society rather than aiding individuals. This movement toward institutional philanthropy and away from individual charity supplants the needs of the individual with the needs of the organization. I then apply this analysis to propose an alternate governing model for the nonprofit sector--one that draws on Foucault's exploration of ancient writings on love, self-knowledge, and governance--in order to locate a space for the individual in nonprofit life.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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Resource dependence patterns and organizational performance in nonprofit organizations

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Achieving high performance is a crucial issue in modern organizations including public, for-profit, and nonprofit even though there is no consensus about what performance means. How to obtain resources is

Achieving high performance is a crucial issue in modern organizations including public, for-profit, and nonprofit even though there is no consensus about what performance means. How to obtain resources is important for boosting organizational performance. Furthermore, resource acquisition capacity is closely associated with the survival of modern nonprofit organizations. Resource Dependence Theory (RDT) notes that dependence on critical resources influences diverse actions and behavior of organizations. The study examines the relationship among Resource Dependence Patterns (RDPs), organizational behavior, and organizational performance in nonprofit organizations. This study introduces five dimensions of RDPs (the appearance of the resource inflow): resource dependency, resource diversity, resource uncertainty, resource abundance, and resource competitiveness. This research suggests that a nonprofit's RDPs affect its behavior, performance, and survival. A main research question can be phrased as: How are RDPs of nonprofit organizations related to organizational behavior and performance? Data are mainly gathered from financial officers, managers, and directors in the nonprofit sector. Multivariate data analytic techniques including factor analysis, multiple regression analysis, and path analysis are used for testing the proposed hypotheses and answering the research question. The empirical findings reveal that the Resource Dependence Patterns directly or indirectly affect organizational behavior and performance in nonprofit organizations. Resource dependency (where resources come from) has substantive and wide impacts on the overall nonprofits' behavior and structures. High dependency on government funding (high resource dependency) is positively associated with organizational hierarchy and frequent goal changes; on the other hand, it has a negative effect on participatory decision making. This study suggests that goal clarity has the strongest direct impact on nonprofits' performance. Clear organizational goals increase the likelihood that nonprofits show a higher level of performance. The paths of both resource diversity and resource competitiveness also have direct impacts on organizational performance and their impacts are statistically robust. Path analysis verifies the fact that the other three RDP variables account for organizational performance via organizational behavior variables (indirect causality on performance). This study of RDPs, behavior, and performance contributes practically to the effective management of nonprofit organizations and contributes to consolidating and expanding Resource Dependence Theory (RDT). In addition, the information about resource dependence patterns will help funders including governments, foundations, and individual donors to understand the fiscal environment that an organization faces.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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Evolution of Nonprofits: Organizational Structures and Perceptions of Effectiveness within Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Services

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the structures of nonprofit victim service organizations and organizational effectiveness. Past research has rarely considered the structures of nonprofit

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the structures of nonprofit victim service organizations and organizational effectiveness. Past research has rarely considered the structures of nonprofit institutions, and thus there is a lack of understanding regarding how nonprofit service organizations function, and whether not traditional concepts of effectiveness can accurately describe organizational success. Thus, there is an opportunity for further exploration regarding how this structural change impacted organizational effectiveness. This study used mixed-methodology including surveys (N=16), interviews (N=17), and comparative case studies (N=5) to examine nonprofit organizational structures and effectiveness in efforts to answer questions regarding the reality of hybrid nonprofit structures, the characteristics of these hybrid structures, and the presentation of organizational effectiveness in nonprofit service organizations. The findings revealed that a) hybrid structures are overwhelmingly the style of service nonprofits, b) externally bureaucratic structures and collective internal structures are combined to form these hybrid organizations, and c) traditional measures of organizational effectiveness as well as characteristics unique to hybrid structures are influential in determining effectiveness in nonprofit service organizations. Future research should consider what factors influence the collaboration of nonprofit service organizations and criminal justice institutions in order to best support crime victims.

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  • 2018