Why Do Nonprofits Fail?

One of the other jobs I perform is as a volunter for the ARNOVA Listserv. I act as a facilitator to help others with subscribing, unsubscribing, and posting to the list. Currently, the list has over 1,500 different Nonprofit and Voluntary Organization related individuals, professionals, scholars, and students. It is a great community that I would encourage you to become part of if you are interested in Nonprofit Organizations. The other day Jessica Sowa from the University of Colorado Denver posted a question on behalf of a student. The student was interested in quintessential research on Why Nonprofits Fail. The List responded with some amazing resources that I thought I would share here for anyone interested in the Nonprofit and Voluntary sector. The list may not be comprehensive and as some pointed out on the List, the question about why Nonprofits Fail is fairly broad. Therefore, what follows may or may not answer the question. However, I think provides a great example of how a community of individuals can help shed light on a particular issue. The references may not be complete (as in ready for a Reference list or Bibliography, or even in alphabetical order), but I hope you find this helpful.

  • Hager, M. A., Galaskiewicz, J., & Larson, J. A. (2004). Structural embeddedness and the liability of newness among nonprofit organizations. Public Management Review, 6(2), 159-188.
  • Mark A. Hager. 1999. Explaining Demise Among Nonprofit Organizations. Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, Department of Sociology.   
  • Beth M. Duckles, Mark A. Hager and Joseph Galaskiewicz. 2005. “How Nonprofits Close: Using Narratives to Study Organizational Processes.” Pp. 169-203 (chapter 7) in Qualitative Organizational Research, edited by K.D. Elsbach. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.  
  • Mark A. Hager. 2001. “Financial Vulnerability among Arts Organizations: A Test of the Tuckman-Chang Measures.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 30(2): 376-392.
  • Mark A. Hager, Joel J. Pins and Cheryl A. Jorgensen. 1997. “Unto Thy Maker: The Fate of Church-Based Nonprofit Clinics in a Turbulent Health Care Environment.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 26(Supplement): S85-S100.
  • Mark Hager, Joseph Galaskiewicz, Wolfgang Bielefeld and Joel Pins. 1996. “Tales From the Grave: Organizations’ Accounts of their Own Demise.” American Behavioral Scientist 39(8): 975-994.
  • Keating, EK., Fischer, M., Gordon, TP., & Greenlee, J. (2005)  Assessing Financial Vulnerability in the Nonprofit Sector   https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=151
  • Lecy JD. & Van Slyke DM. (2013),Nonprofit Sector Growth and Density: Testing Theories of Government Support J Public Adm Res Theory  23 (1): 189-214.
  • Joe Galaskiewicz and Wolf Bielefeld’s Nonprofit Organizations in an Age of Uncertainty is really the classic study.  Mark, Joe and Wolf’s “Tales from the Grave” article in a special American Behavioral Scientist issue on organizational failure (8/96) is close to quintessential. The volume, edited by Helmut Anheier, also has takes by other leading sociologists on org failure in general.
  • The Pollyanna Principles: Reinventing ‘Nonprofit Organizations’ to Create the Future of Our World.  You can find those 4 chapters online here http://pollyannaprinciples.org/info/read-part-1/
  • Seibel, Wolfgang (1996): Successful Failure: An Alternative View on Organizational Coping. In: American Behavioral Scientist 39 (8), pp. 1011-1024.
  • Meyer, Marshall W.; Zucker, Lynne G. (1989): Permanently Failing Organizations. London: Sage.
  • Hall, P. D. (1999). Vital Signs: Organizational Population Trends and Civic Engagement in New Haven, Connecticut, 1850-1998. Civic engagement in American democracy. T. Skocpol and M. P. Fiorina. Washington, D.C.; New York, Brookings Institution Press ; Russell Sage Foundation: 211-248.
  • King, W. I. and K. E. Huntley (1928). Trends in philanthropy; a study in a typical American city. New York, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Kingma, B. R. (1993). “Portfolio Theory and Nonprofit Financial Stability.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 22(2): 105-119.
  • Chang, C. F. and H. P. Tuckman (1991). “Financial Vulnerability and Attrition as Measures of Nonprofit Performance.” Annals of Public & Cooperative Economics 62(4): 655.
  • Tuckman, H. P. and C. F. Chang (1991). “A Methodology for Measuring the Financial Vulnerability of Charitable Nonprofit Organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 20(4): 445-460.
  • Foster, W., B. Dixon, et al. (2003). Funding: Patterns and Guideposts in the Nonprofit Sector. Boston, MA, Bridgespan: 24.
  • Foster, W. and G. Fine (2007). “How Nonprofits Get Really Big.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 5(2).
  • Kim, P. and J. Bradach (2012). “Why More Nonprofits Are Getting Bigger.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 10(2): 15-16.
  • Chikoto, G. L. and D. G. Neely (2013). “Building Nonprofit Financial Capacity: The Impact of Revenue Concentration and Overhead Costs.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
  • Tuckman, H.P., and C.F. Chang. 1991. “A methodology for measuring the financial vulnerability of charitable nonprofit organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly no. 20 (4):445-460.

So again, the list is not comprehensive, but I know when doing research it is always good to have a place to start. Best of luck in your research and feel free to share any other resources that you find.

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About jimmysw
Dad, Husband, PhD, Assistant Professor, Social Media enthusiast, and all around good guy :)

4 Responses to Why Do Nonprofits Fail?

  1. Pingback: Why Do Nonprofits Fail? | For Good Not For Prof...

  2. Pingback: Successful Nonprofit Board Governance. Resources and Research. | Jimmysw's Blog

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