Action Research into Nonprofit Organizations Structure and Strategy

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Nonprofit organizations are an area that has not obtained an abundance of attention from neither the academia or organizers in the leadership arena. If the attention is given it is done so either by virtue of management and leadership being identical or single functions or often it is generalized that leadership studies themselves are reflective of nonprofit organizations. This results in literary review that are often askew from the organization's leadership needs.

Nonprofit organizers often endeavor to utilize other nonprofit organization's successes as mirrors to set objectives for their own measurements. However this does not assist in addressing unique or individualized desiderata of the organization. The comical approach of what works in one organization, will facilitate the desiderata of another effectively has been the postulation of many organizations from creation to function.

This inbreeding of operations from one nonprofit to another often results in misconceived results and the ultimate failure of the nonprofit. Simply stated there are just to many variables affecting the individual organizations to endeavor to replicate one formula redundantly.

This research paper will dwell into the roles of a bellwether in the nonprofit organizations, and the dynamic relationship leadership has on the culture, formation, and function of nonprofit organization. The initial objective is to apply the knowledge to the formation of a nonprofit organization and how leadership may influence a synergy which affects the organizational culture. The initiation and maintenance renewal within the organizational context of a nonprofit's socialization will also be explored.

Problem Statements and Nonprofit Assumptions

Are the realities of non-profit organizations that are different from private and public sectors? This question, and others similar in character, have plagued the research, creation, and development of nonprofit organizations. Non-profit, private, and public sectors face the questions of credibility during a transfer of research performed on another sector. Can a common understanding from research be felicitous among the three sectors? It seems felicitous that one could make such a value judgment of a research transfer from one sector to another if the data support the application. The value judgment of the strategic bellwether would be predicated upon his or her knowledge of the organizational system being considered. It is important; however, for a value judgment to be made prior to transferring and subsequently implementing any knowledge from one sector to the next. This value judgment would recognize the unique qualities of the respective organizations.

All postulations are that organizations are individual. If we hold this as fact then the difficulty lies in finding research that applies to that particular organization. A more collective and beneficial search may be conducted for non-profit, private, and public leadership assigned with more specific guidelines for the research? This can ascertain a more credible result for implementation into the organization. Data interpretation is important towards the responsibility of each organizational guideline.

However, these similarities between non-profit, public, and private sectors are conducted with complete diffractions. These differences within the sectors cause a deviance in the production values. The finances and output appear to be the most influential determining factors of an organization. Non-profit tend to be different by virtue of intent. The Internal Revenue Accommodation recognizes this disparity by sanctioning the non-profit to claim under special privileges often dubbed self-claiming. Leadership responsibilities in non-profit sectors are often issues due to the desiderata of reporting of mission statements and accountability. Herman and Heimovics state that, the reality for most nonprofit organizations is that they are expected to promote many values and be accountable to many groups while furthering the organization's mission."(Herman, P.34 1991) This leads to finding common research of non-profits with common diligence with a unified mission similar to a common quest. Non-profits are much more fluid and less defined from private and public sectors. The diverse nature makes the pursuit of a unified sector leadership sought by different approaches and expecting similar results impossible.

Conducting a number of computer and library searches in conjunctions with conversations with nonprofit bellwethers developed futile literature devoted to nonprofit sector leadership. Outside of uncovering literature speaks to organizational functions of non-profits: budget, board members' roles, organizational structure, funding, administrative responsibilities and such, but are found destitute of when delimited to the role of the nonprofit bellwether, or nonprofit leadership per se. Additionally, there are essentially few references amalgamating the elements of nonprofit organizations or the activities of the leadership (Appendix F - Internet Search Results). There is a desideratum for more studies to be conducted for non-profit organizational leadership. Studies on whether non-profit leadership will function similarly to private and public sectors. Investigations into the possibility of new literature and even ne leadership models as a derivative of non-profit organizations. (Young, para.1-5 1993)

The position of this action research is that research may become distorted when transferred among the various sectors. The probability of similarity can be recognized among sectors; yet at what point is there an epistemological/ontological imperfection to make this true. McCauley and Hughes state their impression:Because the nonprofit sector has some unique characteristics, we cannot necessarily generalize research results on corporate managers to managers in this sector. Nonprofit organizations' missions, governance structures, funding sources, and reliance on volunteers create differences in their internal dynamic and external relationships (Mccauly, p.156 1993)

Yet this research imperfection seems conspicuous, yet, often ignored; or worse, it is accepted as being of no consequence. How can the literature of one sector be applied to another when the very essence of each is different, even contrary to each other? When consideration of the nonprofit, private, and public sectors some primary differences often suggested are funding base, organizational purpose, and human resources. (Mccauly, 1993)

Financial Funding

Private sector funding base is contractual with an acceded upon amount being paid.

The market of authoritatively mandate controls the cost and the quantity. Public funding base is assessed for given activities, regarded as compulsory by the public or legislatively mandated for the public good and are mostly tax assessed. However, with non-profit sectors funding base emanate from a variety of sources, most specifically contributions being provided by the respective organizations. In reference to all three sectors, the goods being provided may be incentive predicated. The significant differences are the funding sources and the items being put out. (Mccauly, 1993)

Organizational Structure

The primary motivator for private sectors is profit driven. Private sectors offer marketable goods to those in need at the best marketable value available. In thus creating a profit for all entities involved. The public sector pursuit is to provide prescribed goods for the tax paying citizen. These goods are deemed to be at the good of taxpayer for beneficial purposes. With non-profit sectors the good is often of the community. The result is an organizational structure that benefits the area of creation, before spreading to other communities. (Mccauly, 1993)

Human Relations

Most often in private sectors the human relational basis are for the paid employee. Public sectors

are similar to the private sector with alternative considerations that must be made by the public sector. The private may be compared to meeting the desideratum of the public interest, yet there is no monetary incentive for product development as such. Non-profits base of employees for this sector are conventionally mixed. While the private sectors may become involved for political reasons, such as, to be visually perceived as supporting a particular public interest in the public sector. The public agency is involved because public funds are being used to initiate the accommodation. (Mccauly, 1993)

Organizational decisions are often beyond the control of organization personnel because the funding base may stipulate how the funds are utilized. There is conventionally a volunteer constituency within a nonprofit organization that contributes political vigor. They may or may not be willing to support a policy superimposed upon the organization by funding base. The bellwether, consequently, becomes the negotiating party who must be able to balance the initiatives between the funding mandate and the volunteers. The human resource issue may require a different bellwether dynamic for each sector, especially when it becomes compulsory for the nonprofit organization to work from the mixed base of provider constituents. It seems logical, therefore, for the nonprofit bellwether to take this mixed- base dynamic into account when making decisions related to his or her agency. Other areas of concern are product rendering and dissemination, process of implementation, and limits of tenure among numerous significant organizational stakeholders. These issues; however, are recognized, but not pertinent to the discussion of this action research.


When considering a theory base for any research, quite likely, there are some presuppositions compulsorily made by the researcher. One such presupposition is that a general theory base is normally applicable when considering a particular issue. While this presupposition is felicitous upon occasion, it is the exception that must be challenged. Generally speaking, it is not feasible to consider every exception on any given subject, but in the case of organizational sector characteristics; one must be advised. Psychological and sociological considerations may be transferable among the sectors, yet the unique organizational characteristics of the three sectors need to be addressed on an individual basis.

To ignore the unique characteristics of sectors (i.e., private, public, nonprofit); then, becomes an epistemological barrier that cannot be taken lightly. Research seeks to hold a conception to its unique and simplest form. It would seem to be imperative, therefore, that organizational characteristics are individually considered. At least, those involved in organizational research should require the literature to address his or her particular sector of interest. This legitimating reference may be called relevant inference.

The notion that each sector has some unique qualities which must be considered when utilizing the extant literature is pertinent to this study of a nonprofit organization. If a researcher accepts the definition of Lester Salamon and the differences in funding, organizational purpose and human resources among other particularly identifiable characteristics of the nonprofit organization, it seems that research must make some allowances to address these qualities. In integration to the aforementioned characteristics, though institutionalized to some extent, the nonprofit sector has no idealized organizational setting. It is not regime controlled or operated, nor is it a corporate structure dependent upon profit sharing of one sort or another. (Salamon, 1992)

Yet, each of these entities affects the character and operations of a nonprofit organization. A nonprofit organization has a private sector mentality when efforts are made to make it conform to regime regulations. It seeks the independence of the private sector, but it is not circumscribed by a market economy. Though the nonprofit may accumulate profits, the profits are not distributed to its employees or investors (e.g., board members). These profits are funneled back into the operation of the nonprofit's mission.The powerful characteristic of self-governing is one of the unique qualities often overlooked or dismissed by a researcher. Outside entities do not control a nonprofit organization. There are many internal and external influences placed upon a nonprofit organization, but none has dominant control of the organization. For example, the accommodations of the nonprofit are not market driven as in the private sector. Special interest groups do influence the nonprofit; yet, it is not the majority opinion of the public sector that mandates the nonprofit sector's accommodation distribution. Quite often, a minority issue becomes a primary accommodation consideration for a nonprofit organization.

Another characteristic of a nonprofit organization that conventionally attracts the attention of the public is its reliance upon voluntary participation. No other sector relies so heavily upon volunteers. Volunteers are involved because of some vested interest. Their intriguingly fascinates, therefore, affect the policies and accommodations of the nonprofit organization. Do the volunteers control the nonprofit organization? Probably not, but they do influence policy and action.

In summary, these characteristics, as identified by Salamon, seem to call for some uniqueness consideration when designing research for a nonprofit organization which relates to extant organization or leadership theory. Also, the major body of leadership theory could venture some attention to the unique qualities of the nonprofit organization as it does with the public - private sector debate. This action research is an endeavor to open such a dialog. It also makes the assertion that a nonprofit agency bellwether may be sagacious in paying close attention to the basic nature of his or her organization's culture and socialization as a symbolic representation of the spirit and soul of that organization. The nonprofit sector is a vast array of specialized organizations. They have unifying characteristics as Salamon identifies. (Salamon, 1992)

Characteristics of a Nonprofit Organization

Lester Salamon provides six defining characteristics of organizations in the nonprofit


1. Formal - though not compulsorily incorporated, they are institutionalized to some extent. They have a licit identity and licitly enter into contracts without obligating its officers of personal financial responsibility for the organization's commitments.

2. Private - institutionally separate from regime. They are neither a component of the governmental apparatus or dominated by regime board members.

3. Non-profit-distributing - not dedicated to generating profits for their owners. If a profit is generated it must be reinvested in the basic mission of the agency. This differentiates nonprofit organizations from the other component of the private sector - private business.

4. Self-governing - equipped to control its own activities. They have their own internal procedures from governance and are not controlled by outside entities.

5. Voluntary - involved in some meaningful degree of voluntary participation. Conventionally, this takes the form of a voluntary board of directors, but extensive utilization of volunteer staff is also common.

6. Of public benefit - accommodating some public purpose and contributing to the public good. (Salamon, 1992)

Overview of the Action Research

he purpose of this action research is to study one nonprofit organization the Mathugh Johnston Scholarship Fund to visually perceive how selected leadership and expectations relate to its effective operation. The dynamics Mathugh Johnston Scholarship Fund will be peered upon concentrating on the relationships of functionality, leadership, and culture of the organization. It, consequently, has been selected as the case study subject. This research further suggests that the interrelationship of leadership and organizational culture seems to foster a synergy which may have salient qualities that facilitate an effective non-profit organization.

When the public or private sector funds a non-profit project, there is an expectation that the agency will meet the designated public need. In the Mathugh Johnston Scholarship Fund, this effort requires interaction between its leadership and its sponsorship base. In cases of public agency funding, the public agency becomes a direct partner with the nonprofit accommodation agency to effectively resolve the community needs. The private or public agency, thereby, becomes an erudite partner of the community and supports the efforts of the organization. The Mathugh Johnston Scholarship Fund becomes an ambassador for the public or private agency. To explore these issues, the following outline explicates the direction of this study.

This action research presents its formal documentation in six chapters. Chapter One presents the rationale for this study by first describing the notion of organizational private, public, and the nonprofit sectors characteristics. The focus is to present research specific to the qualities of leadership the nonprofit organization the Mathugh Johnston Scholarship Fund. Second, the purpose of this study is defined. Finally, the overview of the action research is presented.

Chapter Two reviews the literature which is specific to the nonprofit sector. The primary interest of this literature review is to draw a relationship among these significant areas of study which form the nucleus of the research problem.

Chapter Three presents the methodology regarding the specific case study of this action research. The case study is explicated giving justification for the single-case study methodology, research design, and the data accumulation process. Also, other related documents are explicated: newspaper articles about the case in question, speeches by apprised case bellwethers, and in-house publications about the organization. For purposes of case study validity, a detailed account of the specific data management technique is explicated. The interview instrument is presented. An explication of the researcher's intent of inquiry in Appendices B, B(b), and B(c).

Chapter Four presents the documentation of the research data. It commences with a brief historical view of Mathugh Johnston Scholarship Fund, the case study of this action research. The data from the study of documents and interviews then are interpreted by the researcher to explicate any significant and emergent information that might support or reject the intent of this action research. Further, the chapter extrapolates the data analysis to respond to the problem statement of this action research. The findings are utilized to explicate the conclusions stipulated by a replication to five conceptions central to the action research.

Conception one: Other members of the leadership team acknowledge that the leadership intends to influence this organization to accept a particular organizational culture and socialization.

Conception two: The leadership structures a strategy to influence his leadership team to facilitate a consensus for a particular organizational culture and socialization.

Conception three: The leadership team intentionally seeks to influence the organization to accept a particular organizational culture and socialization.

Conception four: The leadership team intends to influence the organization to accept a particular organizational culture and socialization which anticipates an acceptance of the vision and philosophy communicated by the leadership.

Conception five: The leadership team intentionally constructs a strategy which prescribes a particular kind of organization culture.

The final chapter, Chapter Five, interprets the findings of this research project predicated upon the analysis of the data and the literature about this nonprofit leadership, culture and socialization. This becomes a major issue to a nonprofit organization seeking to fulfill its mission, a mission quite often dictated by a minority group. The postulation that a literature can be constructed for the nonprofit sector becomes one of seeking common ground. In this sense, a form of unified diversity becomes an important consideration in this quest. The practical side of this consideration is to find a common ground upon which to found a literature. The desideratum for a working definition of nonprofit becomes vital to this quest for a sector literature. The notion seems to be that we are diverse, yet we have a common spectrum within which to work we are unified but remain original.