Nonprofit Organizations


Public Administration Review
© American Society for Public Administration
Virtual Issue: Nonprofit Organizations
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Introduction to Virtual Issue: Nonprofit Organizations
by Kirsten Grønbjerg, Indiana University, Bloomington

This special collection of recently published articles from Public Administration Review (PAR) reflects the growing interest in understanding the complex roles that nonprofit organizations play in U.S. Society. This is no easy task because nonprofit organizations span the gamut of activities from hobby clubs and fraternal organizations to soup kitchens, hospitals and symphony orchestras; from land trusts and acrimonious advocacy organizations to international relief organizations and local congregations.

Most importantly, for the PAR audience, they interact directly or indirectly across a broad spectrum of activities with all types of public sector organizations and policy makers. They do so when they deliver services to meet a wide range of community and societal needs with support from government fees or contracts or with indirect subsidies in the form of tax-deductible contributions or bequests; they do so also when they seek to influence or monitor policy debates or shape the way in which public and private sector organizations carry out their activities. Even those nonprofits that appear to focus mainly on the personal interests or proclivities of their members play a political role because they create social capital and provide opportunities for individuals to practice leadership and collective action.

The articles in this collection fall into several broad groupings. Some focus mainly on internal management and human resource issues and whether and how patterns differ for nonprofit and public sector organizations. Thus Lee and Wilkins examine career motivations of government and nonprofit managers and find some differences, but also lines of continuity. Su and Bozeman examine whether and how government and nonprofit employees are drawn from the private for-profit sector and find notable differences. Finally, Jaskyte explores whether factors that predict administrative innovation in nonprofit organizations are similar to those that predict adoption of technological innovation.

Others focus explicitly on government contracting – the arena where government-nonprofit interaction is most obvious. Thus Feiock and Jang examine how local political institutions influence the role of nonprofits in contracting, while Amirkhanyan examines whether state and local government officials that monitor contracts interact differently with nonprofit than for-profit contractors.

Several others address a somewhat broader set of issues –whether and how nonprofit organizations contribute to community planning and representative governance – arenas that traditionally have been thought to be the province of public sector actors, albeit not necessarily delivered well. Thus Shea considers how and whether federal funding for intermediary organizations strengthens the capacity of community and faith-based organizations at the community level. Herman looks at whether nonprofit boards meet accountability and performance standards. LeRoux explores whether nonprofit governance structures create opportunities for participation by service recipients. And Gazley, Chang and Bingham examine how board diversity or representativeness influence organizational performance.

The overarching question of whether (and how) nonprofits and public sector organizations jointly address community planning and representative governance is also of central concern to Smith and his exploration of governance issues for public and nonprofit organizations and to Bryson’s assessment of the growing use and need for strategic planning by both sectors. The analysis by Brecher and Wise adds a useful caveat by showing how public sector reliance on collaboration with nonprofits may contribute to inequities and produce other shortcomings in the delivery of public services. Indeed, nonprofits are thought by some observers to be too small, too cash-strapped, too dependent on amateurs and volunteers, too blinded by their own passions, or too concerned with satisfying the interests of major donors to address community needs well, quickly, or efficiently.1

1. Nonprofit scholars will recognize this argument as an extreme version of the “nonprofit failure” arguments outlined by Salamon (1987), who noted that nonprofits are limited by their financial insufficiency, amateurism, particularism, and paternalism. Lester M. Salamon, “Partners in Public Service: The Scope and Theory of Government-Nonprofit Relations” pp. 99-117 in The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook, edited by Walter W. Powell. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987.

Kirsten Grønbjerg holds the Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is Chair of the Governance and Management Faculty at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington. Her major areas of research focus on the American welfare system, nonprofit funding relations, and nonprofit data sources. She directs the Indiana Nonprofit Sector project (, which examines the scope and community dimensions of the Indiana nonprofit sector.

Kirsten Grønbjerg
Indiana University
School of Public & Environmental Affairs
1315 E. 10th St., 419
Bloomington, IN 47405



More Similarities or More Differences? Comparing Public and Nonprofit Managers’ Job Motivations
Young-joo Lee, Vicky M. Wilkins
Public Administration Review

Nonprofits as Local Government Service Contractors
Richard C. Feiock, Hee Soun Jang
Public Administration Review

Predictors of Administrative and Technological Innovations in Nonprofit Organizations
Kristina Jaskyte
Public Administration Review

Dynamics of Sector Switching: Hazard Models Predicting Changes from Private Sector Jobs to Public and Nonprofit Sector Jobs
Xuhong Su, Barry Bozeman
Public Administration Review

Paternalistic or Participatory Governance? Examining Opportunities for Client Participation in Nonprofit Social Service Organizations
Kelly LeRoux
Public Administration Review

The Future of Public and Nonprofit Strategic Planning in the United States
John M. Bryson
Public Administration Review

The Challenge of Strengthening Nonprofits and Civil Society
Steven Rathgeb Smith
Public Administration Review

Monitoring across Sectors: Examining the Effect of Nonprofit and For-Profit Contractor Ownership on Performance Monitoring in State and Local Contracts
Anna A. Amirkhanyan
Public Administration Review

Are Public Service Nonprofit Boards Meeting their Responsibilities?
Robert D. Herman
Public Administration Review

Taking Nonprofit Intermediaries Seriously: A Middle-Range Theory for Implementation Research
Jennifer Shea
Public Administration Review

Board Diversity, Stakeholder Representation, and Collaborative Performance in Community Mediation Centers
Beth Gazley, Won Kyung Chang, Lisa Blomgren Bingham
Public Administration Review

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: Challenges in Managing Philanthropic Support for Public Services
Charles Brecher, Oliver Wise
Public Administration Review


Please also see Nonprofit Management, an article by Roger A. Lohmann published as part of the Foundations of Public Administration Series, or read other articles in the Foundations series.