Abstract: Mapping the Knowledge Base of Nonprofit Management in the Human Services (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

11685 Mapping the Knowledge Base of Nonprofit Management in the Human Services

Friday, January 15, 2010: 8:30 AM
Seacliff A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Sara L. Schwartz, PhD , University of California, Berkeley, Post Doctoral Fellow, Berkeley, CA
Michael J. Austin, PhD , University of California, Berkeley, Professor, Berkeley, CA
Background and Purpose

Our current global economic crisis will have considerable consequences for nonprofit human service organizations, particularly in relationship to meeting escalating community needs with fewer financial resources. To make sense of the current political and economic challenges and their potential influence on the helping professions, it is useful to reflect upon the past and how nonprofits have historically accommodated changes in their external environments. Developing a historical grounding provides a deeper understanding of the nonprofit human services landscape over time. This understanding can help place the recession in a larger context and facilitate creative thinking about how to respond to current and future challenges.

This paper details a cross-journal analysis of 2013 published articles on nonprofit management in the human services. The purpose is to take stock of the expanding literature on nonprofit management in order to build a knowledge base on nonprofit organizations. The overall goal of the analysis is to build a research agenda based on an understanding of this knowledge base.


This literature review is based on a thorough search of articles published in Administration in Social Work (1977), Nonprofit Management and Leadership (1990), and Nonprofit and voluntary Sector Quarterly (1971). These nationally-recognized journals were selected based on their history of focusing on nonprofit management in the human services. The University of California's library internet search engine was used to identify all articles published in these three journals from their inception through 2008. Two independent raters conducted an initial sort of the total sample of 2013 article abstracts to identify major categories that would facilitate a mapping of the knowledge base of nonprofit management in the human services. Once the initial sorts were completed, a set of 23 categories was agreed upon. The 23 categories were used to sort the 2013 abstracts, resulting in 79% inter-rater reliability. Disagreements during the sorting process were primarily a result of different interpretations and definitions associated with similar topics. The categories were then clustered into five overarching themes.


The analysis resulted in the identification of five overarching themes that map the existing knowledge base of nonprofit management in the human services. These themes are:

1) Leading and Managing Nonprofits

2) Financing and Evaluating Nonprofits

3) Managing Human Resources

4) Managing Different Types of Nonprofits

5) Managing NGOs Worldwide

A working paper was developed for each theme to assist with the formation of a research agenda for the Mack Center on Nonprofit Management in the Human Services. A searchable database of the 2013 abstracts and the five working papers are available at www.mackcenter.org.

Conclusions and Implications

This analysis represents the first cross-journal review of nonprofit management articles, the most current assessment of articles published throughout the existence of three major journals, and one of the few comprehensive efforts to identify future research agendas. This analysis contributes a knowledge base of nonprofit management for use as a platform for future research and provides access to a searchable database on nonprofit management for practitioners, scholars and policy makers.