The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Purpose-Driven Versus Funder-Driven: Domestic Violence Organizations' Challenges During Uncertain Economic Times

Friday, January 18, 2013: 8:30 AM
Nautilus 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer A. Meade, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
Purpose: Domestic Violence Organizations (DVOs) are presently navigating an increasingly competitive world of funding.  In the 21stCentury, DVOs are now put in the position of competing for funds with other equally financially strapped Non Profit Organizations (NPOs).  Whereas in the past, DVOs could target funding acquisition sources with an eye on purpose and mission compatibility, currently, DVOs are struggling to simply meet the bottom line. This study highlights the lived experiences of DVO stakeholders in an effort to better understand this phenomenon. Managing various stakeholder expectations with the internal values and purpose of the organization is a balancing act that requires skill, strong communication, and clarity of purpose. Often, these various stakeholders have conflicting expectations about the purpose and focus of the organization. In sum, many NPOs feel external pressures for compliance to the status quo. 

Method: Staff, boards of directors, and member agency executive directors were interviewed from two domestic violence organizations in Southern New England. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 individuals. Data were coded and analyzed employing a grounded theory methodology. The interviews were transcribed and imported into the qualitative software, ATLAS.ti.  Data were coded and subsequently analyzed, resulting in the emergence of two key themes.

Results: The analysis produced exploratory and descriptive information about challenges and opportunities facing these organizations. Two major themes that emerged from the interviews with participants were: a) staff and coalition members have a passion for justice, and b) organizations need to be purpose-driven rather than funder-driven. Individuals expressed that the organizations spend far too much effort being reactive to the expectations of funders. They also explained that there are challenges related to losing and sustaining funding, namely funders are now choosing to provide resources to other agencies. Therefore, interviewees suggested that funders make the decisions about work priorities rather than staff or survivors of domestic violence. In sum, respondents are confined and constrained by these funding issues and contribute to experiences of lost purpose and dimensioned options.

Conclusions and Implications: When there is a persistent state of organizational crisis due to the lack of resources and the need to respond to the demands of funders, a DVO’s ability to make purpose-driven decisions is greatly impacted. Additionally, when the decisions are driven by the consideration of resources, they are generally made by a few individuals within the organization (i.e. managers). From a macro social justice perspective, capitulation to the status quo needs to be challenged. The tension regarding responding to organizational crises (i.e. funding, resources), rather than being proactive, is not unique to the domestic violence movement. It is unfortunate that many organizations are competing for scarce resources with other deserving entities. Organizations cannot afford to be continually kept off balance, but the problem is complex since funders often are able to dictate what services are provided and how they are delivered. These overarching tensions inform micro decisions, such as basic practices for providing services.