Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Gary A. Kelsey


This study sought to understand successful African American social service nonprofit leaders’ stories about building sustainable organizations. There was currently limited research on this topic. Therefore, the study used a basic qualitative methodology to understand their backgrounds and influences that impacted their ability to maintain a sustainable nonprofit organization despite the unique challenges these leaders face. The White racial frame and social cognitive theory theories identified the context and foundation of these challenges. Nine successful African American social services nonprofit organization leaders were interviewed. Qualitative thematic analysis was used to identify key themes from the interview data. The interviews helped illuminate how participants benefit the broader community; future nonprofit leaders employ and develop broader community awareness. The results indicated that African American executive directors, to be successful and maintain their organizations’ sustainability over time, must understand and recognize community needs, have a team (or board), be willing to obtain expertise about the nonprofit organization sector, be fully self-aware, and be persistent. The participants’ narratives provided nascent African American nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs guidelines to lessen the learning curve and prepare them to lead sustainable nonprofit organizations resulting in positive social change.