Date of Conferral





Human Services


Pamela Denning


In contemporary American society, the nonprofit board is accountable for ensuring that an organization has sufficient resources to carry out its mission. Filling the gap between demands for services and the resources to meet them is often a struggle for small, local nonprofit organizations. This hermeneutic phenomenological study examined how board members of small, local nonprofits in the focal community perceive organizational effectiveness. Understanding the nature of nonprofit organization effectiveness according to board members contributes to understanding how those accountable meet their organizational objectives. A review of the literature revealed that nonprofit effectiveness involves the action of contributing and the motivation behind the action, both of which are associated with trust and reciprocity. Guided by social constructivism, this study employed a qualitative analysis of repeated iterations of semiotic data from board members (n = 30) and text analysis of organizational mission statements (n = 21), generating thick descriptions of the board members' understanding of effectiveness. Findings were derived from successive coding iterations starting with the raw data, through locating text related to specific codes, to verifying relationships among codes, and incorporating researcher reflection. The analysis revealed that strategies focused on developing reciprocity and mitigating mistrust among board members contribute to board members' perceiving their organizations as effectively achieving their objectives. The study's findings support positive social change by informing social scientists and members of local nonprofit boards of the perceived gap between services demands and the resources to meet them among board members.