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Public Policy and Administration


Anne Hacker


Informal or non-contractual partnerships between nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and government entities are becoming more common in America, opening up new possibilities for NPOs to function as equal partners in the decision-making process and implementation of community services. The problem concerns the challenges that NPOs face in achieving equal partner status with their local government counterpart, a problem which has received limited attention in research. The purpose of this study was to explore the dynamics behind successful informal partnerships between NPOs and local governments, translating into effective and efficient service delivery. The theoretical framework was based on Davis's stewardship theory and Schelling's game theory. The research questions examined the dynamics that enable the NPO and government partnerships to be successful, specifically the development and sustainment of trust, power balance, open and transparent communication, and level and frequency of interactions. This qualitative case study included interviews with nonprofit executives (n = 5), recruited through a pre-interview questionnaire, and review of NPO published documents describing the informal partnerships. The data were coded and analyzed by creating mind maps. Findings revealed that the actions and decisions of the NPOs and local governments reflected a shared mission and desire to achieve positive social change. The results indicate that NPOs and local governments may function as equal partners if certain dynamics are present such as trust, transparent communication, influence, and goal alignment. The implications for social change include establishing successful models of informal partnerships between NPOs and local governments that impact the social and economic well-being of communities.