Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Karen L. Shafer


In the United States, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) face a precarious future because of their heavy reliance on the financial support of government funding, other donor agencies, and philanthropic foundation resources. The purpose of this study is to understand how and to what extent leadership of NPOs can benefit from using funder-required performance data to improve organizational sustainability. Using Pfeffer and Salincik's resource dependency theory to explain organizational sustainability, this qualitative multiple case study of 10 NPOs in a northeastern U.S. state includes 14 interviews with NPO leadership, a document review of NPO 990 tax filings, annual performance reports, and board meeting minutes. All data were inductively coded and then subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. Key findings indicated 6 overarching themes associated with NPO sustainability and funder-required performance measures that impact program sustainability but are mainly used for compliance: (a) NPO adoption and use of performance measures; (b) data collection and evaluation for external compliance; (c) information pertaining to financial, operational, and administrative decision making; (d) NPO leadership decisions regarding internal constructs, operations, and management; (e) resource dependency; and (f) sustainability practices. The implications for positive social change include strategies for NPO leaders to use to ensure survival, continuous community impact, and awareness for policymakers regarding legislative and regulatory developments that may inadvertently harm NPOs.