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Combining Nonprofit Service and Advocacy: Organizational Structures and Hybridity

Journal Title Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action
Published Date September 23, 2020
Research Type
Authors Erynn Beaton


Facilitating political engagement is a vital function of the nonprofit sector. While some public charities engage in political activities like policy advocacy, many focus exclusively on their core service mission. Current nonprofit research does not adequately theorize the inherent tension between service and advocacy activities. We conceptualize nonprofits engaging in service and advocacy as hybrid organizations that incorporate two distinct logics. Using the organizational hybridity literature, and empirical data from a survey of Massachusetts nonprofits, we examine how the logics of service provision and political advocacy are combined and managed across a sample of nonprofits. We find that nonprofit service–advocacy hybrids adopt an array of organizational structures to accommodate these logics, including decoupled, segregated, outsourced, and blended structures. Our results suggest that compartmentalization may be a common strategy and that certain organizational structures are related to the presence of mission integration, funding reliance, competition, and advocacy objectives.