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“We Expected a Revolution and Got a Slow Burn”: Microfoundations of Institutional Change in the Community Foundation Field

Journal Title Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Published Date February 15, 2023
Research Type


Demographic shifts, economic restructuring, online-giving platforms, and growing competition threaten traditional models of community philanthropy. Responding to these pressures, philanthropy thought leaders have supported “a new way forward” for community foundations—community leadership. However, change is difficult, and little research examines organizational processes of moving toward community leadership. This study uses a simultaneous qualitative mixed methods design to describe organizational paths to community leadership while considering field-level aspiration toward such change. To confirm previous research, we examine community foundation mission descriptions from 2011 to 2016, finding limited evidence that the field is aspiring toward the community leadership model. Using interviews with leaders of organizations that have begun to shift toward community leadership, we unpack how such transformation occurs. We find that change, even amid field-level pressures, unfolds through localized improvisation and bricolage as community foundations adapt their work to demands in their community.

LePere-Schloop, M., Walk, M., Paarlberg, L. (2023). “We expected a revolution and got a slow burn”: Change in the community foundation field. Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly.