Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Pacey Foster

Second Advisor

Maureen Scully

Third Advisor

Heather MacIndoe


In 1957 Selznick warned of the managerial trend that, less than a decade later, began intensifying its sweep of the nonprofit sector. Today that trend is referred to as the managerialization of nonprofits. The managerialization of nonprofits can be understood as a process of institutionalization with both positive and negative effects. This dissertation examines nonprofit managerialization through the lens of several strands of institutional theory, including “old” institutional theory, “new” institutional theory, institutional logics, and efforts to move toward a more critical institutionalism. The three papers comprising this dissertation draw on data derived from a year of intensive fieldwork within three nonprofit organizations, which I name the Promenade Conservancy, the Abode Shelter, and the Brookside Health Center. A close examination of these nonprofits’ experiences with nonprofit managerialism reveals several revelatory underlying micro-mechanisms for the managerialization of nonprofits. In the first paper, I show how organizational values act as a key conceptual translation device between institutional logics and action; in the second, I uncover a mental model that rationalizes practitioners’ adoption of managerial characteristics and averts cognitive dissonance; in the third, I conceptualize and specify institutional leadership as a key mitigating force for nonprofit managerialization. Each paper makes important contributions to the micro-foundations of – and a more critical approach to – institutional theory. A primary goal of this work is to contribute to practice, so each piece addresses implications for nonprofit research and management.


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