This reference work defines more than 1,200 terms and concepts that have been found useful in past research and theory on the nonprofit sector. The entries reflect the importance of associations, citizen participation, philanthropy, voluntary action, nonprofit management, volunteer administration, leisure, and political activities of nonprofits. They also reflect a concern for the wider range of useful general concepts in theory and research that bear on the nonprofit sector and its manifestations in the United States and elsewhere. This dictionary supplies some of the necessary foundational work on the road toward a general theory of the nonprofit sector.
About the Author
David Horton Smith is founder of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and its journal.
Robert A. Stebbins, FRSC, is Faculty Professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Calgary.
Michael A. Dover is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at Central Michigan University.
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A Dictionary of Nonprofit Terms and Concepts
By David Horton Smith, Robert A. Stebbins, Michael A. Dover
Indiana University PressCopyright © 2006 David Horton Smith, Robert A. Stebbins, and Michael A. Dover
All rights reserved.
absolute monarchy.See dictatorship; monarchy
accommodation: process or outcome of a combination of adaptation, adjustment, and compromise among two or more parties concerning a contentious *issue. Accommodation resolves critical *conflict in and between *nonprofit groups, thereby enabling the parties involved to move forward with pursuit of their shared *goals. Simmel (1955:114–116) wrote a short but classic discussion of accommodation under the heading of compromise.
accountability of volunteers/members: capacity of *volunteers or *members to explain their volunteer actions. A major administrative function in *nonprofit groups and *volunteer programs is to provide regular evaluation of volunteers' accountability, based on supervision and work reports. When repeated corrective comments to a volunteer fail to result in appropriate changes in *volunteer work, that person may be terminated for the good of the *program and larger *organization. Connors (1995:176–178), Fisher and Cole (1993, chap. 8), and McCurley and Vineyard (1997, passim) offer practical advice on accountability and evaluation of volunteers. Battle (1988, chap. 6) deals briefly with member accountability in associations, which is very informal most of the time, and generally done by the *officers and *board of directors. Smith (2000: 141) states that termination of membership in *grassroots associations is usually voluntary — rarely is someone ejected against their will for misdeeds or failure to perform.
accounting in nonprofits: system of keeping records (usually in computers these days) of and analyzing the flow of money in a nonprofit, including credits and debits from all sources (Anthony and Young 1994; Engstrom and Copley 2004; Garner 1991; Gross, Larkin, and McCarthy 2000; Ruppel 2002). Can play an important role in nonprofit management, insofar as managers need certain financial information in order to make wise decisions (Anthony and Young 2004). Can be terribly complex in large, paid-staff nonprofits, but as simple as a checking account register in a small grassroots association.
action norm, distinctive: shared expectation held by members of a *nonprofit group about the strategies and tactics they should use to achieve their *goals. An action norm is distinctive when it is characteristic of that group. Smith (2000:139) discusses the distinctive action norms of *grassroots associations.
action planning: process of creating work programs, or specific means, that are designed to implement strategic plans. Considered an important part of *strategic planning (Bryson 1994:154, 173).
action repertoire: strategies and tactics regularly used in a *nonprofit group to help achieve its *goals. Smith (2000:139) discusses the action repertoires of grassroots associations. Tilly (1978:151–166) presented an early use of action repertoire in dealing with social movements.
action, social.See social action
action, voluntary.See voluntary action
active-effective character pattern: part of the larger *general activity model, which states that *volunteer action and other socioculturally valued discretionary time activity are likely to be greater where an individual has elements of the active-effective character set of socioculturally preferred traits and attitudes. These include higher verbal and social intelligence capacities, certain personality traits (extraversion, ego strength, emotional stability, intimacy, assertiveness, efficacy, etc.), certain values, certain general attitudes, certain specific attitudes, certain expectations, certain intentions, greater relevant retained information, and effectively functioning psychological processes (for further details see Smith et al. 1980:466–470). Smith (1975:255–258; 1994a:250–252, 255) reviews research evidence supporting the active-effective character pattern.
active member.See member, analytic
activism:1. a form of *volunteering that, according to Ellis and Noyes (1990: 8), is oriented toward reform. 2. a form of individual activity within a *social movement group, which is either unpaid or paid. As social movement organizations grow in size, such activity is increasingly professionalized (McCarthy and Zald 1977). See also checkbook activism; citizen volunteer
activist: person especially active in one or a combination of *citizen participation, *political participation, *social movements, social protest (*activity, protest), or social change. Butler (2003, passim) wrote an autoethnography of his responsibilities as an activist, communications scholar, and member of the lesbian-gay-bisexual community as these considerations bore on his attempt to persuade the municipal council in his city to add protection for gays and lesbians. Verba, Schlozman, and Brady (1995, chaps. 4, 5) use national sample survey data from the United States to study the motivation of political activists (and their opposite, inactive people) and how they are recruited. Lichterman (1996, passim) writes of American activists reinventing *community, contrary to the negative conclusions of Bellah et al. (1985, passim) about the decline of community. Shaw (2001, passim) has written an activist's practical manual or handbook.
activity goal in program evaluation: expected results from a particular activity in a program of a *nonprofit group, which are commonly the focus of *program evaluation. Such a goal is concrete; it is reached when staff effectively implement the program. In program evaluation activity goals are contrasted with the more abstract *outcome goals of the program (Thomas 1994:347–348).
activity level in nonprofits: number and rate of events occurring in the name of a particular *nonprofit group or *organization. Levels may, for example, be low, medium, high, regular, or intermittent (Smith 2000:130).
activity, protest: individual or collective action undertaken in opposition to certain existing or proposed social policies or arrangements that are considered threatening or unfair. Usually involves unconventional means or goals in a society, hence causing irritation to authorities and often public condemnation, as contrasted with *political voluntary action that is more conventional and socially accepted (Gamson 1990, passim). Frey, Dietz, and Kalof (1992, passim) found that displacement and factionalism in protest groups are major predictors of success/failure in their protest activities. Powers et al. (1997, passim) have compiled an encyclopedia of instances, cases, and aspects of *nonviolent action protest activity. See also political voluntary action
activity theory: the proposition that there is a long-standing predisposition to see a positive relationship between activity per se and life *satisfaction (Turner 1992: 43–44). Higher levels of activity are assumed to produce greater life satisfaction, whereas lower levels of activity are assumed to produce the converse. Thus loss of social roles and attendant activities is thought to diminish life satisfaction. In the first systematic presentation of the theory, activity was seen as providing role support for participants, thus reaffirming their self-concepts. A positive self-concept is necessary for high satisfaction in one's activity and *volunteering is often capable of generating just such a view of oneself (Lemon, Bengtson, and Peterson 1972).
activity timing in nonprofits: time of day, week, month, or year during which a *nonprofit group or *organization holds its activities. In nonprofit groups the *needs and interests of *members often dictate the timing of activities (on activity timing in *grassroots associations, see Smith 2000:127–128).
adhocracy: form of administrative organization having minimal hierarchy and *bureaucratization and thereby believed to enable greater flexibility in creating and delivering programs. Adhocracy is particularly common in *grassroots associations and equivalent entities. Skrtic (1991, passim) proposes adhocracy as an alternative structure for educating children with disabilities, in that it stresses collaboration and active problem solving. According to Morgan (1986:57), the term was coined by Warren Bennis to describe *organizations designed to be temporary but yet highly suited for performing complex, uncertain tasks in a turbulent environment (*turbulent field as environment). Waterman (1990, passim) wrote a book supporting the value of adhocracy, though only in a business context (*nonprofit sector is unimportant flat-earth paradigm).
admission/exclusion of association member: *associations generally have the right to select whom they will admit to membership, providing that they follow their own correct procedure and are not acting contrary to public policy, usually upholding free association (Fishman and Schwarz 2000:941, 966–998). But courts have prohibited gender and racial discrimination in selection of members as against public policy (ibid.).
adult learning theory of volunteering: a set of propositions explaining the variety of types of learning that volunteers engage in (Ilsley 1990): instrumental/didactic, social/expressive, critical reflection. Depending upon the object of *commitment, learning interests may differ. Volunteer-centered volunteers tend to prefer social expressive learning, organization-centered volunteers favor instrumental/didactic, and client-centered volunteers favor reflection on the work with clients. Social-vision centered volunteers value critical reflection, which raises their consciousness.
advisory board: set of experts who provide, on request from a *community or a *nonprofit group, opinion, information, or recommendations bearing on the community's or group's *goals and *programs. Barker (2003: 11) observes that members of such boards, who may be hired, elected, or recruited as *volunteers, may be consulted individually or as a group. An advisory board may include one or more members of the group's *board of directors. Sterk (1999, passim) recommends that an advisory board be part of any *community development program designed to deal with hard-to-reach populations such as prostitutes and drug users.
advocacy: act of pleading, speaking, or interceding for a *cause supported by a person or group. O'Neill (1989:109) holds that *advocacy groups are the most antiestablishment and free-wheeling part of the *independent sector. Checkoway (1995) viewed public advocacy as a strategy in which legislative and administrative advocates, advocacy planners, and advocacy groups advocate for the relatively powerless and in which representatives of the traditionally excluded also advocate for themselves. For a history of advocacy within one *profession (social work) and more developed definition, see Lester and Schneider (2001).
advocacy group: a type of *political nonprofit group engaged in *advocacy; one that seeks or resists change in society through *political voluntary action. Advocacy groups using *social protest are *social movement groups. Gamson's concept "challenging group" is roughly synonymous with advocacy group as defined here (Gamson 1990, chap. 2).
advocacy in nonprofits: the process through which a *nonprofit group engages in *advocacy for its own political interests and public agenda at one or another level of government, both through grassroots advocacy mobilizing its membership or other affiliates, through *lobbying efforts, and through joining relevant *coalitions or *alliances (Avner 2002; Smucker 2004; Wilbur 2000, chap. 9). There are legal limits on the amount of lobbying that charitable nonprofits can engage in (Smucker 2004:237), but few limits on other forms of advocacy.
affiliate of a nonprofit group.See nonprofit group affiliate
affiliated volunteer.See disaster volunteer
age-grading group: *association of young boys of similar age in a preliterate society, who live, work, and play together, sometimes while residing in a special hut or domicile until accepted as adults in their society. Also known as "age-set" or "age-grade association' (cf. Ross 1976:56–57, where he mentions these associations as lifelong age cohorts). For further discussion of this form of social organization, see Ember and Ember (2004:187–189). One form of *sodality in preliterate societies. Stewart (1977) gives a classic statement on age-group systems in preliterate societies.
agency.See nonprofit agency
agency, alternative service: *nonprofit group that offers, in a new and different way, particular services related to health or well-being and intended to help a particular category of client (cf. Perlmutter 1988b, passim). Such agencies tend to spring up when traditional agencies are unable, or unwilling, to deliver the needed services. These alternative entities, say Miller and Phillip (1983:779), eventually stir change and innovation in the discipline of social work and the field of social welfare.
agency, governmental:See governmental agency
agency, social service: *agency that provides a *social service (sense 2) (mentioned in Chambers 1963).
agenda control in evaluation: a manipulative strategy, or game, played by people whose organization is being evaluated. It attempts to direct the *evaluation along the lines of criteria they judge as the most important. Murray and Tassie (1994:316) observe that such criteria are usually those on which the evaluation is likely to produce positive results.
age-set.See age-grading group
agitator: *activist whose activities are particularly annoying to people who support the status quo. The pejorative sense of agitator was evident in the hostile intellectual reception to Thorstein Veblen's critiques of capitalism that he made during World War I (Capozzola 1999, passim).
Alinsky-style nonprofit group participation: personal involvement in a paid-staff or autonomous community *nonprofit group that functions according to principles set out by Saul Alinsky. For example, an Alinskystyle group takes its direction from the practical goals of ordinary *members, with the group becoming their medium for expressing and achieving those goals (Alinsky 1969:196). Through Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), his confrontational approach to *community organizing has become a prototype that has been widely and rather successfully replicated in America over the past half-century. The basic idea of Alinsky was to develop mass political organizations (*associations) that were rooted in neighborhoods and embraced local concerns, and then to use these organizations to fight for change (Lancourt 1979, passim; Reitzes and Reitzes 1984, passim; Robinson and Hanna 1994, passim). The IAF style was initially confrontational for many years, but in recent decades has been more collaborative, seeking to build effective local coalitions (Chrislip and Larson 1994:57).
alliance of nonprofits: *group of two or more nonprofits that have agreed to work together for one or more common *goals they believe they can achieve more readily in intergroup collaboration (*collaboration in nonprofits) than in intergroup competition (Arsenault 1998; Bailey and Koney 2000; McLaughlin 1998). An alliance may have strategic importance for a *nonprofit group (see Yankey and Willen 2004), or it may be only a nominal relationship of modest value (e.g., for the many nonprofits that are members of *INDEPENDENT SECTOR). Although these groups of nonprofits sometimes include *governmental agencies or *for-profits, usually they do not. Alternative terms for an alliance are *"coalition" and *"federation."
all-volunteer group: *volunteer entity where 95 percent or more of cumulative, group-related hours put in by *members are devoted to *volunteering (Smith 2000:25).
alternative community.See commune
alternative federated fund.See federated fund, alternative
alternative institution.See institution, alternative
alternative service agency.See agency, alternative service
altruism: an attitude of disinterested concern for the *welfare (sense 1) of others outside an individual's family, expressed by this person, or by a *nonprofit group, in giving money, *goods, time, or other property to increase the welfare of those others. Altruism is often expressed at some *sacrifice to the giver or *donor. Briefly put, altruism is an attitude that disposes a person to help others, because of concern for their welfare or *satisfaction or both. *Philanthropy is the behavioral expression of this attitude. Gintis and colleagues (2003, passim) present experimental evidence that strong *reciprocity can help predict altruism in human beings as well as explain this disposition. Many authors have written books or articles exploring altruism from the perspective of fields like psychology, sociology, anthropology, theology, neurology, evolutionary biology, and history (e.g., Allahyari 2000; Batson 1991; Kohn 1990; Kottler 2000; Margolis 1982; Monroe 1996; Oliner, Oliner, and Baron 1992; Ozinga 1999; Post et al. 2002; Puka 1994; Seaton 1996; Wolfe 2001). Titmuss (1971, passim) gives one classic statement on altruism in the context of gift-giving, as does Mauss (1925/1990) earlier. Research makes clear that there is a self-serving, self-helping aspect to altruism generally — it is relative altruism (*altruism, relative), so pure, other-serving altruism (*altruism, pure) is very rare (Smith 1981, passim; Kottler 2000, passim). See also altruism, volunteer; altruism, voluntary; altruism, nonvoluntary; altruism, quasi-volunteer; prosocial behavior
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Defining Nonprofit/Voluntary Sector Terms and Concepts
Dictionary of Terms and Concepts