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Organizational Legitimacy, Non-Profit Organizations and the Role of Values

Weyant, Christina M. (2014) Organizational Legitimacy, Non-Profit Organizations and the Role of Values. Masters thesis, Radford University.

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Abstract

The number of non-profit-organizations (NPOs) has almost doubled in the last 14 years (Chalmers, 2013) and there is great need for these organizations to be able to compete for resources. One way that organizations can compete for resources is through conferred legitimacy (Suchman, 1995). This thesis discusses organizational legitimacy theory and uses it as the lens through which to view the communication of values by NPOs as one strategy to legitimation. Stakeholders confer legitimacy, which helps attract resources, upon an organization when they perceive its structure, actions and communications are in alignment with the social norms of the environment in which it exists (Ashforth & Gibbs, 1990, Suchman, 1995). Values can play a part in the legitimation of an organization (Dowling & Pfeffer, 1975) in part because consensus of values not only is critical for social order, but also helps members of society to “identify with one another, accept common goals and agree on how these goals should be achieved (Schwartz, 2011, p. 313). Previous research has focused on values in terms of human resources and organizational development, but the research on value communication with stakeholders of NPOs is limited. Brummette, Zoch and Taylor (2011) examined the communication of values on websites of Fortune 500 companies and found a majority of these organizations to be practicing this one type of legitimizing behavior. Additionally, Taylor (2011) examined values of NPOs and found that few communicated organizational values on their websites. This thesis uses the research of Brummette et al. (2011) and Taylor (2011) as a guide by which to examine the top 100 NPOs and the top 30 community-based organizations (CBOs) and the communication of values on their websites. Through both a quantitative and qualitative content analysis, it asks the questions of whether or not these organizations communicate values, which specific types of organizations are most likely to communicate their values, whether or not these top NPOs and CBOs are communicating a definition or description of values, whether or not there is a relationship between the long-term success of CBOs and the communication of values, and if there are consistencies within the values of successful NPOs and CBOs. The content analyses revealed that 41% of the top 100 NPOs and 23.33% of the top 30 CBOs are communicating organizational values on their websites. Of the top 100 NPOs, those operating internationally were the most likely to communicate values and of the NPOs operating domestically, public benefit organizations were most likely to communicate values. Organizational value themes emerging from the content analysis of the top 100 NPOs included the values of integrity, excellence, collaboration, innovation, accountability/transparency, and respect. Similar values themes emerged in the content analysis of the top 30 CBOs with the exception of respect and the additional of local action. These findings suggest that an increasing number, but still a minority, of successful NPOs use the communication of values on their websites as one tactic in their quest for legitimation and, ultimately, access to resources.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: UNSPECIFIED
Depositing User: Laura Francis
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2014 14:01
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2014 14:01
URI: http://wagner.radford.edu/id/eprint/167

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