Developing the Field of Behavioral Nonprofit Management

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Heng Qu
Dyana Mason


behavioral, nonprofit


We define behavioral nonprofit management as the study of the micro-foundations of nonprofit management through analyzing the behavior and attitudes of individuals and groups in the context of nonprofit organizations. While nonprofit management research traditionally relies on administrative or survey data and is primarily concerned with organizational and environmental variables at the meso- and macro- level, the behavioral approach focuses on individuals, such as donors, volunteers, employees, managers, board members, and recipients/clients working either individually or collectively. This article reviews the current status of behavioral research in the interdisciplinary field of nonprofit, voluntary action, and philanthropic studies, and argues that nonprofit scholarship would benefit from engaging more explicitly in behavioral approaches for theoretical development and empirical testing. We recommend using experiments and other methods to advance theories through understanding the behavioral foundations of nonprofit organizations and voluntary actions. We envision the goal of behavioral nonprofit management informing not only nonprofit management practice but also public policies that aim to increase individual, community and societal well-being.

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