Panel Paper: Mission Vs. Action: Are Nonprofits Located Where They Are Needed?

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 6 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Wendy Chen, George Mason University

As we all know, it takes a village to improve the nation’s education, especially to help disadvantaged children. Thankfully, a growing number of nonprofits have been undertaking that task. However, the discourse on the misalignment between a nonprofit organization’s mission and action is not new to the field (Dipendra 2018). One of the key elements that serves a critical role in achieving its mission through action —the location choice of a nonprofit—has not yet received much attention from the field (Bieldfeld & Murdoch 2004). According to the organization theory (Pfeffer 1982), locations have “substantive consequences for organizations,” and they are especially important to nonprofits that heavily rely on their surrounding environment to sustain themselves and to contribute to the community. Many disadvantaged neighborhoods are located in areas not accessible to public transportation and many of the citizens in those areas may not have other reliable means of transportation. Therefore, the locations of nonprofits plays an important role in helping the kids.

Building upon the stakeholder theory, this study makes one of the first attempts to examine the effects of location on nonprofits’ mission achievement with a focus on the ones in the education domain in the Washington DC area. Washington DC, the nation’s capital, is rich in culture thanks in part to its community organizations while also embodying the long history of social and economic inequality. The study thus explores: 1) Where are these education-focused organizations located? More specifically, are they located in the needed and disadvantaged areas? Are they concentrated or spread-out? 2) What effects do the locations of these organizations have on students’ academic performance?

To answer the above questions, this study conducts geospatial analyses by employing the Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques in addition to multivariate statistical analyses. It first uses the web-crawling technique to obtain data on the nonprofits in the education domain in DC along with their mission statements and their locations. Next, it adds DC community and household data which include the poverty and educational levels. Additionally, this study uses the students’ test score data for the DC schools to examine the impact of educational nonprofits on schools’ academic achievement.

The findings show that most nonprofits are not located in the needed areas where low-income children can easily have access to their support. Rather, the nonprofit organizations tend to be located where human resources are high and where other organizations are.

This study makes important contributions to the field of nonprofit research for the following reasons. First, the results from this research present a clear view of where the nonprofits are located and whether they are in the needed areas, which can help explain the significant effect of location on organizations’ mission alignment. Second, the findings from the research provides actionable insights and policy implications for nonprofit organizations and the local government. More importantly, the findings from this study offer insights for the stakeholders to reduce social inequality and enhance economic growth through education.