Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work


Social Work

Committee Chair

Dr. Elena Delavega

Committee Member

Dr. Laura Taylor

Committee Member

Dr. Cheryl L Garrett Fergerson


Abstract Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have been deemed important to communities. They are designed to fill gaps in community societal requirements by supplying resources, goods, and services that other companies in public sectors and neighborhoods do not offer. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the country reportedly has 1.5 million nonprofit organizations (NPOs). There are many NPOs in the United States, but statistical projections indicate that over half will fail, with 30% failing within a few years of their creation. Researchers have shown that NPOs collapse yearly due to various factors, including a lack of money and resources. These organizations operate in an unsettling environment, making it critical to focus on building sustainable structures. This descriptive qualitative multi-case study explores how NPO leaders define and practice sustainability and discovers gaps between research and practice. The conceptual frameworks for this study were the Resource dependency theory and sustainable supply change management/critical success factors. Through Purposeful sampling, five leaders of nonprofit organizations were selected who met the “Extreme Case” criteria, an idea based on Seawright and Gerring (2008). The criteria included adult leaders (male or female) over 18 years old, holding primary leadership roles such as founder, president, manager, director, CEO/CFO, in operation for at least three years, committing to a specific social purpose (education, health, art, religion), maintained their mission and objectives long-term, serves a unique population of people, and the organization is recognized for their community work. A semi-structured interview question guide was used to gather qualitative data, and content analysis was used to link the data to propositions. As a result, six distinct themes (True to Mission, Financial Health, Strategic Planning, Partnership, People, and Effectiveness of Services) that connected sustainable practices to the determinants of sustainability emerged, which were shown to incorporate the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, and economics. The discoveries herein are expected to contribute to the limited existing literature on what sustainability practices govern individual nonprofit leaders to build sustainable organizations. Key Words: nonprofit organizations, sustainability, strategic planning,


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest


Open Access