Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Politics, Professionalism, and Processing: Competing Identity Domains and the Implications for Hybrid Nonprofit Development

Fri, July 13, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Room, 11A 33


Scholarship on hybrid nonprofits focuses on the interplay between missions, strategies and sector attachments (Smith, 2014). This presentation analyzes the competing identities within a rape crisis center and considers how this impacts organizational development and sustainability. I suggest the term – “identity domain,” which is the amalgam of organizational ideology, goals and sector membership, to capture interacting components of hybrid nonprofits.

Rape crisis centers can be classified as social movement agencies (SMAs); the pursuit of social change – ending sexual violence, is accomplished primarily through service provision (Baker & Bevaqua, 2017). As hybrid organizations, SMAs balance movement and service-oriented missions, processes and outcomes (Gates, 2014; Hyde, 2000; Minkoff, 2002). Research tends to highlight how the agency focus eventually coopts that of the social movement, which is usually viewed as a negative outcome in terms of development. Yet this conclusion should be problematized because this kind of change often means organizational survival and sustainability, albeit in a different form. Needed is an analytical framework that links external factors, such as sector affiliations and attendant concerns of legitimacy, with internal factors such as ideology and goals in ways that underscore the competing demands and pressures that a social movement agency negotiates.

Data for this paper are from a case study of Haven, a rape crisis center located in the central United States, and include member interviews (taped/transcribed), organizational documents, and media accounts. Data coding and analysis followed the constant comparative method (Charmaz, 2006; Corbin & Strauss, 2008). Agency and individual identities are confidential; some characteristics were altered to protect survivors of sexual assault.

Haven, founded in the mid-1970s by the local National Organization for Women chapter (a liberal feminist organization), initially focused on sexual assault education but soon expanded to victim support (hot line, counseling, legal advocacy). Through two mergers (1993 and 2012), Haven transformed into an anti-violence organization designed to “end abuse for everyone.” A large bureaucratic nonprofit with over 250 male and female employees, Haven provides counseling, education, and legal support for victims and families on issues related to rape, domestic violence and child abuse. The Nonprofit Times and local newspaper named Haven a “best place to work”.

The case study revealed three identity domains: political (liberal feminism), professional (training and credentials), and processing (client services). As Haven evolved, professionalism and processing grew and supplanted the political (Mehrotra, et al, 2016; Maier, 2008; Wies, 2008). These dominant domains shaped resource development, marketing, environmental relations and especially decisions to merge. There also were interchanges between the dominant domains and internal operations – staffing, leadership, and decision-making. Specifically, this involved the unique participation of men, not just as board members and educational staff, but as service providers for sexual assault victims regardless of gender; training and staffing needs superseded gendered analysis (Casey & Smith, 2010; Drury & Kaiser, 2014; Martin, 2006).

This case study contributes to scholarship on hybrid organizations, particularly social movement agencies. By examining hybrid elements, such as competing identity domains, we better understand factors that impact organizational development, legitimacy and sustainability.