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Managing Nonprofit Human Services in an Era of Performance Management and Competition

Thu, July 12, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Room, 13A 33


Nonprofit human services agencies are facing growing expectations for accountability and program success from public and private funders, as well as from users and the general public. At the same time, competition for resources is much more intense, leading to a growing divide between larger and smaller community agencies. Many human service agencies are emphasizing innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth, while governments are increasing their regulation of the programmatic and financial aspects of agency operations. Depending upon the country and the locality, many government agencies have substantially cut funding for social service agencies, exacerbating the scramble for program revenue. Thus, the managers of human service agencies are facing intense pressure to develop sustainable and nimble business models that can help their agencies navigate an increasingly turbulent funding and regulatory environment. With increased competition and less predictability of revenue streams, the senior leadership of human service agencies will need to have a deep understanding of financial management, program development, partnerships and collaboration with other organizations, and excellent analytic skills to understand program evaluation and pay-for-success models. In previous research, I have highlighted the challenges of smaller, community-based human service agencies have in responding to the current, more turbulent and austere environment (Smith, 2016; Smith and Phillips, 2016). This paper builds upon this previous work and proposes a framework to understand the differential effects of performance regimes and funding austerity on agency workers including their relationships with clients and community members. The paper will propose a typology of nonprofit human service agencies, based in part, on the characteristics of the service and the client-worker relationship. This typology can in turn be used to guide managers in understanding important managerial and service implementation dilemmas encountered by the leadership, staff and volunteers of human service agencies. This paper is especially timely given the heightened expectations for performance at the same time that many social service agencies are coping with less money and greater competition. This paper is based upon extensive research on nonprofit human services by the author in the US and abroad.