Navigating the Tensions of Nonprofit Board Governance Through Appreciative Inquiry at the Corona Norco United Way

Weis III, Edmund B
(2022) Navigating the Tensions of Nonprofit Board Governance Through Appreciative Inquiry at the Corona Norco United Way. Doctor of Business Administration thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The social service sector's changing landscape has created new challenges for non-profit organizations (Lu, J., Shon, J. and Zhang, P., 2020, Ryan 2002). For-profit organizations have started to form foundations controlling their funds from source to benefactor. As a result, non-profits are receiving less funding to provide critical services to their communities. Non-profits must find additional revenue streams to survive. Their survival is essential as it provides critical services to communities that market-driven philanthropy does not fill. To compensate for this change in funding, the United Way Worldwide (UWW) has instructed its local branches to transition from traditional payroll deduction campaigns. Instead, they must find alternate revenue streams, such as program-based operations that receive funding from local government grants and private foundations. This study examines one local chapter, the Corona Norco United Way (CNUW), and the tensions inherent in board governance during this transition. Based on Chambers and Cornforth (2010) research examining board governance roles and the tensions and models first introduced by Cornforth (2002), I examine agency and stewardship theories related to the agency problem that dominates governance theory. Using action research, I build upon the models and theories presented by Cornforth and Chambers to produce a model for navigating the tensions inherent in board governance. I facilitate a four-phase, strengths-based, and holistic Appreciative Inquiry process within the CNUW to create a path for navigating these tensions and a strategic plan to formalize the change. Participants engaged in phases that included semi-structured interviews and collective sensemaking based on the data collected from interviews and archival documents. I captured the process in a visual map with temporal bracketing to track the progress of the project. I then used thematic coding of archival documents and personal journaling to analyse the data abductively. The process was then further distilled, chronologically, using a narrative strategy and Friedrich, Vessey, Schuelke, Ruark, and Mumford's (2009) Model for Mediators of the Theory-Practice Gap in a Successful Organization Project. There were three significant findings from the project. First, applying an Appreciative Inquiry whole system approach as an action research mode created the intention and structure that allowed the participants to engage in stewardship behaviours rather than defaulting to agency behaviours in crisis. Second, by engaging in stewardship behaviours related to collective leadership, performance roles, and a focus on external processes, the participants were able to navigate the tensions inherent in board governance collectively. Finally, by intentionally engaging in structured, collective phases of a strengths-based approach, we could balance the tensions inherent in board governance. The outcomes were a one to three-year strategic plan, increases in cash liquidity of three hundred per cent, and grant funding of four hundred per cent.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Business Administration)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Keywords: Stewardship Theory, Agency Theory, Agency Problem, Board Governance, Non-Profit Governance, Tensions, Theory-Practice Gap, Action Research, Appreciative Inquiry, Social Services
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Management
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2022 16:27
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:11
DOI: 10.17638/03150070