Relationships between Organizational Properties and Organizational Effectiveness in Three Types of Nonprofit Human Service Organizations

By Schmid, Hillel | Public Personnel Management, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Relationships between Organizational Properties and Organizational Effectiveness in Three Types of Nonprofit Human Service Organizations


Schmid, Hillel, Public Personnel Management


The main goal of these organizations is "to protect [boarding schools], maintain [home care organizations], or enhance [community centers] the personal well-being of people by defining, shaping, or altering their personal attributes" (1) [categories of organizations in parentheses were added by this author]. Salamon defines them as public-benefit organizations that exist primarily to serve others, to provide goods or services (including information or advocacy) to those in need, or to contribute to the general welfare (p. 54). (2)

All three types of organizations are human service organizations that work directly with people whose attributes they attempt to shape. (3) They are highly dependent on external donors to finance their operations, which brings them into increasingly complex relationships with their task environments. (4) Assessment of organizational effectiveness in this type of organization is interesting and challenging. It is also problematic, however, since human service organizations are largely perceived as lacking reliable and valid indicators of effectiveness, and since they are characterized by ambiguous organizational goals.

Nonetheless, there is evidence in research on issues related to organizational effectiveness of increasing efforts directed toward theoretical and empirical development, particularly in nonprofit organizations (NPOs). Researchers have focused on conceptualizing organizational effectiveness and proposing criteria and standards for evaluation of service quality, for the benefit of clients. (5) The current paper adds a further dimension to these studies, by considering the relationships between organizational effectiveness and related structural variables that affect the attainment of that effectiveness.

Effectiveness has been defined in various ways by different scholars. Some argue that "there cannot be one universal model of organizational effectiveness." (6) However, there are many ways of measuring organizational effectiveness. (7) In nonprofit human service organizations, which have ambiguous and amorphous goals, and offer intangible services (8) it is even more difficult than with for-profit entities to measure organizational effectiveness. Nonetheless, the literature presents various approaches for measuring that effectiveness. The one adopted here is the reputational approach, which measures effectiveness according to the self-reported opinions of sets of persons, (9) usually clients, staff, or outside professionals familiar with the organization at hand. (10) This approach is part of the Multiple Constituency (MC) approaches, which were proposed as an alternative to previous approaches, especially the goal attainment and system resource approaches, for assessing organizational effectiveness. According to MC approaches, an organization is effective to the extent that it minimally satisfies the interests of multiple constituencies associated with it. The underlying assumption shared by these approaches is that organizations depend on various groups for resources and, ultimately, for their survival. Thus, unless organizations can at least minimally satisfy such groups, those groups will withdraw their support, causing organizational decline and possibly death. (12) Based on this approach, the current study defines effectiveness as the extent of worker and client satisfaction and adaptation, as well as the response to the clients' needs.

Against this background, the study aims to examine the extent to which organizational effectiveness is affected by the following variables: centralization-decentralization of authority and powers, formalization, coordination, control, worker autonomy, workers' involvement in decision-making, working conditions, training, and empowerment.

Literature Review

Research on the relationships between organizational properties and organizational effectiveness has revealed various orientations toward management of the organizations. …

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