Alternative service organizations: Funding environment, strategies, and patterns of adaptation

Norma E Threadgill-Goldson, Florida International University


This study explored the strategies that community-based, consumer-focused advocacy, alternative service organizations (ASOs), implemented to adapt to the changes in the nonprofit funding environment (Oliver & McShane, 1979; Perlmutter, 1988a, 1994). It is not clear as to the extent to which current funding trends have influenced ASOs as little empirical research has been conducted in this area (Magnus, 2001; Marquez, 2003; Powell, 1986). This study used a qualitative research design to investigate strategies implemented by these organizations to adapt to changes such as decreasing government, foundation, and corporate funding and an increasing number of nonprofit organizations. More than 20 community informants helped to identify, locate, and provide information about ASOs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of 30 ASO executive directors from diverse organizations in Miami-bade and Broward Counties, in South Florida. Data analysis was facilitated by the use of ATLAS.ti, version 5, a qualitative data analysis computer software program designed for grounded theory research. This process generated five major themes: Funding Environment; Internal Structure; Strategies for Survival; Sustainability; and Committing to the Cause, Mission, and Vision. The results indicate that ASOs are struggling to survive financially by cutting programs, decreasing staff, and limiting service to consumers. They are also exploring ways to develop fundraising strategies; for example, increasing the number of proposals written for grants, focusing on fund development, and establishing for-profit ventures. Even organizations that state that they are currently financially stable are concerned about their financial vulnerability. There is little flexibility or cushioning to adjust to "funding jolts." The fear of losing current funding levels and being placed in a tenuous financial situation is a constant concern for these ASOs. Further data collected from the self-administered Funding Checklist and demographic forms were coded and analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Descriptive information and frequencies generated findings regarding the revenue, staff compliment, use of volunteers and fundraising consultants, and fundraising practices. The study proposes a model of funding relationships and presents implications for social work practice, and policy, along with recommendations for future research.

Subject Area

Social work|Management

Recommended Citation

Threadgill-Goldson, Norma E, "Alternative service organizations: Funding environment, strategies, and patterns of adaptation" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3206036.