Survival of nonprofit community health clinics
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In the provision of public goods such as health care for the uninsured, nonprofit organizations serve important functions in society. Because they often rely on volunteer labor, and funding is frequently unstable, their survival depends on factors not present in either private enterprise or state agencies. This comparison case study examines three clinics, one surviving clinic and two that did not survive, to find patterns that characterize organizational success and survival. Theories about public goods, volunteering, and organizational coordination and communication provide insight into different aspects of the case study. Data was gathered from 19 in-depth interviews with individuals connected to the three clinics. The analysis employs OstromÂs characterization of eight principles of longstanding common-pool resource organizations, with slight adjustments for the public goods setting. As expected, the successful clinic reflects more of the characteristics, or possesses them to a greater degree, than the unsuccessful ones. Specifically, the successful clinic reflects a greater degree of congruence between organizational rules and local conditions (as evidenced by community support), and collective-choice arrangements (as indicated by the presence of an actively engaged board of directors). In addition, the successful clinic is loosely nested with other organizations, whereas the nonsurviving clinics were more tightly nested within local organizations; the looser nesting allows for greater autonomy in decision-making. Finally, an unexpected finding drawn from the interviews concerns the manner in which the clinics framed their message and mission. The successful clinic framed its mission in terms of serving the Âworking poor,Â whereas the nonsurviving clinics stated their mission as charity for the poor and needy. This variance may have contributed to greater community support for the successful clinic.
Schemmer, Ruth Ann (2003). Survival of nonprofit community health clinics. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from