Tag Archives: representation

Out of the Shadows: Nonprofit Governance Research from Democratic and Critical Perspectives

Chao Guo, Barbara A. Metelsky and Patricia Bradshaw

The goal of this book chapter is two-fold: 1) to review theoretical developments in the study of nonprofit governance from the perspectives of critical and democratic theories; and 2) to deconstruct the silences in the reviewed literatures, to reveal what has been kept in the shadows, and then identify research that might address these gaps. Consistent with critical and post-modern traditions, we start the chapter by declaring our commitment to democracy, inclusion, and power sharing. In the next section, we review and synthesize the democratic perspectives on the study of nonprofit governance, with a focus on theories of representation and participation. We then turn to the literature from various critical perspectives, and explore the roles that these perspectives play in illuminating often-neglected or overlooked aspects of nonprofit governance. We conclude with recommendations for a research agenda, and a discussion of how this agenda could inform the development of more participatory, inclusive, and change-oriented governance practices.

In C.J. Cornforth and W.A. Brown (eds.) New Perspectives on Nonprofit Governance. 2013. London: Routledge – Full Version



Mapping the Representational Dimensions of Nonprofit Organizations in China

Chao Guo and Zhibin Zhang

To what extent do China’s non-profit and voluntary organizations have the capacities to represent effectively the interests of their constituents? In this paper, we examine the prevalence of various representational dimensions in these organizations. Our survey findings provide evidence that, other things being equal, an organization’s levels of descriptive and participatory representation have a positive and significant impact on its levels of substantive and symbolic representation. Our findings also show that organizational type matters: social organizations are more substantively and symbolically representative than private non-enterprise organizations, whereas advocacy-oriented organizations are more symbolically representative than those that are not advocacy-oriented. Our case studies further illustrate how the typical advocacy-oriented organization differs from the service-oriented organization in the development of its ‘representational mix’, how an organization’s ‘representational mix’ evolves over time, and how the relationship between the organization and its supervisory agency affects its various representational dimensions.

Public Administration 91, No. 2 (2011): 325-346 

The Road Less Traveled: Establishing the Link between Nonprofit Governance and Democracy

Chao Guo

Editor’s Note:

Guo focuses on two research traditions that illuminate the relationship between governance and democracy, in the hope of shedding some new light into understanding the democratic deficit within the sector and its possible remedy. Because, as Guo concludes, “if the sector as a whole does not recognize that there is a tremendous unrealized potential for nonprofit governance to contribute to democracy, it could cost the sector quite dearly over time.” 

The Nonprofit Sector 19, No. 4 (2012): 26-31

Voice-In, Voice-Out: Constituent Participation and Advocacy Activities of Charitable Organizations

Chao Guo and Gregory D. Saxton

How do participatory constituent practices affect the scope and intensity of nonprofit advocacy? In this study, we examine this question through survey data from a random sample of charitable nonprofit organizations in Arizona in 2007. Our findings show that the scope and intensity of nonprofit advocacy tend to increase with constituent board membership, communication with constituents, and level of constituent involvement in strategic decision making. However, the scope and intensity of nonprofit advocacy tends to decrease with increased government funding and private contributions. These findings suggest important implications for organizations wishing to be more effective in influencing public policy.

Nonprofit Policy Forum, vol. 1, no. 1. 2010

Exploring the Issue of Representation in Chinese Nonprofit Organizations

Chao Guo, Zhibin Zhang and Dongjin Cai

China’s nonprofit and voluntary sector has been on the rise since the government launched its economic and political reforms in 1979. In light of their important roles as social service providers and advocates for the public interest, there have been growing concerns about the extent to which these organizations are representative of the interests of their members and constituents and are accountable for their actions and performance. In this paper, we explore the representational capacities of China’s nonprofit organizations, with a focus on grassroots organizations. Drawing upon Guo and Musso (2007), we examine the representativeness of these organizations along five major dimensions: substantive, symbolic, formal, descriptive, and participatory representation. We then present two illustrative cases of grassroots organizations to tease out the complexity of representational mixes found in these organizations. We conclude the paper with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications as well as future research directions.

Journal of Public Administration [Chinese] 2, No.3 (2009): 171-191

Government Funding and Community Representation on Nonprofit Boards: The Bargain We Strike

Chao Guo

A study conducted by the author indicates that reliance on government funding may have a negative impact on community representation within nonprofit boards, as these boards become increasingly populated by professional and social elites with ties to public funding agencies. The author suggests that the appointment of volunteers to a nonprofit’s board may help alleviate this problem, by simultaneously increasing community representation and improving board strength.

Nonprofit Quarterly 14, no. 4 (2007): 70-76

When Government Becomes the Principal Philanthropist: The Effect of Public Funding on Patterns of Nonprofit Governance

Chao Guo

This study uses board governance as an analytical lens for exploring the effects of government funding on the representational capacities of nonprofit organizations. A typology of governance patterns is first developed that captures the board’s strength relative to the chief executive and its representation of community interests. Using this typology and employing multinomial logit analyses of survey data from a sample of urban charitable organizations, the study tests how nonprofit governance is mediated by levels of government funding. Controlling for other relevant environmental and institutional factors, reliance on government funding decreases the likelihood that nonprofit organizations will develop strong, representative boards.

Public Administration Review 67, no. 3 (2007): 458-473