Non-Governmental and Not-for-Profit Organizational Effectiveness: A Modern Synthesis

Jesse D. Lecy, Hans Peter Schmitz, Haley Swedlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


NGO/NPO effectiveness remains a prominent concern for scholars and practitioners, but the literature on this issue is increasingly fragmented along disciplinary lines. We address this problem by presenting a comprehensive and interdisciplinary review of the literature on NGO and NPO effectiveness using citation analysis. In order to uncover commonalities across disciplines concerned with similar questions, we deploy a structured literature review using snowball sampling within citation networks. This approach limits author biases, fosters an interdisciplinary perspective, and adds a different methodological approach to conventional content-based literature reviews. Our review uncovers three trends: (1) there is broad scholarly consensus that unidimensional measures of effectiveness are not useful-even though such measures are commonly used by NGO/NPO rating agencies; (2) the scholarship on NGO/NPO effectiveness is dominated by conceptual works, while empirical studies remain rare; (3) a consensus on how to operationalize effectiveness remains elusive. These results suggest that progress in our understanding of NGO/NPO effectiveness requires enhanced efforts at crossing disciplinary divides, adding empirical analyses, and increasing attention to develop shared categories and methodologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-457
Number of pages24
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Non-for-profit organizations
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Structured literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management


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