Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Eric Eisenberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Arthur Bochner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jane Jorgensen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Fred Steier, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joan Pynes, Ph.D.


Organizational communication, Nonprofit merger, Funder mandates, Group communication, Nonprofit partnership


Charitable nonprofit organizations are growing in number and scope, but the body of literature and knowledge about communication within these organizations is limited. Today, charitable organizations face a flurry of economic and environmental factors that challenge their continued survival: growing community needs, mounting funding cuts from all segments of government, increased competition for funding, a limited pool of dedicated community leaders to serve on boards, decreased charitable giving for some causes, and persistent calls for greater accountability. As nonprofits explore new ways of coping with these socioeconomic pressures---such as reorganization, consolidation, mergers, and management service organizations---there is a clear need for applied communication research on organizational change in nonprofit settings.

This research explores the unique issues nonprofit organizations face when considering a specific form of consolidation---a management service organization---focusing on interorganizational communication among nonprofits and funders and the challenges faced during reorganization planning and implementation. In particular, this research explores communication processes both within and among the Neighborhood Family Center Coalition (NFCC) (a collaborative of nonprofit organizations), and the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County (JWB), a funder of these same organizations, as the members planned and developed a management service organization.

Action research was the chosen methodology for this study due to the strong desire of the research participants to engage fully in planning, executing and analyzing this research. Working together, we co-generated the research questions for this study. Agreed upon areas for research included considerations and challenges in implementing the management service organization, the funder's role in guiding and assisting in the integration process, management and communication strategies implemented to mitigate the negative effects of this type of organizational change and/or to contribute to successful implementation of this type of integration model, and lessons learned that may benefit future JWB efforts, as well as funders and service providers in communities throughout the United States. The research team worked together to identify and develop appropriate research methods and protocols that included interactive interviews and ethnographic observation. Interviews were conducted with all members of the NFCC and key management staff from the JWB.

The applicability of this research is of great importance to funding institutions, many which are taking on a more active role to stabilize or strengthen their funded programs, and more often today, through encouragement to consolidate. Results of this study also may lay the groundwork to support and engage nonprofit leaders considering consolidation as an option for their organizations.