Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Donna Davis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Stock, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeanette Mena, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Arash Azadegan, Ph.D.


food supply chain, humanitarian aid, nonprofit competition


Global hunger is not about a shortage of food. Currently, the world generates enough food to sustain every man, woman, and child on the planet. However, in 2018, about 815 million people, or almost 11% of the population, were hungry worldwide (World Hunger Report, 2018). To respond to the problems in ways more adapted to the requirements of people in need, humanitarian organizations (HOs) are dedicated to becoming more effective and efficient (Weiss, 2013). With the boost in the number of people that require humanitarian assistance, the number of HOs is increasing each year. As a result, there is unanimity among academics, policy planners, and practitioners that HOs operate in an increasingly competitive environment (Heyes and Martin, 2017; Aldashev & Verdier, 2010; Tuckman, 1998).

Much of what we know about nonprofit competition is based on studies of commercial nonprofits (Topaloglu et al., 2018; Ly & Mason, 2012; Tuckman, 1998; Hansmann, 1980). Commercial nonprofits resemble for-profit firms and substantially depend on operational performance to achieve their goals (e.g., credit unions, universities). In contrast, HOs are donative nonprofits that largely depend on donations to survive (e.g., food banks, medical relief organizations). Those involved in humanitarian assistance are influenced by factors different from those in commercial nonprofits. Similar to for-profits, commercial nonprofits are involved in a market-based, downstream competition for customers; whereas the humanitarian aid sector does not behave like a free market, and humanitarians are faced with upstream competition for donors and resources (Schwenger et al., 2014). Instead of revenue generation, the objective in humanitarian organizations is to diminish social suffering by saving lives, preserving property, and improving the social and economic foundations of communities (Van Wassenhove, 2006). In this dissertation, I investigate nonprofit competition as a driver of humanitarian organizations’ performance. I rely on resource-advantage theory (Hunt, 2000) to offer a theoretical framework to differentiate how parties view competition in humanitarian supply chains (SCs).

To address the research question, this dissertation adopts a mixed methods research design with the data collected in two studies. By adopting the mixed methods design, I combine qualitative and quantitative research approaches to expand and strengthen the dissertation’s results through the triangulation of multiple methods and sources of information (Davis & Golicic, 2012; Sanders & Wagner, 2011; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2010). Following the developmental mixed methods research design, the dissertation is conducted so that the results of the first study guide the development of the second study (Davis & Golicic, 2012; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2010). I employ a grounded theory analysis to data collected through a multiple case study (Yin, 2010). Since the study of competition in the humanitarian supply chain context represents a relatively unexplored area, an exploratory multiple case study methodological approach offers more comprehensive insights on the competition phenomenon (Golicic & Davis, 2012). Following the developmental mixed methods research design procedures, Study II conceptualizes and empirically tests hypotheses developed based on the results of the qualitative phase (Essay I). Overall, the purpose of the mixed methods research design is development, so that the findings from the multiple case study (Essay I) inform the subsequent empirical assessment of proposed relationships (Essay II) (Davis & Golicic, 2012; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2010). As Akhtar (2018) notes, case study research coupled with analytical methods can be a “heavenly combination” to address humanitarian challenges.