Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Social Work

Additional Affiliations

Brown School of Social Work

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The design and development of this study emerged as the result of the investigator’s work with local nonprofit organizations (NPOs) in the Global South – particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through experience and study, the investigator observed: 1) The conceptualization and the study of organizational sustainability and effectiveness (OS/OE) – both in scholarship and in practice – are fragmented and, while emphasizing the critical importance of context, do not explain how context impacts sustainability. 2) Existing conceptualizations of OS/OE lack the perspectives of key stakeholders – namely the management and staff of the local NPOs themselves. 3) There is a considerable disconnect between the level of investment in organizational development (through international funding and capacity building) and the expected level of return (in the form of enhanced organizational performance/effectiveness) of that investment. 4) There seems to be an increasing belief in the potential of community philanthropy/local fundraising to enhance organizational sustainability/effectiveness of local nonprofits even in the often resource-constrained countries of the Global South. These four observations gave rise to several questions this study was designed to address. Kenya was chosen as the specific context in which to address these questions due to the investigator’s previous work experience and contacts there.

1. How do the directors of local civil society organizations and organizational development professionals perceive organizational sustainability/effectiveness in Kenya?

2. How do the directors of local civil society organizations and organizational development professionals perceive the role of local fundraising/community philanthropy in the sustainability/effectiveness of CSOs in Kenya?

3. What is the profile of the individual Kenyan giver?

4. Using an interpretative, grounded-theory approach to data analysis, what possible theoretical assertions can be made to explain stakeholder-focused and context-specific conceptualizations of organizational sustainability of local organizations in development?

Using a qualitative, action research approach – in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation East Africa’s (AKFEA) Yetu Initiative – this study underscored the critical importance of context to the sustainability and effectiveness of local organizations in development. However, this study went one step further than most scholarship to demonstrate how a specific context and the realities/dynamics within that context directly impact OS/OE. While such elements as good governance, effective management and access to financial resources, etc. were highlighted as important factors of OS/OE; this study revealed six context-specific dynamics that impact OS/OE that the study of generic variables such as ‘effective management’ and ‘good governance’ could never capture. These included, 1) the impact of public perceptions on CSO viability; 2) particular Kenyan views regarding the function of a CSO’s board of directors; 3) the dominance of the ‘projectized’ approach to development in Kenya; 4) actualization of community ownership of local organizations in the Kenyan context; 5) the impact of symbiotic relationships between CSOs and politicians; and 6) the unique role of internationally funded capacity building for OS/OE in Kenya. This study also concluded that, given the lack of success local CSOs/NGOs have had raising funds from local sources in Kenya, and given the perspectives of typical individual Kenyan givers toward CSOs/NGOs; local fundraising targeting individual Kenyan givers is not likely to be substantial enough to reduce local CSO/NGO dependence on international donor funding to any degree in the near- or medium-term future. However, the typical individual Kenyan giver seems surprisingly willing to give to local CSOs/NGOs but they are not likely to give to these organizations as they are currently structured and operated in Kenya.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Carolyn Lesorogol

Committee Members

Lora Iannotti, Shanti Parikh, Joseph Steensma, Jean-Francois Trani,


Permanent URL: