Decoupling Under Scrutiny: Consistency of Managerial Talk and Action in the Age of Nonprofit Accountability

in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 50 (5)

Brandtner, Christof

Voir la revue «Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly»

Decoupling theory suggests inconsistencies in what nonprofits do and what they claim to do. Accountability is a potential antidote to such inconsistencies in the nonprofit sector. To test whether different features of accountability prevent decoupling, I examine the divergence in statements about managerialism among nonprofit organizations in a major U.S. metropolitan area. The analysis compares a survey of organizations to public discourse based on five-million-word website text. ... Professionalism and evaluation indeed prevent organizations from embellishing their discourse. However, inconsistencies between managerial practices and managerial discourse remain frequent: Organizations continue to present symbolic displays of managerialism to the general public, particularly when their missions are tangible. Furthermore, ratings generate inconsistencies by leading organizations to downplay managerial practices. This study develops an institutional understanding of managerial talk and action, shows that the problem of decoupling in the “age of accountability” is multifaceted, and has implications for the estimation of nonprofit practices using automated text analysis.

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