The Relationship between Provision of Membership Benefits and Fulfillment of Representational Roles in Nonprofit Advocacy Membership Organizations

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This article explores the ways nonprofit advocacy membership organizations can manage their resource dependence on members and fulfill the organizations' representational roles, focusing on the provision of membership benefits. Membership organizations rely on financial or other resources from members and thus are constrained by them. For a nonprofit that aims to primarily speak for members, constraints by members may help to focus organizational attention on members' interests. Contrarily, for a nonprofit that aims to mainly represent broader constituents, members' constraints may hamper an organization's ability to advocate for broader constituents because members do not necessarily share the same policy goals with broader constituents. The provision of membership benefits can be a useful strategy for organizations to fulfill their representational roles and to satisfy and engage members, because people often join an organization to enjoy certain membership benefits. For an empirical analysis, this study collected a large-scale data set through web and mail surveys of nonprofit advocacy organizations across the United States. The mixed-mode surveys achieved a 57.5 percent response rate (729 responses). The survey and regression analysis results show that member-serving nonprofits providing members with opportunities to participate in advocacy work are more likely to represent members' interests directly. Although broader constituency-serving nonprofits tend to prioritize members' opinions, these organizations are more likely to adhere to the mandates of broader constituents when providing selective material membership benefits. However, when providing purposive membership benefits, these nonprofits are more likely to represent members' opinions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNonprofit Management and Leadership
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017



  • Advocacy
  • Membership benefit
  • Membership organization
  • Representational role
  • Resource dependence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management

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