Document Type

Honors Project


I would like to thank my advisers Deborah Smith and Erik Larson, both of you know that I couldn't have received this honor without your help. My special thanks go to Josh Tomashek, whose insight into funding relationships was the theoretical spark for this work.


Resource dependency theory states that nonprofit organizations’ acceptance of public monies is acceptance of government control. Through detailed grants, government agencies can enact their priorities through willing or unwilling nonprofit organizations that need government grants to survive. To complicate the extant literature on nonprofit autonomy, this study uses an expansion of Viviana Zelizer’s connected lives theory (2005) to ask, How do nonprofits select sources of funding for specific services in reference to their relationship with granting agencies? Using qualitative interview methods the study concludes that nonprofits are agents in relationships with government grant agencies, and that nonprofits use funding decisions as opportunities to reinforce organizational self-identities.

Cole_Jonathan.pdf (1133 kB)



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