Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chairperson Fred J. Galloway, EdD Laura Deitrick, PhD


Leadership, Management, Nonprofit


The nonprofit sector serves an important economic and community-building role in California and the rest of the United States. However, the nonprofit sector may be facing a leadership deficit due to inadequate succession planning and training of future leaders. Given that nonprofit organizations are often pressured to become more business-like and that many nonprofit organizations may need to adhere to regulations imposed upon them by government funders, nonprofit organizations may be able to find qualified leaders from the for-profit and public sectors.

The purpose of this explanatory sequential mixed methods study was to build on prior research on the sector experience of nonprofit leaders and address what impact experience in each of the three primary sectors—nonprofit, for-profit, and governmental—has on one’s ability to lead a nonprofit organization. More specifically, the study examined what proportion of leaders had experience in each of the three sectors, the leaders’ perceptions regarding the impact that experience in each sector had upon their ability to lead nonprofit organizations, and whether the leaders’ years of experience in each sector was associated with measures of the financial performance of the organizations they lead. The findings were obtained from distributing internet surveys to 188 nonprofit leaders and conducting eight follow-up interviews with respondents from the initial sample. Measures of financial performance were obtained from 990 returns obtained from public sources.

The findings supported prior studies that suggested there is substantial variation in the sector experience of nonprofit leaders. The findings also suggested that the leaders valued prior nonprofit experience as being more helpful than experience in the private and/or public sectors in developing their ability to lead nonprofit organizations. The study did not find that leaders’ years of experience in each sector was associated with any of the variability in measures of financial performance in the organizations they lead.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies