Organizational legitimacy of nonprofit service organizations engaged in HIV prevention among women

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Virginia Tech

All organizations are concerned with survival and effectiveness, but for third sector and public organizations these issues are acute; they hinge on the organization’s ability to establish and sustain its legitimacy. Legitimacy has been defined as a manifestation of value congruence between an organization’s activities and the social system within which it functions (Dowling and Pfeffer, 1975). This study oxamines the multi-dimensionality of organizational legitirnicy in a comparative case study of nonprofit service organizitions (NSO’s) which provide HIV education and support services for women. Processes of seeking organizational legitirnacy are identified and organizational relationships analyzed within the environmental networks of clientele and the interorganizational network. The study also seeks to identity tte focus and progression of legitimating efforts over tho course of the organization’s existence.

Tw. Community based organizations are included; one in the United States and one in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The organizations studied are directed to women in a variety of circumstances: sex workers, drug users, and women who self-identify as being at risk. The majority of clients were Hispanic, although a few were Caucasian and African-American.

The study is intended to generate theory as to how organizations address legitimacy in a multidimensional environment, and how this challenge has been confronted in the case of NSO’s serving women at risk for HIV. The study identifies strategies for preserving the organization’s internally defined objectives and processes and its active relationship with the client community.