Avoiding bureaucratization and mission drift in associations

Joyce Rothschild, Katherine K. Chen, David H. Smith, Omar Kristmundsson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter reviews research that suggests, contrary to Weber’s and Michels’ predictions, bureaucracy and oligarchy are avoidable, as evidenced by the many nonprofit organizations today that manage to avoid both tendencies, especially local associations but also some national associations. Such associations gravitate toward highly democratic and egalitarian practices, including giving all members a say, rather than relying upon hierarchal decision-making. Members usually believe that participatory and egalitarian practices are more likely to foster desired outcomes and empower members. In spite of pressures for efficiency and stability, associations can retain their missions and participatory-democratic processes by adhering to values, sharing knowledge relevant to the association’s tasks, supporting sustained dialog, engaging in storytelling, cultivating associational norms that encourage individual voice and mutual support, and building community ties.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781137263179
ISBN (Print)9781137263162
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© David Horton Smith, Robert A. Stebbins, and Jurgen Grotz 2016 and Respective authors 2016. All rights reserved.


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