Who owns your nonprofit? A reconceptualization of nonprofit ownership

Stephanie Koolen-Maas

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Ownership captures a core theme in organizational governance literature. This chapter critically examines previous literature on organizational ownership and provides a reconceptualization of nonprofit ownership beyond the legal-economic definition to account for ownership in nonprofit organizations (NPOs). The legal-economic perspective on organizational ownership limits what organizational ownership entails and how ownership claims are made in nonprofit, voluntary and civil society organizations. Based on a claim-making and mission-driven approach, the chapter reconceptualizes organizational ownership. Nonprofits do have ‘claimants’ appropriating social results, values and nonprofit outcomes. Second, multiple constituents can lay valid claims on nonprofits without having a legally enforceable contract with the nonprofit. The mission of the organization is the starting point for identifying the most valid claimants. Acknowledging multiple legitimate claims calls for multistakeholder governance. The reconceptualization is normative, offering guidance on how NPOs can most successfully govern themselves while pursuing their chosen missions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on Nonprofit Governance
EditorsGemma Donelly-Cox, Michael Meyer, Filip Wijkstrom
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781788114912
ISBN (Print)9781788114905
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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