The Pyramid of Nonprofit Responsibility: The Institutionalization of Organizational Responsibility Across Sectors

Observers have noted that organizations in all sectors, whether business, nonprofit, or government, have been moving toward rationalized structures that presuppose and express empowered organizational actorhood. We draw upon neo-institutional theory in this paper to extend the argument: The arrival of organizational actorhood has precipitated a concomitant, cross-sectoral movement toward organizational social responsibility. Whereas existing research has tended to theorize the social responsibilities of businesses, we develop a pyramid conceptual schema to array the social responsibilities of nonprofits. We then document the coevolution of organizational actorhood and responsibility across both sectors with a metastudy of nearly 200 extant surveys. We chart the institutionalization of a slate of formal structures that express organizational actorhood (i.e., mission statements, vision statements, and strategic plans) and that profess and define organizational social responsibilities (i.e., core values, ethics codes, and responsibility communications). We close with implications and future directions for organizational studies and research on corporate social responsibility.