Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Nonprofit organizations provide essential services to diverse client populations that often address complex and multifaceted personal and social issues. As part of the nonprofit funding process, organizations receive financial support from external sources, such as foundations, government contracts, or corporate giving, and often have to engage in performance evaluation, a process frequently driven by funder priorities or evaluation requirements. As agencies continue to navigate these funder expectations and requirements, understanding nonprofit staff perceptions on the influence of funder-mandated metrics upon service provision becomes more relevant. This qualitative study utilized a grounded theory methodology to explore the perceptions of administrators and staff members within nonprofit organizations regarding the influence of funder-mandated performance metrics on service provision. A purposive sample of 16 direct service providers and administrators from eight nonprofit organizations engaged in semi-structured interviews during the period of March 2020-September 2020. Qualitative analysis revealed that funder-mandated metrics influenced nonprofit organizations across three main themes including the client, program, and agency levels. Overall, mandated metrics fulfill the intended purpose of evaluation systems, such as informing decision-making, guiding service modifications, and informing strategic planning or budgeting processes. Findings also suggest that the influence of funder-mandated metrics can create additional challenges, such as a lack of consideration for client input and personal needs, increased staff time, limited resources to cultivate employee evaluation skill sets and limited resources for program evaluation at the agency level. Notably, findings suggest that several outcomes unintentionally influence definitions of client success, the client-provider relationship, and client experiences. Funder-mandated metrics requirements can impose subjective and restrictive definitions of success on clients. These metrics can also influence the relationship between direct service providers and clients, influencing the scope of services and time allocated to working with clients. Finally, the influence of metrics can be directly experienced by clients, who often felt less autonomy over their personal goals and decision-making. Implications of the findings for diverse client populations, funders, social work practice and education, social justice, and future directions for research are discussed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Included in

Social Work Commons