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Advocating with a commercial mindset: The impact of commercial income on nonprofit advocacy engagement


Qiang Dong, Jiahuan Lu, Cheon Lee

Corresponding authors: Jiahuan Lu, e-mail: jiahuan.lu@rutgers.edu

Nonprofit Management & Leadership, Published online


Abstract: Nonprofits' growing reliance on commercial income has aroused wide concern that commercialization discourages nonprofit engagement in policy advocacy to promote positive social changes. Despite this concern, empirical studies on this relationship are lacking and existing evidence is mixed. This research note proposes that the relationship between commercial income and advocacy engagement is curvilinear, following an inverted U-shaped pattern. Specifically, as a nonprofit's proportion of commercial income increases, its advocacy engagement will initially increase, but after a tipping point, further increases in the nonprofit's commercial income will reduce its advocacy engagement. An analysis of survey data from 336 service-delivery nonprofits in mainland China supports the curvilinear relationship. The finding adds new knowledge from a non-Western, authoritarian context to the literature and has implications for nonprofits in addressing the mission-market tension.

Keywords: advocacy engagement; commercial income; commercialization; policy advocacy


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To link to this article: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/nml.21514