Date of Graduation


Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA)


School of Management


Nonprofits, as vehicles for the delivery of essential community services, are integral to the health and prosperity of their communities. But many nonprofit leaders do not represent or adequately understand the community members whom their organizations serve. This study, through a literature review and a qualitative analysis of several expert interviews, evaluates the significance of community representation among nonprofit leadership, the best practices for improving community representation, and the relationship between a nonprofit’s community ties and the outcomes of its grant applications. As the results of the study indicate, it is essential for nonprofit leaders to understand their communities; any leader who does not authentically know their community should commit themselves to learning about, and cultivating a deep understanding of, those whom their organization serves. Although many nonprofit leaders remain disconnected from their communities and uncommitted to building new relationships, this study shows that an absence of community connections ultimately reduces the quality and impacts of a nonprofit’s services. To improve its leaders’ representations of, and connections to, the community, a nonprofit is encouraged to consult with local community members during its board recruitment process. However, nonprofits should only engage in board diversification efforts if they are willing to comprehensively review their policies and cultures, and when necessary, undertake holistic transformations to become more inclusive. Finally, the results of this study demonstrate nonprofits are more likely to be awarded grants from community foundations if they have diverse leadership that represents the community. It is recommended community foundations continue to transparently prioritize diverse nonprofits connected to their communities to hold the nonprofit sector accountable and to provide equitable countermeasures against the structural discrimination still prevalent throughout the philanthropic sector.