Characteristics and Organizational Capacity of Nonprofits in Rural, Persistently Poor Southern Counties in the United States


  • Jayme Walters Utah State University
  • Dorothy Wallis University of Tennessee, Knoxville



Organizational Capacity, Rural Nonprofit, Rural Poverty


The present study focuses on organizational capacity of nonprofits located in rural, persistently poor counties in the South region of the United States, an area of the country that encapsulates the majority of rural poverty. IRS Form 990 data were utilized for recruitment and to obtain demographic characteristics for nonprofits in the area of interest (N=3,530). Emailed and mailed surveys to all qualifying organizations sought to measure organizational capacity. Data from 292 nonprofits were examined in a descriptive analysis. Overall, the participating rural nonprofits scored moderate to high in most dimensions of organizational capacity. Financial management, strategic planning, collaboration, and program planning were strengths in organizational capacity. Evaluation, succession planning, fundraising planning, human resources, and volunteer management were challenges. Study findings provide guidance to capacity builders and funders to guide future training, investments, and policy related to rural nonprofits and communities they serve.

Author Biographies

Jayme Walters, Utah State University

Dr. Jayme Walters is an Assistant Professor and director of the Transforming Communities Institute in the Department of Social Work at Utah State University. Dr. Walters’ research specialization is nonprofits as mechanisms for improving the quality of life in rural communities. She has several peer-reviewed publications regarding rural nonprofit practice in journals such as Journal of Rural Studies and Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance.

Dorothy Wallis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Dorothy Wallis, LMSW is a Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. She has previous practice experience in nonprofit management. Her research specialization is in substance use and strengthening community interventions.






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