Department of Sociology
Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
Institutional Domains and Public Support of Civic Organizations
Institutional theorists argue that individual preferences and actions are constrained and constituted by institutions, which are taken-for-granted rule-like expectations and conventions regarding identifiable roles and the appropriate practices associated with actors in those roles. Much institutional theory has focused on the actions and logics of organizations, particularly in how conformity, or at least symbolic conformity, with relevant institutions impacts organizational survival. While much work has examined this observationally at the macro-level with organizational populations, my work seeks to understand the micro-foundations and mechanisms behind institutional constraint and institutional change. My first lab project establishes that perceptions of appropriate actions in different institutional domains influences public support of civic organizations and individual donation decisions. I argue that when organizations engage in actions outside of their institutional domain, they receive less attitudinal and behavioral support. I test this domain hypothesis with a between subjects experimental design in which I vary 1) the kind of organizations that make up a coalition (religious organizations or labor unions) and 2) the kind of action that coalition engages in (charitable or political). I then assess organizational support through professed support and actual donation decisions. Findings will illuminate how institutionalized expectations regulate the donation decisions that sustain civic organizations, as well as where these institutions may break down.