Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration

Major Professor

Anne D. Smith

Committee Members

Franz W. Kellermanns, Alex Miller, Kenneth J. Levine


The purpose of this dissertation is to extend the concept of organizational ambidexterity (OA) into the domain of not-for-profit (NFP) organizations. These organizations are subject to many of the same demands as their for-profit counterparts, yet research has not been conducted on how NFPs manage the competing pressures of refining existing routines for efficiency with the need to grow and innovate. This dissertation includes two portions: a quantitative analysis of a large NFP-rating agency dataset and qualitative interviews with executive directors and managers from within the food banking industry to identify the processes in use at a sample of ambidextrous organizations.

The quantitative study uses a financial outcome—fiscal performance—in order to assess the degree to which financial outcomes are affected by exploration and exploitation, two actions central to the ambidexterity paradigm. Results of this study indicate that although exploration and exploitation are related to fiscal performance within NFPs, the results vary greatly depending on the industry in question.

The qualitative portion of the study indicates that three activities aid NFPs in engaging in exploration and exploitation: managing knowledge, retaining professional talent, and enabling leadership. This study concludes with implications for researchers and managers, as well as suggestions for future research extensions.

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