From Nonprofit Leader to Elected Official: Examining Political Ambition in the Nonprofit Sector
journal contributionposted on 2019-04-09, 00:00 authored by Kelly LeRoux, Julie Langer
To what extent do leaders of nonprofit organizations run for elected office? We address this question through an exploratory study using survey data from a random sample of 184 leaders of nonprofit human service organizations in the US. Drawing upon theories of political ambition, we explore the factors that may shape nascent political ambition (propensity to run) as well as expressive political ambition (running for office). We find that nonprofit leaders are no more likely to run for office than the average citizen, but interest in running is much more common. We identify several individual-level and professional socialization factors associated with political ambition. Our study makes an important theoretical contribution by outlining a model of political ambition for the nonprofit sector that can be tested in future studies, and makes an important practical contribution by highlighting ways that associations and nonprofit industry groups might convert nascent ambition into expressive ambition.