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Conceptualizing Nonprofit Commercialism: A Case Study

PAM, Vol. 9 No. 4, (2004)

In recent years, the American nonprofit sector has increasingly shifted towards
using more market-based financing mechanisms, in what has been variably termed
nonprofit commercialization or social entrepreneurship trends. While this development
may either be seen as positive or negative, the growing consensus is that nonprofit
organizations have come to adopt entrepreneurial or commercial activities for purposes
of cross subsidizing mission-related activities and largely in reactions to shifts in the
funding and institutional contexts beginning in the 1980s. Providing an overview of the
current debate, this paper uses data from a museum case study to probe some of the
underpinnings of the commercialization discussion.

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