Agency Problems between Managers and Employees in Nonprofit Organizations: A Discrete Choice Experiment



Most principal–agent literature of nonprofit organizations has focused on the relationship between board members and managers. However, in addition to the role as an agent of the board, the manager also performs a role as principal with respect to the nonprofit employees. By using a discrete choice experiment, we identify the objectives of managers and employees in nonprofit organizations and assess the presence of agency problems in this relationship. Our sample consists of 76 headmasters, 161 teachers, and 39 administrative employees in 74 secondary nonprofit schools in Belgium. We find that the six objectives set out in the experiment play an important role for both headmasters and subordinate staff. However, the results also indicate that some of these objectives are significantly more important for the headmasters. In sum, our results suggest that agency theory and stewardship theory are not necessarily in conflict with each other but can be combined into a more general governance framework for nonprofit organizations. Consequently, we argue that incentive structures that incorporate different types of objectives can facilitate the recruitment and retention of employees in nonprofit organizations.