Member Influence and Involvement in Civil Society Organizations: A Resource Dependency Perspective

Nicole Bolleyer, Patricia Correa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Which membership-based voluntary organizations constitutive of civil society such as parties, interest groups or service-oriented organizations keep their members active and which forms of activism do they cultivate? This article addresses this important question distinguishing two forms of ‘member activism’: ‘member involvement’, defined as members working for an organization, and ‘member influence’, defined as members’ participation in intra-organizational decision-making. Building on incentive-theoretical approaches to leader–member relations and resource dependency theory, we present a theoretical framework specifying distinct drivers of each form of member activism, which is tested using new data from four organization surveys conducted in four most different European democracies. None of the theorized factors has the same robust effect on both involvement and influence. Most notably, professionalization – reliance on paid staff – has a positive effect on involvement and a negative one on influence, stressing the need to distinguish carefully the different roles members play in civil society organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number0
Early online date19 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

Funding: FP7 Ideas: European Research Council (FP7/2007–13)/ERC grant agreement (335890 STATORG).


  • civil society organizations
  • interest groups
  • member activism
  • member participation
  • membership organizations
  • non-profit organizations
  • political parties


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