Strategic positioning in voluntary and non-profit organizations in the UK : exploring the experiences of British charitable organizations
: Exploring the experiences of British Charitable Organizations

  • Celine Chew

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the strategic positioning [SP] activities of charitable organizations [COs] within the wider sector of voluntary and non-profit organizations [VNPOs] in the UK. Despite the growing interest in SP for British COs in an increasingly competitive operating environment and changing policy context, there is lack of research in mainstream marketing/strategic management studies on this topic for charities, whilst the specialist literature on VNPOs has neglected the study of SP. The thesis begins with an extended literature review of the concept of positioning in both commercial [for-profit] and charitable organizations. It concludes that the majority of theoretical underpinnings of SP that are prescribed for COs have been derived from the commercial strategy/marketing literature. There is currently a lack of theoretical and conceptual models that can accommodate the particular context of COs and guide strategic positioning practice in them. The research contained in this thesis is intended to fill some of these research gaps. It combines an exploratory postal survey and four cross-sectional case studies to describe the SP activities of a sample of general welfare and social care charities and identifies the key factors that influence their choice of positioning strategies [PSs]. It concludes that charitable organizations have begun to undertake SP to differentiate their organizations from other charities that provide similar services. Their PSs have both generic features, and other characteristics that are unique to them. A combination of external environmental and organizational factors influences their choice of PSs. A theoretical model, which depicts these factors, is developed in this research. It highlights the role of governmental influence, other external environmental forces, the charity’s mission, organizational resources, and influential stakeholders in shaping the charity’s PS. This study concludes by considering the theoretical and managerial implications of the findings on the study of charitable and non-profit organizations.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish


  • Strategic positioning
  • voluntary and non-profit organizations
  • positioning strategy
  • management
  • charities

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