ATLANTA—Mirae Kim’s research was recently recognized with the 2018 Award for Outstanding Article in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (2017) by the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA).
Her article, “The Relationship of Nonprofit’s Financial Health to Program Outcomes: Empirical Evidence from Nonprofit Arts Organizations,” looks at whether, and to what extent, financial measures used by businesses—measures such as revenue diversification, operating margins and debt ratio—predict program success for nonprofits.
Kim, an assistant professor of nonprofit studies, examined a unique data set of nearly 5,000 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and found that, yes, these financial attributes were linked to program outcomes. However, some efforts to maintain financial strength may be made at the expenses of program performance.
One caveat for nonprofits is that their focus needs to be on mission fulfillment rather than funding as the primary indicator of success. Kim’s article calls attention to the value in focusing on the primary funding mechanism of a nonprofit organization.
“Nonprofit arts organizations have relatively high fiscal pressures because they must compete with other nonprofit agencies that serve urgent needs for limited public support. They also compete with for-profit entertainment companies for audiences,” she said. “Although financial outcomes are not the principal focus of most nonprofit organizations, the existing literature has focused heavily on financial measures that predict nonprofit vulnerability.”
Art and culture have consistently been at the center of Kim’s studies. A year-long study abroad creative internship at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, led her to ask herself, “What can I do if I love art and want to make a living with art, but I don’t have any talent to become an artist?”
After earning her undergraduate degree in English literature and language at Seoul National University, Kim pursued the answer to this question in an arts management master’s program at Carnegie Mellon University. At CMU’s Posner Center, she curated a rare book exhibit that used finely bound, classic literature to open an audience dialogue about philanthropy and sponsorship in medieval times. She considers this event a “life-changing moment,” because it made her wonder how nonprofits, specifically those in the arts, get financed.
Kim had had no interest in doing research, obtaining a Ph.D. or teaching prior to this experience. “I thought it would be boring,” she said.
Her husband encouraged her otherwise, telling her “It’s really fun when you are finding new knowledge. Instead of helping one arts organization, you can help thousands.” His advice led her to pursue a doctorate in public administration at Rutgers University and launched her career in examining the shortcomings in support for arts organizations.
Kim’s findings—like her experience with the Posner exhibit—have started a dialogue that contributes to a greater understanding that mission adherence is essential to organizational health. She also appreciates the greater exposure her work will receive with the award.
“ARNOVA is the nation’s largest nonprofit research group. Any nonprofit scholar, or anyone heavily involved in nonprofit research, comes to this group,” said Kim “I am very proud of this honor.”
Written by Tammie W. Green, Masters of Public Policy Student, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.
Nonprofit Studies Program
Mirae Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. She holds a master’s degree in arts management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy and a doctoral degree in public management from the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University. From 2014 to 2017, She was an assistant professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at University of Missouri in Columbia, where she initiated the Nonprofit Organization Research Panel (https://norpanel.org) project.