Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Capstone: Campus Only Access

Degree Name

Master of Nonprofit Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Abbi Leinwand Haggerty


Serving and problem solving is the primary focus of charitable nonprofits and public service organizations. This study examines how nonprofits address the opportunity gap in underserved communities, and if they approach the issue from a specific way of thinking, such as systems thinking or reductionist thinking. A grounded theory approach of the qualitative design method was used in the analysis. The participants were selected from a list of nonprofit organizations with programs that focus on youth and education in Central Virginia.

According to the data, all of the participants address social problems in underserved communities, and the way they initially thought about the problem has shifted over time. Most of them attribute social problems in underserved communities to poverty and racism. While they all discussed the problem from a holistic view, the data supports that they provide services from a reductionist point of view. Those who expressed belief in closing or narrowing the opportunity gap agreed that the gap is too complex for any one organization to address alone, and acknowledged that it will take collaborating with other organizations and “all hands on deck”.