TSI’s research on barriers to third sector development in Germany not only highlights old and new challenges, it also analyses the coping strategies of TSOs, coming up with interesting trends:

  1. Organizations with permeable, open structures which allow new impulses to enter the organization are more likely to keep up with new trends, manage to address new developments and consequently maintain its attractiveness for members, volunteers or clients. Furthermore the degree of integration in a policy field enhances the lobbying capacity which allows the organization to positively shape its institutional framework.
  2. Organizations that achieve to diversify their activities are more appealing to increasingly individualized needs, interests and lifestyles of citizens. Additionally, they are more resilient toward risks arising from rapid changes in a turbulent policy environment when resources are shifted to the disadvantages of the organization (e.g. changing funding streams, interests of volunteers, needs of citizens or attention markets) as they are less dependent on particular organizational assets. In this context, TSOs increasingly engage in “cash cow” operations to cross-subsidize support structures for volunteering and open spaces for community activity.
  3. As organizations expand, crossing the boundaries of different organizational fields, a highly differentiated and complex governance structure is put in place since different functional logics have to be complied with. Hence, TSOs need to “speak” many different languages of various fields.
  4. Given the increasingly complex multi-field environment TSOs develop into an institutional amalgam comprising different logics of actions and achieve to combine the “best” of business and third sector. On the one hand, organizations are increasingly engaging in a professionalized service output and operate business activities which prerequisites the adaptation of business practices. On the other hand, TSOs provide enabling structures for community involvement and offer avenues of self-fulfillment.

The German TSI team concludes that TSOs today tend to develop into hybrid organizations that comprise different organizations under their roof with varying organizational cultures and identities. Looking at the sector as a whole, the contours of its sub-organizational-fields become increasingly fuzzy.