John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Why are some civic associations more effective than others? The authors introduce a multidimensional framework for analyzing the effectiveness of civic associations in terms of public recognition, member engagement, and leader development. Using original surveys of local Sierra Club organizations and leaders, the authors assess prevailing explanations in organization and movement studies alongside a model highlighting leadership and internal organizational practices. Although available resources and favorable contexts matter, the core findings show that associations with more committed activists, that build organizational capacity, that carry out strong programmatic activity, and whose leaders work independently, generate greater effectiveness across outcomes.