Playing The Numbers Game: Program Ratio Management In Nonprofit Organizations

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dwayne McSwain PhD, Associate Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Nonprofit organizations are often evaluated using the program ratio: the proportion of mission-related program expenses to total expenses. Nonprofit managers have incentives to manipulate the reporting of financial information to enhance the program ratio. This article reviews the scholarly literature on program ratio management in nonprofit organizations. Prior research has identified several motivations for and methods of program ratio management and provided limited evidence that it occurs. Researchers have explored the consequences of program ratio management and provided a list of factors mitigating such behaviors. The emerging consensus is that the program ratio is of limited usefulness in evaluating nonprofit performance.

Additional Information

Garven, S. A., Hofmann, M. A. and McSwain, D. N. (2016), Playing the Numbers Game. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 26: 401-416. doi:10.1002/nml.21201. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2016
program ratio, program ratio management, nonprofit organizations, earnings management, nonprofit performance measures

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