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Inhibitors of non-for-profit organisations’ activities and survival in a crisis context

Hamida Skandrani (Department of Management, University of Manouba/LIGUE-ISCAE, Manouba, Tunisia)
Kaouther Kooli (Department of Marketing, Strategy and Innovation, Business School, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK)
Nadia Doudech (Department of Marketing, University of Carthage/LIGUE-ISCAE, Manouba, Tunisia)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 26 January 2021

Issue publication date: 15 September 2021




Tunisia has been living a decade of democratic transition since 2011. In this new context, the civil society has been fervently expressing claims for democracy and social justice through creating thousands of non-for-profit organisations (NPOs) (23,456 NPOs in 2020 against 9,000 established in 30 years up to 2010). However, this shift seems to be misleading, as only 3,000 NPOs are actually active, indicating that NPOs are struggling to sustain their activities and ensure their survival. The purpose of this study is to uncover the factors hindering NPOs’ activities and survival.


Semi-structured interviews were carried out using a purposive sample of 32 NPOs members in two main economic and touristic cities – Tunis and Sousse – selected using the snowball method. A considerable amount of qualitative data was produced (400 pages of text). This seems representative of Tunisian citizens’ inclination to protest in the new prevailing political and social context. The data collection benefited from the freedom of speech gained after the 2011 civilian uprising as interviewees were enthusiastic in voicing their opinions.


Two main categories of inhibitors were identified. First, endogenous inhibitors including inhibitors under the control of the NPO (i.e. use of illegal and foreign sources of funding, limited financial resources, unavailability of NPOs’ members, short term planning, conflicts between managers, autocratic leadership, organisational support, activities diversification and organisational justice, leadership and communication skills, “NPO culture”, members’ opportunistic behaviour and generation gap), inhibitors related to NPOs inter-relationships: stiff competition, unfair and dishonest competition, lack of collaboration, trust and communication between NPOs. Second, exogenous inhibitors i.e. perceived unethical practices and image transfer, economic crisis, foreign funding sources and the media.

Research limitations/implications

This study has some limitations mainly due to the sample size and characteristics of the selected interviewees. In addition, data was collected in only two regions (Tunis and Sousse). Therefore, the results may lack generalisability.

Practical implications

The findings highlight the critical impact of the inhibitors under the control of NPOs compared to those out of their control. NPOs in a crisis context could overcome these inhibitors by ensuring congruence between the NPOs’ mission, objectives and activities and designing suitable marketing strategies.


This study contributes to elucidating this complex circular system of exchange and its inhibitors in a challenging and understudied context. It offers support to Bagozzi’s (1974, 1975, 1994, 2011) calls for uncovering the factors constraining or facilitating exchanges that have an impact going beyond the relationship between three or more partners and the conditions that govern these exchanges. Moreover, and to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first empirical attempt to support Bagozzi’s (1994) conceptualisation. It also brings an update to NPOs’ data and marketing strategy in a region near the crossroads of Middle Eastern, North African and Western influences.



Skandrani, H., Kooli, K. and Doudech, N. (2021), "Inhibitors of non-for-profit organisations’ activities and survival in a crisis context", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 521-554.



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