Portrait of Carrie Oelberger
Associate Professor
249 Humphrey School
Currently reviewing Ph.D. applicants
Leadership and Management Area
Areas of Expertise
Public-private dynamics; philanthropy; professionalization; work and employment; nonprofit and NGO management; international development


    Prosocialorganizations have an explicit mission to make a positive difference in the world, such as eliminating poverty, developing renewable energy, fighting racism, or improving health. Although prosocial organizations are altruistically-oriented, they are also populated by human beings who hold an array of their own personal needs and private concerns. While these non-altruistic interests are not inherently problematic, they have been historically ignored or suppressed within most prosocial organizations. Ironically, when organizations don’t directly acknowledge and address their own private interests, those interests become problematic; people find ways to fulfill them outside of the organization’s oversight, often undermining prosocial work in the process. 

    Dr. Oelberger's research takes up the understudied examination of prosocial organizations’ internal dynamics. Furthermore, she details how ignoring these internal dynamics leads to a range of deleterious outcomes, from systematic patterns of workforce burnout on an individual-level to inequitable forms of decision making on an organizational-level, which end up harming the ecosystem of prosocial work, on an institutional-level. She currently examines these dynamics across two crucial sets of actors within the prosocial ecosystem:

    1) Funding and Context-Setting:
    Grantmaking Foundations. How do the non-altruistic interests of grantmaking foundations influence their decision-making processes and funding decisions? How do their resulting decisions impact the ecosystem of prosocial work, particularly along dimensions of equity and effectiveness?

    2) Design and Implementation:
    The Workforce in Prosocial Organizations. How do the staff across various prosocial organizations approach, experience, and navigate their work? What are the implications of these processes for their personal wellbeing, their non-work relationships, their careers, and the people their organization serves?

    This scholarship is critical, with high stakes for the workforce, for organizations, and for the vital work that they undertake. We must understand the internal dynamics of prosocial organizations for them to most effectively facilitate equitable and inclusive social change.

    Dr. Oelberger’s research agenda, teaching interests, and service commitments are motivated by her experience in professional practice. She founded and led an international non-governmental organization (NGO) for seven years that supports community-based, rural education in East Africa, and she continues to provide consulting support for philanthropic foundations to inform their organizational design and programmatic practice. She enjoys integrating these lessons in both the content and process of her teaching.


    PhD in Organization Studies (Stanford University, 2014)

    MA in Sociology (Stanford University, 2010)

    PGDip in Maori and Pacific Nations Education (Victoria University of Wellington, 2006)

    BA in History (Haverford College, 1999)

    Oelberger, C. (2024). Work Devotion as Identity Armor? How Single Professionals with Relationship Aspirations Use Career Decisions to Manage Their Identities, Organization Science,

    Oelberger, C. & Eaton, A. (2024). One Size Fits All? Exploring Motivation for Government Employees with a Job Fit Framework, Review of Public Personnel Administration,

    Oelberger, C. (2023). Beyond Assumptions of Altruism: Prosocial Work and Job Satisfaction among International Development Workers, Nonprofit Management and Leadership,

    Oelberger, C. & Shachter, S. (2021). National Sovereignty and Transnational Philanthropy: The Impact Of Countries’ Foreign Aid Restrictions On U.S. Foundation Funding, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations,

    Oelberger, C., Lecy, J. & Shachter, S. (2020). Going the Extra Mile: The Liability of Foreignness in U.S. Foundation International Grantmaking to Local NGOs, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 49(4), 776-802

    Oelberger, C. (2019). The Dark Side of Deeply Meaningful Work: Work- Relationship Turmoil and the Moderating Role of Occupational Value Homophily, Journal of Management Studies, 56(3), 558-588

    Oelberger, C. R. (2018). Cui Bono? Public and Private Goals in Nonprofit Organizations, Administration & Society, 50(7), 973-1014

    Powell, W., Oberg, A., Korff, V., Oelberger, C. & Kloos, K. (2017). Institutional analysis in a digital era: Mechanisms and methods to understand emerging fields. In New Themes in Institutional Analysis: Topics and Issues from European Research. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham

    Oelberger, C. R., Fechter, A. M. & McWha-Hermann, I. (2017). Managing human resources in International NGOs. In The Nonprofit Human Resource Management Handbook: From Theory to Practice 285-303).

    Quinn, R., Oelberger, C. R. & Meyerson, D. (2016). Getting to scale: Ideas, opportunities, and resources in the early diffusion of the charter management organization, 1999-2006, Teachers College Record, 118(9), 1-44