Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date



Social Work


contract-for-services, social services contracting, relationships, trust, Trust Scales


This paper discusses contract-for-services, the dominant mechanism of social service delivery in the United States. The development of the use of contract-for-services mechanism in social service delivery in the 20th century is outlined as well as the increasingly interdependent relationship that exists between nonprofit social service organizations and the government. The contracting relationship itself is one that is inherently insecure, which is assumed to create competition and create an incentive for high performance. Evidence, however, indicates that competition is often less than vigorous in social service contracting. In addition, there is a growing consensus that trust is a central component to healthy and productive relationships. Individuals also each approach relationships with varied levels of trust. Based on Yamagishi and Yamagishi’s Trust Scales, it is argued that the sense of trust or sense of caution exhibited by a nonprofit vendor impacts their perception of the contracting relationship. The vendor’s trust orientation will likely push them to view their relationship in a way more likely to fit either with classic principal-agent theory or with stewardship theory, two theories often employed to explain aspects of the contracting relationship. This paper explores the interplay between trust and the realities of the contracting-for-services relationship; identifying key areas for future research efforts.


Paper presented at the Great Plains Political Science Association Conference held October 2014 on the campus of South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota.