New organizations have a tough road to hoe. The early months and years at most organizations are filled with strain and uncertainty as a nonprofit’s staff seeks to secure resources, develop internal infrastructure, and execute mission-oriented goals. Organizational theorists have dubbed this “the liability of newness,” and researchers have been poking and prodding the concept for nearly four decades, looking at what makes start-ups so vulnerable.

The latest of these studies, by Susan Chambre...

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