Case Detail

Case Summary

The Demise of the Jane Addams Hull House Association: Internal or External Factors to Blame?

Case Number: 5-114-003, Year Published: 2014

HBS Number: KEL784

Request PreviewBuy

Authors: Anne Cohn Donnelly; Charlotte Snyder

Key Concepts

Board of Directors, Board Governance, Change Management, Corporate Governance, Crisis Management, Leadership, Nonprofit Management, Organizational Culture, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Strategic Planning


In January 2012, the Jane Addams Hull House Association—one of Chicago's largest and oldest social service agencies and arguably its most iconic—announced that it might have to close in the spring due to financial difficulties. Just days later, the 122-year-old organization stunned the philanthropic world when it laid off its employees without notice, declared its intention to liquidate in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and shut its doors forever. In the weeks that followed, more and more people began to ask: What had happened to the board? Had bankruptcy really been inevitable? This case chronicles the organization's final decade and enables students to step into the shoes of the chairman of the board, Steve Saunders, as he led the board through its last two years. Students will examine the roles and responsibilities of effective boards and determine how internal and external factors contributed to Hull House's demise.

Learning Objectives

After reading and analyzing the case, students will be able to:

  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of nonprofit boards
  • Determine when the board is not performing its job and what the implications are for the organization
  • Evaluate ways in which the board might change in order to do a better job
  • Diagnose when external environmental factors threaten the security of a nonprofit and how the board itself might diagnose and work with such threats

Number of Pages: 17

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Non Profit

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Industry: Social Services

Organization Name: Jane Addams Hull House Association

Organization Size: Medium

Decision Maker Position: Chairman of the Board

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2012