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Arrangements to certify that an organization's management systems meet standards of good practice are an increasingly prominent feature in the environment of public and private nonprofits. This paper reports an exploratory study of the issues that this phenomenon presents to managers and policy makers, drawing on the limited literature, and five case studies covering two different schemes. The main conclusions are that nonprofits can and do use these awards in very different ways, and hence the outcomes are diverse. These findings run counter both to the rational system assumptions on which such arrangements are based, and to the general thrust of institutional theory with its emphasis on isomorphism. Some implications for decision makers and future research are outlined.