Little work has been done to understand the origins of human service interest groups or how they maintain themselves once founded. This paper tests three models of interest group origins and maintenance: a pluralist approach in which groups form and con tinue because they protect members' interests; a rational actor model in which groups form and are maintained because they offer members "prizes" that are more valuable than the costs of joining; and a patronage model in which groups form and continue because financial backers are willing to support them financially. Results show support for the "protection" and "patrons" models for the 127 Washington D.C. based advocacy organizations surveyed.

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