Events Research

Regional Nonprofit Scholars Gather at the Schar School

The DMV Nonprofit Research Day, hosted by the Schar School’s MPA program and the Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise, took place on April 5th at George Mason University’s Mason Square/Arlington campus. The event attracted many nonprofit scholars from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region, including well-known researchers Khaldoun AbouAssi (American University), Angela Bies (University of Maryland), Luisa Boyarski (Georgetown Unievrsity), Nathan Dietz (University of Maryland), Lewis Faulk (American University), Jasmine Johnson (George Washington University), , John Ronquillo (University of Maryland), Steven Rathgeb Smith (American Political Science Association and Georgetown University), Joannie Tremblay-Boire (University of Maryland), and Mary Tschirhart (George Washington University). Doctoral students from American University, George Mason University, and James Madison University also joined the meeting. The event was hosted by Schar School nonprofit faculty Mirae Kim, Stefan Toepler, and Alan Abramson.

The day began with networking over coffee, followed by a presentation by Mirae Kim and Joannie Tremblay-Boire discussing how changes in a nonprofit’s mission can be adaptive or concerning. The results from a survey administered by the Nonprofit Organization Research Panel, housed at George Mason, ignited an intense discussion among the attendees, providing constructive feedback for the presenters. Nathan Dietz delivered the second morning presentation, focusing on social connectedness and generosity. His talk spurred dialogue on the decline of volunteering in the US and the factors driving greater volunteerism in poorer neighborhoods, among other topics.

Boxed lunches were provided, allowing participants to choose any spot on campus for their meal. However, as Joannie Tremblay-Boire noted, most chose to remain in the meeting room to continue their discussions, emphasizing the value of the “company” over the “location,” and expressing her own enjoyment in engaging with fellow nonprofit researchers.

The afternoon sessions were packed with three presentations, starting with Kathryn Grossman (American University) and Khaldoun AbouAssi, who discussed trust between local government and nonprofit collaborators. Stefan Toepler then explored trends in nonprofit research topics, prompting a debate on whether the growth of nonprofit research in Public Administration journals has shifted the focus of the field. This discussion led to broader considerations of the interdisciplinary nature of nonprofit research and the optimal development path for the nonprofit research field. The event concluded with a presentation by Lewis Faulk on “Nonprofit Advocacy and Lobbying: A Call for Clarification and Action,” co-authored with Mirae Kim and others. The session sparked a lively debate on the evolving role of nonprofits in public policy and the importance of legal knowledge among nonprofit leaders.

In a concluding discussion, meeting participants expressed strong interest in continuing this regional meeting, perhaps convening once a semester at different local universities.

Research Staff update

Center scholars led discussions and panels, and presented their work at the ARNOVA conference

As explained on their website, “The ARNOVA conference is designed to create a public conversation on, as well as opportunities for presenting research about, pressing issues and vital opportunities facing the voluntary or nonprofit sector. It is both a showcase for the best and most current research, as well as a seed bed from which new research is born.” Center leaders, Professors Alan Abramson, Marae Kim, and Stefan Toepler attended the 2023 conference from November 16 to 18 in Orlando, Florida. They were also joined by Schar School PhD student Sonali Chowdhary. These George Mason scholars led discussions and panels, and presented their work throughout the conference. Their contributions are listed below. The center also hosted a reception that celebrated ARNOVA and the growing nonprofit research field.

Special Dialogue Sessions: 

Session Title: The Generosity Commission:  A National Research and Dialogue Initiative to Support Giving and Volunteering

Professor Alan Abramson moderated the session and Professor Mirae Kim participated in the discussion as one of the panelists. 

Session Title: GITA Roundtable

Professor Stefan Toepler participated in a roundtable discussion commemorating The Global Issues and Transnational Actors Interest Group’s 10th anniversary this year. The roundtable reviewed the evolution of internationally focused research over the past ten years and looked forward to future trends. 

Session Title: Editors’ Panel: An Overview of Nonprofit Journals and a Conversation with the Editors

Professors Alan Abramson and Stefan Toepler participated in the conversation with the Editors. 

George Mason sponsored reception

The reception celebrated ARNOVA and our growing nonprofit research field. We highlighted two initiatives of our Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise: the launch of a new project on federal nonprofit employment data and Nonprofit Policy Forum (NPF), an open access journal, with impact factor of 1.6, hosted at George Mason. The reception included food and drinks and provided an opportunity for conference attendees to connect with one another and learn more about Mason’s nonprofit projects.  

Professors Alan Abramson, Stefan Toepler, and Mirae Kim answered questions about activities at Mason. 

Regular Research Panel Sessions:

Session Title: Chinese Nonprofits in Global Perspectives

Professor Stefan Toepler presented his paper, “Chinese Government/Foundation Relationships in Global Perspective,” with Dr. Qun Wang from the University of Toledo

Session Title: Funding flows and nonprofit advocacy

Professor Mirae Kim presented her paper, “Who Funds Nonprofit Advocacy Activities? Findings from National Survey,” with Dr. Heather MacIndoe at UMass Boston and Dr. Lewis Faulk at American University

Session Title: Nonprofits Strategic Decisions Under Uncertainty

Professor Mirae Kim presented her paper, “A Shock to the System: Strategic Decisions that Organizations Make during Periods of Uncertainty,” with Dr. Dyana Mason, University of Oregon

Session Title: Changes in Policy Environments and Nonprofit Advocacy

Professor Mirae Kim presented her paper, “U.S. Nonprofit Political and Civic Engagement in a Red, Blue, and Purple World” with Dr. Heather MacIndoe at UMass Boston and Dr. Lewis Faulk at American University

Session Title: Performance of Inter-Sectoral Collaborative Networks

Professor Alan Abramson presented his collaborative paper – with former MPA student Celina Pierrottet and current PhD student Kristina Podesta – “Nonprofits as Partners in Implementing Government Programs:  A Cross-Sector Comparison.”

Session Title: Analyses and Critiques of Nonprofit Studies and History

Professor Stefan Toepler presented his and Professor Jessica Terman’s paper, “Hostile Takeover or Sweet Surrender? Nonprofit Studies and its Embrace by Public Administration.”

Session Title: Policy Support for Social Enterprise

PhD student Sonali Chowdhary presented her paper, “Public Policy for Social Enterprise Beyond Legal Forms:  What the U.S. Can Learn from Abroad.”

Announcement Research

Chowdhary reflects on the EMES Social Enterprise Research Conference, in Frankfort Germany

Sonali Chowdhary is a Public Policy PhD student in the
Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University

I was very pleased to join Professor Alan Abramson in presenting our paper, “What Social Enterprise Policy Lessons Can the US Learn from Other Countries: A Proposed Policy Framework for Social Enterprise in the US,” at the 9th EMES Social Enterprise Research Conference in Frankfurt, Germany in September. The conference theme, “Act locally, change globally: Social enterprises for more resilient economies and societies,” underscores the potential of hybrid, double-bottom-line social enterprises to make a significant positive impact in both smaller communities and broader societies, and the need for robust research about these entities.


During the four-day conference, Prof. Abramson and I engaged in numerous stimulating workshops, plenaries, networking sessions, and field visits. These activities provided us important insights into the latest developments in social enterprise activities and policies worldwide. What made the conference particularly enriching was the chance to gain insights from the perspectives of various thought leaders, researchers, practitioners, and policy makers. For example, plenary sessions featured important leaders in the social enterprise field like Sven Giegold, Secretary of State to the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action in Germany; Sarah de Heusch, Director of Social Economy of the European Union; Giulio Pasi, Scientific Officer at the European Commission, who is working on the relationships between public policy and new markets; and Ilcheong Yi, Senior Research Coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).

It was especially interesting for me and other conference attendees to hear about the new German policy on social innovation from the German Secretary and about the EU strategy on social economy. The thought-provoking discussions and plenaries that featured dialogues between policy makers, eminent scholars, and social entrepreneurs influenced the perspectives of emerging scholars like myself.

One of the conference field visits took conference participants to the Struwwelpeter Museum, a social enterprise in Frankfurt, that recruited its workforce from hard to employ communities. The visit was a great opportunity to talk to the head of the Museum about its business model, which was based on revenue generated from both fees and government support such as social security and VAT exemptions for the enterprise.

I am very grateful to support from the Schar School’s Schar Initiative and its Center for Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise for providing me this invaluable conference opportunity.

For more information see:

Research Staff update

A new study by Dr. Kim and Dr. Mason explores how nonprofits adapted during COVID-19

This week, center researcher, Dr. Mirae Kim, and her coauthor, Dr. Dyana P. Mason, released a white paper entitled “A Shock to the Status Quo: Characteristics of Nonprofits That Make Strategic Decisions During a Crisis.” The study was prepared for Independent Sector, where Dr. Kim is a visiting scholar. The summary below was originally published on Independent Sector’s website, along with the full report.


How did nonprofits change because of COVID-19?


Authored by Dr. Mirae Kim (George Mason University), Independent Sector visiting scholar, and co-author Dr. Dyana P. Mason (University of Oregon)

Over the past three years, the nonprofit sector has undergone a profound change. A new study, spanning 2020 to 2023, examines the changes nonprofits made in response to COVID-19 and looks at the characteristics of the most adaptive nonprofits. 

The study, “A Shock to the Status Quo: Characteristics of Nonprofits that Make Strategic Decisions During a Crisis,” finds that the nonprofit sector displayed resilience and adaptation and provides a roadmap for nonprofit success during uncertainty. 

Many nonprofits recovered rapidly after 2020 and have implemented long-lasting changes since. Sixty percent of nonprofits have engaged in a strategic planning process since the pandemic, and 44% have added new online programs. 

Government partnerships during the crisis were crucial, as they influenced nonprofits’ growth or retrenchment. Volatility of government funding led to shifts in strategies. Nonprofits with changed government funding, whether increased or decreased, reported higher percentages of new programming. 

While not surprising, the study also shows that greater challenges bring more changes to nonprofits – even though some changes may not be positive, such as reducing workforce size or cutting programs. 

This study underscores the crucial role of government-nonprofit partnerships, adaptable leadership, and proactive planning for changes during a crisis. It provides a roadmap that nonprofit leaders can use to navigate ambiguity, embrace change, and forge a sustainable path toward growth and impact.

Announcement Research Staff update

Center leaders celebrate 50 years of ARNOVA and NVSQ with contributions to a NVSQ special issue

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ), and its host association, ARNOVA, celebrated its 50th anniversary the year before. To celebrate these anniversaries, ARNOVA and NVSQ published a special issue of the journal, with the goal of assessing the state of research and future directions for the nonprofit, philanthropy, and civil society fields. Center leaders, Alan Abramson and Stefan Toepler, each contributed to the special issue, with Abramson and his colleagues looking back at the history of ARNOVA and Toepler and his colleagues looking ahead to new ways of analyzing relations between nonprofits and governments. The abstracts and links to these works can be found below.

A History of ARNOVA at Fifty

By Brenda K. Bushouse, Gregory R. Witkowski, and Alan J. Abramson

Abstract: To mark the 50th anniversary of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), this article reviews the association’s history, from its 1971 founding by a small group of scholars interested in voluntary action to the current association of more than 1,000 members who study a broad range of nonprofit, civil society, voluntary action, and philanthropic topics. To inform the history, we recorded oral histories and reviewed the ARNOVA collection of historical records at the Ruth Lilly Archives and internal files provided by ARNOVA. Our article is divided into three important junctures of change: 1971–1989, the founding period; 1990–2006, the golden era of philanthropic support; and 2007–2020, a maturing field and strategic directions. Through our analysis, we identify recurring themes and tensions and how ARNOVA navigated through a changing environment and growing field. We conclude the article with forward-looking questions.

Beyond the Partnership Paradigm: Toward an Extended Typology of Government/Nonprofit Relationship Patterns

By Stefan Toepler, Annette Zimmer, Katja Levy, and Christian Fröhlich

Abstract: This article takes a fresh look at nonprofit/government relations in the context of both the partnership literature on collaboration and the closing space literature on repression. Following the Weberian ideal-type approach, we develop a heuristic tool for nuanced analyses of relations between the sectors in comparative research that is applicable in diverse political regime settings. We integrate foundational conceptions of Salamon, Young, and Najam to develop our framework, which we then illustrate with the cases of Russia and China. While repression is not necessarily the predominant characteristic of nonprofit–government relations in authoritarian regime settings, the reduction of intersectoral relations to collaboration strategies common in Western contexts also falls short of capturing the full complexity of the relationship. Rather than trying to establish national patterns, researchers need to remain sensitive to the coexistence of multiple government/nonprofit relationship types, affecting various parts of the nonprofit sector differently.