Announcement Events Nonprofit Employment Data Project Staff update

Schar professors attended a White House Roundtable on Nonprofit Workforce and Data

By: Buzz McClain

Schar School professors Alan Abramson and Stefan Toepler attended a White House Roundtable on Nonprofit Workforce and Data last week.

The roundtable, which was organized by White House staff in collaboration with Independent Sector and the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, engaged participants in dialogue about the ongoing challenges facing the nonprofit workforce and the critical role that U.S. government plays in shaping and advancing policy interventions that are crucial to addressing the needs of the nonprofit workforce.

Professor Abramson

The roundtable touched on an important area of focus for the Schar School’s Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise, directed by Abramson. With support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the center is engaged in a major project, the George Mason University – Nonprofit Employment Data project, that analyzes federal nonprofit employment data and is developing a website to make this data available to the public and scholars in an easily accessible format. 

The project is also exploring other federal data sources that contain information about nonprofits which can be helpful to policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and scholars seeking to deepen their understanding of nonprofit activities.

For more information about recent Schar activities, check out this post by Buzz McClain.

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.”

Staff update

Center faculty discussed nonprofit management education at the NASPAA conference

Two George Mason faculty affiliated with the Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise, Prof. Stefan Toepler and Prof. Mirae Kim, participated in the 2023 Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) conference. The theme of the conference was “Impact, Growth, and Value: Conveying the Importance of Public Service Education.” Toepler and Kim drew from their expertise in nonprofit management education as they convened and participated in panels on the topic.

Toepler and Kim participated in a session titled,Nonprofit Management at the Core of Public Service Education.” In it, they explored how MPA programs have been implementing and expanding nonprofit education as a fundamental part of public service education. The panel discussed research trends in the field and examined the learning outcomes of experimental philanthropy courses and the results of a survey of MPA Programs on trends in incorporating nonprofit content in core curricula. Kim convened the session, and both Kim and Toepler participated in the discussion as panelists. 

Kim also participated as a panelist in the session titled, “Nonprofit Management Curriculum: Blending Academic Research with Practical Skills.” Many Public Affairs schools and departments house programs that serve both undergraduate and graduate students in public administration and public policy. Our goals are to serve students at all levels, in a reality of limited resources, high competition among programs, and a future demand for public servants. One way for Nonprofit Management classes to prepare students for work in the nonprofit sector is to design curriculums that emphasize both academic research and practical skills. This panel brought together representatives from universities with such programs to discuss their experiences, processes, and successes.

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.