The Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise and the Nonprofit Policy Forum host events, including webinars, training, public education, and initiatives that engage those who care about nonprofits and their activities.

Recent Activities:

Events Blog:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Schar’s MPA program and Nonprofit Center hosted a screening and discussion of “Uncharitable”

    The Schar School’s MPA Movie Night, hosted by the Schar School MPA program along with the Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise, took place on February 22nd at George Mason University’s Mason Square/Arlington campus. Faculty, students, and community members were invited to watch and discuss “Uncharitable,” a movie featuring Dan Pallotta of Ted Talk fame. The evening began with a screening of the documentary, followed by a stimulating discussion led by adjunct faculty member Cliff Yee, who is also an MPA Advisory Board member, and MPA faculty members Mirae Kim, Stefan Toepler, and Alan Abramson. This discussion explored several themes from the movie, including reframing the idea of “overhead,” questioning nonprofit compensation, and challenging conventional wisdom about philanthropy. Attendees, including MPA students, alumni, and local nonprofit leaders, exchanged perspectives and debated the movie’s implications in a thought-provoking and engaging event.

    The documentary sparked a good discussion about norms and unspoken conventions that often steer nonprofit practices. One of the local leaders in attendance was Jorge E. Figueredo, Executive Director of Edu-Futuro, who has over 24 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Figueredo agreed with many of the movie’s themes and explained, “Nonprofit practices are outdated and need to be rethought. I welcome and encourage spaces, like the one created during this showing, to go deeper into rewriting the rules and changing the paradigms.” Although not all attendees came to the same conclusion regarding the film’s assertions, attendees appreciated the chance to take a step back and assess how nonprofits operate and how their funders and others can better engage with them. The event also encouraged critical thinking among nonprofit stakeholders, highlighting the university’s commitment to providing enriching opportunities for open dialogue and exploration, both for students and the nonprofit community.

    “As a nonprofit practitioner, while I felt validated watching the documentary, I have a strong hope that we will be able to spread the word about the untapped potential that exists when nonprofits are given a bit more latitude to fulfill their missions.”
    Roopal Mehta Saran
    Executive Director, English Empowerment Center
    “If you are passionate about a particular cause that is supported by nonprofits, watching “Uncharitable” should provide valuable insights into the realities of how these organizations operate and whether there are more effective ways to make a positive impact.”
    Shannon Steene
    Executive Director of Carpenter’s Shelter
    “I welcome and encourage spaces, like the one created during this showing, to go deeper into rewriting the rules and changing the paradigms. To tackle serious issues and change the world, these organizations must be allowed to acquire the tools and use the methods that are most effective.”
    Jorge E. Figueredo
    Executive Director, Edu-Futuro

    For updates about the center and to learn more about events like this, sign up for the Center’s newsletter here:

    * indicates required

  • 2023 Community Partnership Forum convenes regional leaders to discuss workplace culture

    On May 2, the 15th annual Community Partnership Forum brought together government, business, and nonprofit leaders from Northern Virginia and nearby areas to discuss the importance of workplace culture for hiring and maintaining a talented workforce and ensuring high organizational performance. The discussion was kicked off by Mark Schwartz, the County Manager for Arlington County, who described the ways the COVID-19 pandemic changed the nature of work for county employees and continues to present new challenges as the county seeks to find a balance between providing flexibility for its employees to work remotely while also giving them opportunities to feel connected.

    Glenn Davidson and Emily Omrod from Deloitte Consulting LCC explained that Arlington County is not alone in seeking to strike this balance. In the first plenary session of the forum, they presented key workforce trends and action steps leaders can take to tackle the new challenges that are arising. Based on workforce surveys and data from across the globe, Davidson and Omrod indicated that workers are feeling exhausted and are resigning and moving locations at high rates. For example, they presented data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that showed that more than 3 million fewer Americans are participating in the labor force in May 2023 compared to February 2020. These trends show up in the difficulty many organizations have in attracting and maintaining employees. In this context, Davidson and Omrod advocated for humanizing work, which might involve helping employees develop their human skills (e.g., empathy, curiosity), and focusing on “micro-credentials” rather than full academic degrees as prerequisites for jobs where appropriate. To conclude their remarks, they also urged organizational leaders to actively build trust, create purpose for their employees, creatively orchestrate work environments, advocate for work-life balance, and facilitate connections.

    Download Slides from the 2023 Community Partnership Forum Here:

    The forum continued with a panel of leaders from the government, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. Jeff T.H. Pon, 11th Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, facilitated the discussion. He asked panelists about the approaches they used to build and maintain workplace culture as the COVID-19 pandemic changed the nature of work. As Sharon Camper (Chief People Officer, Apple Federal Credit Union), Kerrie Wilson (Chief Executive Officer, Cornerstones), and Cathy Schafrik (Director, Human Resources, Fairfax County Government) spoke about their experiences, it became clear that what works for one organization may not work for others. Yet, a common thread across sectors was the importance of listening to the needs of employees and meaningfully connecting the day-to-day work of employees to the mission or impact of the organization. Examples of specific strategies the panelists used in their organizations included: providing additional compensation to workers whose job requires in-person work; making sure technology is not an additional stressor but helpful; and investing time and resources in activities that employees enjoy and will provide opportunities for connection. The bottom line is that building culture takes intentionality, but having an energized, committed workforce makes culture-building worth the investment. 

    The closing keynote was presented by Olivia (Mandy) O’Neill, Associate Professor of Management in the School of Business at George Mason University. She focused on how organizations choose and communicate key values. She engaged the audience by showing several graphics about the organizational values of different companies and asked members of the forum audience how many of the same values (e.g., commitment, excellence, customer-focused, respect) appear in culture statements where they work. A count of raised hands indicated that many organizations, across sectors and with a broad range of goals, tend to use a limited set of terms to describe their culture. She then made the case that not all organizations can be all things, and by not being more strategic and focused in their choice of values, organizations make culture goals easy to ignore. O’Neill suggested that organizations should move to a greater focus on emotional culture, and urged leaders to take stock of how their employees feel and how the leaders want them to feel at work. For example, she explained that many people describe feeling stressed or anxious at work, and that it would help organizations to consider ways to help employees feel appreciated or experience awe. She concluded with several suggestions:

    • Understand how employees view the strengths and weaknesses of their workplace and choose leaders who will cultivate cultures that build on strengths and will engage employees to collaborate in tackling weaknesses.
    • Beware of unintentional consequences. High engagement and strong work relationships can be great for workplace culture but may also lead to burnout and inability to disconnect. Leaders should be aware of these possibilities and take steps to avoid them.
    • Take stock of observable and unobservable indicators of culture, from facial expressions and jargon to the beliefs and assumptions held by employees about their work. These indicators can help leaders assess their organizational culture and lead to adjustments that build stronger workplaces.

    In addition to the formal presentations, leaders from across the region had opportunities during the forum to network and deepen cross-sector relationships. Participants were also able to engage with sponsors and learn more about their work.

    The Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise thanks all those who made this event possible, especially our co-hosts and sponsors!

    Forum Hosts:

    Forum Sponsors:

  • ‘Reimagining’ Nonprofits: It’s Time to Bring Equity and Justice to Philanthropy

    This summary is reposted from the Schar School of Policy and Government’s Latest News page.

    Nonprofit scholar Angela M. Eikenberry, second from left, is flanked by the professors at the Schar School’s Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise. From left, Alan Abramson, Mirae Kim, and Stefan Toepler. Photo by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

    “What if our nonprofit organizations and our research brought about emancipation, transformation, equity, and justice? What if our nonprofit organization workplaces brought out the best in us? What if our research supported these goals?”  

    Those were the questions asked earlier this month by Angela M. Eikenberry, a professor at the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska Omaha and a past president of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), which advances the field of nonprofit and philanthropic research by providing a forum for scholars, educators, and practitioners.

    Eikenberry was the guest of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and its Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise. Her April 10 talk at Mason’s Mason Square campus invited listeners to “reimagine” the way the nonprofit sector and philanthropy could operate.

    The following are highlights from the presentation, Reveal, Repair, and (Re)Imagine: Reframing Philanthropy Theory and Practice:

    • Eikenberry pointed out the need for nonprofit and foundation leaders and scholars to examine current philanthropic systems and view them through a critical lens. Pulling on nonprofit scholarship, such as research by Bowling Green State University scholar Abhishek Bhati, Eikenberry explored the ways philanthropy has perpetuated histories of colonialism, paternalism, and other systems of oppression—pointing to the need for continued research into the intended or unintended consequences of current philanthropic structures.
    • Eikenberry explored ways philanthropy and nonprofit scholars can work to change systems and repair damages caused by current systems of power. She pointed to organizations doing this work, including the U.K.’s grant-making Edge Fund that seeks to end imbalances of wealth and power by rethinking grant-making systems.
    • Eikenberry ended by encouraging participants to ask big, bold “what if” questions that go beyond current philanthropic practices and to re-imagine the role nonprofit researchers can play to develop the kinds of systems and structures needed to get there.

    For more information about the Schar School’s highly ranked nonprofit studies, see this site.

  • NPF’s first webinar discussed nonprofit get-out-the-vote (GOTV) initiatives.

    The Nonprofit Policy Forum (NPF) hosted its first webinar on October 4th, featuring a timely discussion of nonprofit get-out-the-vote (GOTV) initiatives. The webinar included an excellent panel of researchers and nonprofit leaders who brought a wealth of knowledge and insights to the conversation.  

    The panel was anchored by Kelly LeRoux, Julie Langer, and Samantha Plotner, who discussed their article “Nonprofit Messaging and the 2020 Election: Findings from a Nonpartisan Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) Field Experiment,” which was recently published in NPF. They explained that the most important takeaway from the study was that nonprofit GOTV activities impacted voting patterns. When nonprofits engage in this work, they help remedy the participation gap and promote higher turnout among under-represented voters. 

    Brian Miller, from Nonprofit VOTE, then discussed additional research that complements the findings of LeRoux, Langer, and Plotner. He provided insights on the scale of nonprofits involved in nonpartisan voter engagement activities, explaining that roughly 1 in 5 nonprofits are doing this work. He ended by discussing how nonprofits can align GOTV activities with their mission. He shared links to the following reports that provide more information on these topics: 

    Vivian Zhang, from the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), then rounded out the conversation by discussing the work she and her colleagues do to ensure Chinese American communities in Chicago have the tools and knowledge they need to be informed, engaged voters.  

    The Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise and NPF thank all the panelists for sharing their insights and providing a rich conversation that connected research and practice!  

  • The 2022 Community Partnership Forum discussed the new world of work.
    The content of this program will help all of us navigate a changing environment and assure that we have our own houses in order to meet the challenges ahead.” ~ Steve Mutty, CEO of Volunteer Fairfax

    The 14th annual Community Partnership Forum was held on Wednesday, June 8 virtually and at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus. This event brought together nonprofit, business, and government leaders from across the Washington metro area. These explored issues related to the new world of work, with its changing workforce and workplace landscape. The forum was hosted by Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government along with its regional partners:  Greater McLean Chamber of CommerceUnited Way of the National Capital Area, and Leadership Fairfax. Other collaborators included Britepaths, Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Family Service, The Arc of Northern Virginia, and Volunteer Fairfax.

    Speakers at the 14th annual forum included:

    • Andrea Bunch, Vice President, Human Resources, JK Moving Services
    • Jacqueline Dendievel, Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Northern Virginia Family Service
    • Ian Gordon, Vice President, Community Impact & Engagement, United Way of the National Capital Area
    • Jonathan Griffith, Managing Director, Capital One Center
    • Rodney L. Lusk, Fairfax County Supervisor – Lee District
    • Daniel Olberding, Associate Vice President, CannonDesign
    • Kimberly Scales, Senior Consultant, Deloitte (Future of Work)
    • Tony Womack, Executive Vice President, Transwestern

    For those interested in accessing this informative session, we are happy to provide the slides and recording from the forum. We hope these resources will help organizations, large or small, make informed decisions about post-pandemic workplaces!

2021 Community Partnership Forum

Webinar on Social Enterprise
June 30, 2021:  12:30 – 1:30 pm ET
Free event, via Zoom

The topic for our June 30 webinar is:  “Pursuing Social Purpose and Profit:  How Social Enterprises Already Benefit Our Region – And How They Can Do More.”  Our expert panelists will discuss how hybrid, double-bottom-line social enterprises that seek to both “do good” and “make money” are enhancing our region, and what we can do to support their further development.  We will hear from a local social entrepreneur, an expert on the law regarding social enterprise, and an international advocate for this new class of “for-benefit organizations” that mix social purpose and profit.  Come learn about what the emerging fourth sector may mean for you, your organization, and the quality of life in the DMV and our country, and how we can work together to advance this important movement.

Webinar on Regional Economic Development in the Post-COVID Era
June 17, 2021:  11:00 am – Noon ET
Free event, via Zoom
Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President Victor Hoskins will focus on how regional collaboration through the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance became essential during the COVID-19 pandemic and how collaboration throughout the Washington area is necessary to stimulate economic opportunity in every part of the region in order to compete with other global mega-regions.

Webinar on Activating Leaders and Organizations to Accelerate Equity
May 12, 2021:  12:30 – 1:30 pm ET
Free event, via Zoom
Many of us envision an equitable and just society – free of systemic oppression and where all people thrive.  The question that most of us ask is how do we achieve this?  Join us to learn more about ProInspire’s leadership framework and tool to support individuals and organizations in identifying how their practices can create and sustain race equity experience and outcomes.  You will hear how several leaders here in the DMV, including Rachael Gibson (Marcum LLP), Monisha Kaplila (ProInspire), and Roopal Mehta Saran (Literacy Council of Northern Virginia) are leading individuals and organizations to advance and accelerate race equity.

Webinar on a Democratic Economy
March 22, 2021:  12:30 – 1:30 pm ET
Free event, via Zoom
How can we hit the reset button after the pandemic and build back a stronger, more equitable nation and DMV region?  Please join authors Marjorie Kelly and Ted Howard from the Democracy Collaborative for a discussion of their new book, The Making of a Democratic Economy, that offers a compelling vision for a just and sustainable future which reflects our democratic ideals.

Join Our Mailing List!

Sign up for information about the Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise at George Mason University.

* indicates required