Francie Ostrower, Ph.D.

Professor of Public Affairs and Fine Arts, Senior Fellow


Francie Ostrower, Ph.D. is Professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Department of Theatre and Dance, Director of the Portfolio Program in Arts and Cultural Management and Entrepreneurship, and Senior Fellow in the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. Prior to joining the University of Texas in 2008, she was Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. Prior to that, she was a sociology faculty member at Harvard University. Dr. Ostrower received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University, where she also served as Associate Director of the Program on Nonprofit Organizations. She has been a Visiting Professor at IAE de Paris/Sorbonne Graduate Business School and is an Urban Institute Affiliated Scholar.

Dr. Ostrower is currently Principal Investigator of Building Audiences for Sustainability Initiative: Research and Evaluation, a six-year study of audience-building activities commissioned and funded by The Wallace Foundation through a $3.5 million grant. The study seeks to understand how performing arts organizations can attract new audiences while retaining current ones, in a sustainable way, and whether audience building contributes to the organization’s financial health.

Dr. Ostrower is the author of books on Trustees of Culture and Why the Wealthy Give, which received awards from ARNOVA and Independent Sector, and co-author of Race, Ethnicity and Participation in the Arts. Among her articles and monographs are Attitudes and Practices Concerning Effective Philanthropy (recipient of Independent Sector's Virginia Hodgkinson Research Prize); Nonprofit Governance in the United States; The Reality Underneath the Buzz of Partnerships; The Diversity of Cultural Participation and a co-authored chapter on governance in The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook. Her research has been supported by numerous grants, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Aspen Institute.

Dr. Ostrower is a board member and past-President of the Association for Research on Voluntary and Nonprofit Action (ARNOVA) and in recent years has served on the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly board, the academic advisory committee of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and the National Endowment for the Arts 2012 SPPA Working Group.

In the News

The Austin Chronicle - 04/28/2017 The Threat to NEA Funding and Austin

Dr. Francie Ostrower weighs in on the proposal to cut funding for the NEA: "[T]he nature of the current attacks against the endowment set this assault apart from its predecessors. In the past, 'the debates over cutting were often dominated by controversies over what the NEA funds. This time around, arguments are being made that there is no rationale for government to fund the NEA at all.'" Read article.

The Wall Street Journal - 12/13/2015 City Takes Look at Diversity of Arts Groups

Dr. Francie Ostrower was consulted for her take on an upcoming New York City Department of Cultural Affairs report on diversity among the staffs, boards and audiences at cultural organizations that accept city funding. Read more.

Inside Philanthropy - 08/03/2015 Meet the Woman Who Will Track the Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability Initiative

This blog post looks at Dr. Francie Ostrower's $3.5M grant as part of the trend towards increased performance measurement by philanthropic organizations in the arts.

Texas Standard (KUT 90.5 FM) - 07/30/2015 Texas Researcher Gets $3.5M To Study How Arts Groups Attract Fans

Operas, ballet groups and theater companies are finding it’s getting harder to keep audiences engaged. David Brown at the Texas Standard interviewed Dr. Francie Ostrower to discuss her new study, funded by The Wallace Foundation, which aims to find out what works — and what doesn’t.

Alcalde - 07/27/2015 UT’s Francie Ostrower Snags $3.5 Million to Study Arts Engagement

Dr. Francie Ostrower spoke with the Alcalde about a $3.5M Wallace Foundation research grant she received as part of the foundation's Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative.

ArtDaily - 07/23/2015 Professor aims to expand art audiences with $3.5 million Wallace Foundation grant

The six-year study will examine efforts underway with 26 performing arts organizations — in dance, music, opera, theater and multidisciplinary performing arts — to implement strategies for engaging and sustaining new audiences while retaining existing ones. Read more >

Austin Business Journal - 07/22/2015 UT gets $3.5M grant to help Austin arts groups grow revenue

This article emphasizes the importance of Dr. Francie Ostrower's research given the budgetary issues faced by many Austin arts organizations.

Los Angeles Times - 09/14/2012 MOCA's board: Deep pockets aren't a cure-all

The wealthy group with five billionaires couldn't prevent the museum's budget from being cut or keep the forced resignation of Paul Schimmel from erupting in controversy. Read full article >

National Endowment for the Arts - 05/30/2012 For the First Time in its History, the National Endowment for the Arts Awards Grants for Arts Research

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded Francie Ostrower a grant through The University of Texas at Austin for her study: "Diversity on Cultural Boards: Implications for Organizational Value and Impact." Learn more >

Aspen Institute - 02/21/2012 Sunsetting: A Framework for Foundation Life As Well As Death

A new paper by Francie Ostrower discussing how sunsetting offers a distinct approach to philanthropy with certain benefits and characteristics. Download the paper >



05/12/2017 - Austin, TX

Looking Forward: Partnerships for Sustainable Impact
Central Texas Funders Forum – Collaboration for Community Impact sponsored by the Grant Professionals Association
Moderator: Dr. Ostrower; Panelists: Representatives from the Andy Roddick Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and the Mitte Foundation

06/24/2015 - Paris, France

Governance and Organizational Environments: Increasing Complexity, Changing Boundaries
Symposium: Governance of Associations and Democracy (convened by the IAE Paris Sorbonne Graduate Business School)
Fellow Presenters: Dr. Philippe Eynaud, Dr. Stéphanie Chatelain-Ponroy, Dr. Géraldine Schmidt, Dr. Samuel Sponem

04/24/2015 - Kansas City, Missouri

Close Cousins or Distant Relatives? Critical Questions and an Empirical Agenda for Researching Governance in Hybrid Organizations
2015 Nonprofit Governance Conference (convened by the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership and the Nonprofit Quarterly; co-sponsored by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management and the Governance Section of ARNOVA)
Co-presenter: Dr. Melissa Stone

09/18/2014 - Austin, TX

Scholarship and Research-Based Practice; What is the Connection? Moderator for special session sponsored by the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) at the 2014 national conference of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management.

07/27/2014 - Montreal, Canada

"Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Boards" -  Panel presentation (Economy and Culture) at the 18th International Conference of the Association for Cultural Economics International (ACEI).

04/10/2014 - Bloomington, Indiana

"Diversity on Cultural Boards" - Invited talk at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University at Bloomington.

07/14/2013 - Liege, Belgium

Presentation (with Melissa Stone). “Governing Boards and Organizational Environments: Growing Complexities, Shifting Frameworks” - 4th EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise, University of Liege.

02/07/2013 - New York, NY

Panelist. “The Fundamental Role of States in Governance Issues” - 2013 Charities Regulation Policy Conference, Columbia Law School, Columbia University.

11/15/2012 - Indianapolis, IN

“Diversity in Nonprofit Cultural Organizations” - Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) annual conference.

09/22/2011 - Atlanta, Georgia

Presented on "Nonprofit Boards: What a National Survey Tells Us," at the BoardSource Leadership Forum.

04/14/2011 - Los Angeles, CA

“Foundation Sunset as a Philanthropic Strategy" - University of Southern California, Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy, School of Policy, Planning and Development.

04/08/2011 - College Station, TX

“Nonprofit Boards: What Do We Know and How Can it Help?” - Opening plenary presentation at the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government & Public Service Nonprofit Management Forum.

12/02/2010 - Washington, DC

Spoke at "Foundation Spend Down: Strategies, Lessons and Options," co-sponsored by Aspen Institute, Philanthropy Roundtable, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.