Ongoing Research


RGK Center Director Dr. David Springer currently serves as the Principal Investigator of Restore Rundberg, a three-year, $1 million grant from the Department of Justice to improve the quality of life, health, safety, education, and well-being of individuals living and working in the Rundberg neighborhood of Austin.  As the research partner to the Initiative, UT's role is to complete criminal justice-related assessment and evaluation and research projects that will advance public safety and inform the public engagement process.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bryne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, selected Austin as one of 15 cities nationwide to receive federal funding in an effort to address issues of neighborhood crime and distress. The Bryne funding, part of the Obama administration’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, was awarded to the Austin Police Department to support community-based planning efforts to reduce crime in the Rundberg area of North Austin. The overall goals of the effort are to use data-driven research in developing creative solutions to crime reduction and comprehensive strategies for community capacity building. Learn more here

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS: Diversity on Cultural Boards

Dr. Francie Ostrower was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for her study “Diversity on Cultural Boards: Implications for Organizational Value and Impact” as part of the NEA’s inaugural initiative to award arts research grants. The study is examining current levels of diversity among arts boards and audiences and factors associated with fostering or inhibiting greater board and audience diversity. This study is analyzing the Urban Institute's National Survey of Nonprofit Governance, a dataset of 476 arts, culture, and humanities organizations, as well as 4,639 nonprofit organizations in other fields of activity, thus allowing for comparative analysis. Arts organizations and their supporters increasingly have expressed a commitment to greater diversity. This study will provide arts organizations, funders, and policymakers with information to help them assess and improve strategies for achieving that goal.

The grant was one of 15 research grants awarded by NEA for studies using existing, high-quality datasets to examine novel and significant research questions about the value and impact of the arts in the U.S. To access her working paper, go here. For more information, see

The Community engagement index (CEI)

The Community Engagement Index (CEI) is a tool designed by RGK Interim Director Dr. Sarah Jane Rehnborg and Faculty Fellow Dr. Dennis Poole to assess a nonprofit organization’s capacity and success in engaging community resources and volunteers in its mission. A statistically reliable and valid survey instrument based on extensive research and stakeholder feedback, the CEI evolved from a national quality assessment research project funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service. In a recent study, Rehnborg and Poole (2011) identified nonprofit community engagement capacity as an overarching enabling factor contributing to multiple dimensions of organizational performance effectiveness. Further, emerging research by Rehnborg and Poole indicates that higher levels of community engagement capacity are linked to financial sustainability.

Cultural Infrastructure Project

In collaboration with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Director Peter Frumkin is embarking on a study of the recent building boom in the cultural sector. The project is funded by the Mellon, MacArthur, and Kresge foundations and seeks to examine how key decisions are made during the planning and execution of new constructions of museums, theaters, and performing arts centers as well as what factors influence the projects' degree of success. Frumkin and his team will produce management case studies suitable for executive education and graduate courses in arts management.


One of the distinguishing features of the nonprofit sector is the engagement of volunteers in all aspects of organizational work. Volunteers perform important policy work through their participation on boards of directors, they advocate for causes of significance, sit on planning and visioning committees and donate countless hours of direct and indirect support to clients and causes. Furthering the effective engagement of volunteers through high quality management is an educational, research and outreach priority for the RGK Center. Learn more > strives to provide volunteers and the leaders of volunteer initiatives with high-quality information that furthers the study and practice of volunteerism. The site is operated by the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Content is developed by Center faculty, guest authors, and students engaged in the study of volunteerism.