Past Research & Scholarly Activity

AmeriCorp Texas Statewide Evaluation

The goal of the evaluation is to analyze the value added of AmeriCorps State and National programs to Texas and to assess the organizational and management structures most commonly associated with successful, value-adding programs. The evaluation will help to describe the impact that AmeriCorps programs have on their communities, as well as demonstrate why some programs produce more benefits than others. The project is funded by the OneStar Foundation. Results from the evaluation will improve the ability of OneStar and their AmeriCorps grantees to understand program impact, as well as assist them to better achieve their program objectives.

A Report on the Demographic Changes and Changing Needs of Fort Bend County

In the spring and summer of 2011, the George Foundation engaged Professor Peter Frumkin to conduct a comprehensive update to his 2006 needs assessment of Fort Bend County. The purpose of the update is to identify areas of changing, addressed, and newly arising need in light of the many changes that have taken place in the county since the past assessment, including changes in the financial situation, service provision, and in particular, demographics as revealed by new data coming out of the 2010 Census.

Mapping Climate Change and Security in North Africa

Authors: Joshua Busby, Kaiba White, Todd Smith

North Africa is a strategically important region for Europe largely because of its proximity, with the broader transatlantic policy community exercising particular concern where Africa’s problems spillover. This study aims to reach a better understanding of how climate change and physical sources of vulnerability to natural hazards might intersect with North Africa’s various demographic, social, and political sources of weakness.

Download the paper here.

China and Climate Change: A Strategy for U.S. Engagement

In this report, Joshua Busby aims to provide strategic guidance to U.S. policymakers on engaging China on climate change. In the first section, Busby sets the context by discussing China’s energy use, emissions, and future projections, including potential emissions reductions and trajectories under different policies. In section two, he reviews China’s recent policies to address climate change and energy conservation. Busby focuses on the status of implementation of its energy-efficiency goals under its 11th Five Year Plan. He also anticipates future developments in Chinese energy and climate policy. Finally, in section three, Busby proposes a strategy for U.S. engagement of China on climate change.

Download the report.

Move Over, 5%, and Let Mission Drive

Many donors to private foundations focus on the tax benefits and logistical questions involved in setting them up and don’t pay as much attention to the larger question of their missions. Of particular influence is the IRS requirement that foundations distribute 5% of their net assets to charity each year. Set by Congress, this arbitrary number dictates the spending policies and corresponding investment strategy of most foundations. However, donors may increase the likelihood of the success of their foundation by defining their mission separately from tax law, creating spend policies that correspond with those missions while meeting the minimum distribution requirement and, finally, setting investment strategies that are appropriate for those policies.

Download the white paper here.

mindPOP Roadmap: Painting the Arts Education Landscape of Austin (PRP 2009/2010)

The mindPOP Roadmap Policy Research Project (PRP) at the LBJ School at UT Austin was organized to support a community effort to address arts education inequities. Whether local, state, national or global, the task of taking a pulse of a community issue is complex. The PRP team embraced the challenge. What follows is a report summarizing the project and providing baseline information for mindPOP’s future endeavors.

Serving Country and Community Who Benefits from National Service?

by Peter Frumkin and JoAnn Jastrzab

The United States has a long history of citizens rendering service to their communities. Examples of government-sponsored voluntary service organizations include the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Peace Corps, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). During the Clinton administration, the national service movement was advanced by the establishment of AmeriCorps, a large-scale national service program designed to place young people in community service positions across the country. More recently, the Obama administration has set in motion a major program expansion of AmeriCorps over the coming decade.

Many decades, billions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers after the creation of the first national service programs, it remains unclear who benefits from service, under what conditions these programs work best, and how exactly these service efforts contribute to the strengthening of communities. Serving Country and Community answers each of these questions through an in-depth study of how service shapes the lives of young people and a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of these programs. Based on years of field work and data collection, Serving Country and Community provides an in-depth examination of the aims and effects of national service and, in the process, opens up a conversation about what works and what needs reform in national service today.

Environmental Scan of Volunteerism

The RGK Center in collaboration with the Texas Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service is conducting a study of the level and extent of volunteerism in the state to determine ways in which the Commission could better support volunteerism. In the initial phase of the project, the RGK Center conducted an environmental scan of 49 different groups to discern the type of data currently collected about volunteerism, who collects this data, and the type of data or information that the field perceives that it needs to effectively engage volunteers in service endeavors. In addition, the RGK Center also solicited feedback on the work of the Commission. The next phase will be determined based in part on the scan's findings.

Investing in Volunteerism

Over the Spring and Summer of 2002, the RGK Center developed, distributed, and compiled surveys from Texas state agencies about their community engagement and volunteer initiatives. Investing in Volunteerism describes 33 programs at 18 state agencies across all sectors of state government. The survey results, combined with extensive research on volunteerism, demonstrate the profound effect that volunteers are having on the State of Texas' public sector. The survey counted more than 218,000 Texans volunteered more than 2.7 million hours for state government and raised or donated more than $7 million.

Volunteerism and Youth: Survey of Student Volunteerism at The University of Texas

About 27,000 University of Texas at Austin undergraduate students performed volunteer service between August 2001 and May 2002 according to a study conducted by the University's Office of Survey Research for the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. The survey was designed through a collaborative effort of researchers and staff from the RGK Center, Office of Survey Research, Department of Sociology, and University Volunteer Center. The 1,514 respondents were chosen through a random selection of all UT undergraduates enrolled in the spring of 2002. Surveying was done via 20-minute telephone interviews administered by the Office of Survey Research.

My Improvement Plan

Developed with colleagues from the University of Texas and the University of South Carolina, My Improvement Plan is a valid, reliable, efficient assessment instrument for measuring programs that engage volunteers and national service participants. The tool was created for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Jewish Service Learning: An Analysis of Participant Jewish Identity and Program Characteristics

Under contract with United Jewish Communities, the RGK Center is examining the impact of short and long term service programs on the development of Jewish identity among Jewish young people.

Download report >

The Investigator

This series of one-page publications investigates the field of volunteerism, through promoting academic research and providing a bridge from academic research to the hands of practitioners. The series leads the field of volunteerism research by introducing new data sets, exploring characteristics of volunteers, and suggesting fruitful research agendas.

Central Texas Nonprofit Capacity Study PRP (2005/06)

Joint project with the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University to research and analyze the nonprofit and volunteer capacity building industry of Central Texas.

AARP Office of Academic Affairs and Volunteer Alliances (2006)

Conducted research colloquium on the New Aging Enterprise, a think-tank event with leading figures on gerontology and age-specific business.

Lance Armstrong Foundation

Sarah Jane Rehnborg created a logic model and framework for measuring performance of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Survivorship Summit.

Designing and Testing the Volunteer Program Assessment Tool (VPAT)

by Sarah Jane Rehnborg, Dennis L. Poole, Michael K. Roemer, Laurel F. Mangrum, Kathleen Casey, Deborah Duvall
Over the past two decades considerable progress has been made in the development of national and community service volunteer programs. Experts in the field have recognized this need but lacked scientifically tested instruments to conduct such assessments. To advance knowledge in this area we developed the Volunteer Program Assessment Tool (VPAT). This research paper describes the methods we used to design and test the full version of the instrument and the screener. To our knowledge the VPAT is the first instrument of its kind to be tested for reliability and validity, and have utility for volunteer program assessments in diverse organizational settings.

Volunteer Champions Initiative: A grant-funded project of the UPS Volunteer Impact Fund

The RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the University of Texas at Austin worked with several lead consulting firms including Building Better Skills and Energize Inc. along with a national leadership team of volunteer managers, academic experts and funders to develop learning tools, and persuasive messages about the importance of investing organizational resources in effective volunteer management. Specifically the Volunteer Champions Initiative will increase the visibility and credibility of the field through a series of case studies and instructional resources.

Scholarly Activity


(Former Ford Foundation program officer, now with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

Along with Dr. John Gaventa of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, Dr. Hawes co-directed a project which analyzed the role of civil society organizations in the development, reform, and implementation of public policy. Case studies were conceptualized and written by scholars from six countries: the Philippines, India, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa. The cases document the ways in which civil society organizations have contributed to improvements in policy in sectors as diverse as HIV/AIDS, agrarian reform, access to information, children's rights and maternal health care. The project addresses both the question of what these cases have to say about current theory and the related question of under what conditions the participation of civil society can have a positive impact on the quality of public policy.