Featured Working Papers


Melissa M. Stone, University of Minnesota, 2011 RGK-ARNOVA President’s Award for Nonprofit Research
This paper presents results from a research study on charter school governance in Minnesota, the first state to enact charter school legislation in 1991.  The paper examines the effects of the political and institutional environments on charter school governance, pays particular attention to how charter school boards navigate their legally mandated hybrid status, and analyzes the effects of hybridity on governance practices and school performance. The paper makes theoretical and empirical contributions to our understanding of governance in strong institutional environments and the implications of hybridity for governance practices.  
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Eve Garrow, University of Michigan, 2010 RGK-ARNOVA President’s Award for Nonprofit Research
By virtue of their hybrid identity as both nonprofit human service organizations and commercial businesses, work integration social enterprises (WISEs) are subject to institutional pluralism, creating tensions between mission and market. These tensions are embodied in the dual role of clients, who are constituted as both service recipients and instruments of production.  Drawing linkages between institutional logics and political economy perspectives, this paper develops and tests a theoretical model that seeks to explain the conditions under which clients are commodified. Comparative analysis of a theoretical sample of WISEs suggests that relative embeddedness across human service and business fields, the distribution of power across social service and production units, and the extent to which the service unit is closely coupled to the production unit combine to determine how clients are constructed and treated in the organization.   
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The Professor Is In: Classroom Techniques That Capture Critical Issues in Volunteer Management

by Dr. Sarah Jane Rehnborg

Dr. Sarah Jane Rehnborg published a two-part feature article focused on classroom techniques for teaching critical issues in volunteer management in the January and April 2013 editions of e-Volunteerism, an online journal for volunteer leaders. Part 1 focused on using role plays, case studies, and current events to illustrate core concepts for students who lack real-life experience in volunteerism and the nonprofit world. Part 2 explored factors to consider in designing internship experiences and techniques for teaching critical thinking that help students learn and question core assumptions within the field.

Working Papers

Inside National Service: AmeriCorps’ Short-Term Impact on Participants

Peter Frumkin, JoAnn Jastrzab, and Margaret L. Vaaler
This study examines for the first time the short-term impact of AmeriCorps participation on members’ civic engagement, education, employment, and life skills. The analysis compares changes in the attitudes and behaviors of participants over time to those of similarly interested individuals not enrolled in AmeriCorps, controlling for interest in national and community service, member and family demographics, and prior civic engagement. Results indicate that participation in AmeriCorps led to positive impacts on members, especially in the area of civic engagement, members’ connection to community, knowledge about problems facing their community, participation in community-based activities. AmeriCorps had some impact on its members’ personal growth and selected employment-related outcomes. Significant impacts were not found for measures of participants’ attitude toward education or educational attainment, or for selected life skills measures. The study also uncovers significant but negative impact of a participation programmatic variant of AmeriCorps on participants’ appreciation for ethnic and cultural diversity.

Diversity on Cultural Boards: Implications for Organizational Value and Impact

Dr. Francie Ostrower, The University of Texas at Austin 

This working paper by the RGK Center’s Dr. Francie Ostrower presents the results of a recent study sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Research: Arts Works program. Analyzing national data on over 400 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, the study examines current levels of diversity among boards and factors associated with fostering or inhibiting greater board diversity. Finding that these boards are typically quite homogeneous with respect to race and ethnicity, the paper identifies steps that arts and cultural organizations can take to help make their boards become more diverse and areas for future research. While the study focuses primarily on racial and ethnic diversity, attention is also given to gender, occupation, and age, as well as to comparisons between the arts and nonprofits in other fields of activity. The paper is available here.


Restore Rundberg

RGK Center Director Dr. David W. 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 Byrne 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 Byrne 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.

A disproportionate amount of criminal activity coupled with poverty, disinvestment, and unemployment within the Rundberg neighborhood discourage redevelopment and economic growth. Within Rundberg, 95% of those enrolled in school are considered economically disadvantaged, 59% have limited English proficiency, and 75% are identified as at-risk for dropping out.

Restore Rundberg is a partnership between the community, the Austin Police Department, and the UT research team headed by Dr. Springer. By focusing on criminal hot-spot areas within Rundberg, this multidisciplinary team utilizes innovative methodologies to reduce crime and to engage community members in voicing their needs and considerations for the future of their neighborhood development.

Restore Rundberg Publications

From Professional Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, V18: N3 - Special Edition: Restore Rundberg

The Rise of School-Supporting Nonprofits

Beth Gazley, Indiana University, 2012 RGK-ARNOVA President’s Award for Nonprofit Research

The Rise of School-Supporting Nonprofits examines voluntary contributions to public education from charitable school foundations, booster clubs and PTAs/PTOs as an alternative to local revenues generated via the property tax. Districts with higher per-pupil expenditures and higher enrollments are more likely to have one or more operating school-supporting charities, but the level of per-pupil voluntary contributions declines with student enrollment. Higher poverty school districts are less likely to be served by a school-supporting nonprofit and receive significantly lower voluntary contributions on a per-pupil basis. The research indicates that growth in the number and financial size of school-supporting charities since 1995 has not offset reductions in state aid. Further, there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that voluntary contributions change the distribution of funding across school districts and undo school finance equalization.

Bono Made Jesse Helms Cry: Jubilee 2000,Debt Relief, and Moral Action in International Politics

Joshua William Busby
Do states and decision-makers ever act for moral reasons? And if they do, is it only when it is convenient or relatively costless for them to do so? A number of advocacy movements on developing country debt relief, climate change, landmines, and other issues emerged in the 1990s to ask decision-makers to make foreign policy decisions on that basis. The primary advocates were motivated not by their own material interests but broader notions of right and wrong. What contributes to the domestic acceptance of these moral commitments? Why do some advocacy efforts succeed where others fail? Through a case study of the Jubilee 2000 campaign for developing country debt relief, this article offers an account of persuasion based on strategic framing by advocates to get the attention of decision-makers. Such strategic but not narrowly self-interested activity allows weak actors to leverage existing value and/ or ideational traditions to build broader political coalitions. This article, through case studies of debt relief in the United States and Japan, also links the emerging literature on strategic framing to the domestic institutional context and the ways veto players or ‘‘policy gatekeepers’’ evaluate trade-offs between costs and values.