Remarks on Receiving the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) Award for Distinguished Achievement and Leadership in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research
(formerly called the Award for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement)
Jeffrey L. Brudney
Chicago, IL, November 20, 2015
Thank you … Thank you.
I am delighted to receive the ARNOVA Award for Distinguished Achievement and Leadership in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research. I thank the Selection Committee for this high honor. I also thank my wife Nancy, who is here with me today, for her support in achieving this career milestone. Being a faculty spouse -- at least in my case -- is no easy task. I must confess that I have no life skills. I do the “professing,” and Nancy does everything else. Nancy, thank you for making this great Award possible.
When I asked Joe Galaskiewicz, who chaired the Award Committee, about who had nominated me, so that I might thank this person, Joe indicated that the Selection Committee did not wish to disclose this information. I did not ask for a recount.
In fact, I considered this anonymity fitting. Over my career ARNOVA has afforded me numerous opportunities to connect with others. Through presenting research and participating on panels at the annual Meeting, working with the ARNOVA Doctoral Fellows Research Seminar, sitting on the ARNOVA Board and on various ARNOVA Committees, and advising students and faculty, I hope that I have touched and assisted many ARNOVANS. Having the privilege of serving as co-Editor-in-Chief of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly with Femida Handy and Lucas Meijs, and before that serving as Book Review Editor of the journal, have increased my network of valued colleagues exponentially. Since NVSQ processes about 450 manuscripts per year, you can appreciate, as I do, that I have the pleasure of interacting with many ARNOVANS.
So, I would like to think that the nomination for this Award could have come from most any ARNOVAN, or as David Bowie sang in tribute to the late Lou Reed and his band the Velvet Underground on his 1971 album Hunky Dory, “It could have been me. Oh yeah, it could have been me. Why didn’t I say?”
Or at least I would like to think so.
Of course, an alternative musical interpretation might be Aerosmith’s catchy Dream On (1973).
In any event, if you made the nomination -- or even if you did not -- be sure to let me know. Couldn’t hurt, right, in chatting up a journal editor?
I think the anonymity is fitting in another way. I did not prepare professionally to study nonprofit and voluntary action, much less to receive an award honoring contribution to our field. I trust that you can keep a secret: I went to graduate school to study electoral, or voting, behavior. And even did so. I did election polling, worked for a Congressional candidate (he won), appeared on television to forecast elections (I enjoyed stellar refreshments in the “green room,” but otherwise had little to do “predicting” a landslide election), and published in the highly regarded journal Public Opinion Quarterly.
But the fit was just not right for me.
Fortunately, as a young PhD I re-discovered an interest in volunteerism, that had been nurtured by my extended family. I was influenced particularly by my mother of blessed memory, who gained promotion to the highest non-elective position in county government held by a woman at that time, and who was a tireless volunteer. She earned a certification from the U.S. Library of Congress for her proficiency in brailing books for blind people, and she did the accounting for a variety of worthy causes. Even so, I regarded my mother as a “dangerous” philanthropist, who had a habit of donating to these same worthy causes anything in the house that was not in immediate use regardless of season: “Hey, Mom, I really loved that winter coat.”
In my first academic position my interest in volunteerism blossomed into a focus on “coproduction,” the active involvement of citizens with government service agents in the delivery of public services and, ultimately, to a focus on service volunteers througout government. I began work on a book entitled Fostering Volunteer Programs in the Public Sector.
At about this time I am grateful that I found ARNOVA -- or, more accurately stated -- ARNOVA found me. Jon Van Til, editor of the Association’s journal, then titled the Journal of Voluntary Action Research, and a recipient of the Award I receive today, called to invite me to an Annual Meeting. At the Meeting I was welcomed by David Horton Smith, the founder of both the journal and the parent Association (then, the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars), and another recipient of this Award.
I have not forgotten this kind greeting, accorded to an assistant professor -- or the support I have received from ARNOVA. ARNOVA members provided advice, guidance, and feedback on my research, as well as reviews of the entire book manuscript. Indeed, they seemed just as intrigued by my research as I was -- and determined to challenge me to improve it.
To me, this ability to build a network of friends and colleagues and grow through ANROVA underscores the vitality of the Association and makes membership and, especially participation, valuable and unique. ARNOVA’s intimacy and openness facilitate interaction and genuine regard for one another, and give us the opportunity to multiply and extend our professional and personal relationships. This person-to-person connection, recognition, and welcome make ARNOVA special.
The nascent field of nonprofit and voluntary action studies that I entered then, back in the last century (one of my favorite expressions), bore little resemblance to the much more robust one we have now, and ANROVA helped to sustain the interests and careers of students and scholars along the way. I think our field is approaching a new stage of maturity, with more free-standing schools and programs, an increasing cohort of great students and faculty members, and an expanding research corpus. Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review Stuart Mendel, President of NACC (the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council), describes a “nonprofit first” mentality and attitude that animates and promotes development of the field.
Yet, even as we anticipate and begin to witness progress toward the “promised land” of More -- more students drawn to the field, more professional development opportunities available particularly through ARNOVA, more funding for research, more professional meetings, and so forth -- we need to keep in mind that our field still lacks a natural institutional identity and home across most college campuses and relies on positions and placements in various host departments. In his remarks last year upon receiving this same Award, Joe Galaskiewicz drew our attention to the long-term prospects of nonprofit faculty members housed in diverse schools and departments. Although, thankfully, these academic units need PhD’s in nonprofit studies, we can only hope that these institutional hosts will be equally gracious and receptive in acknowledging through their standards the academic goals and aspirations that guide our emerging field.
New research by Angela Bies heightens these concerns. Building on a study that I conducted two decades ago examining publication in the three major nonprofit journals since their inception, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and Voluntas, Angela documents an increase in those pages over time of female authors; higher representation of assistant professors; far more co-authorship; and greater methodological heterogeneity, geographic diversity of authors and topical focus. Thus, academic units will be asked to render decisions concerning the future of our junior colleagues based on research published in nonprofit sector studies outlets, much of it by women, much of it co-authored, and much of it based on nontraditional methodologies. Insuring and reconciling the status and reputation of publication in nonprofit journals with the priorities and standards of various academic schools and departments remains an issue for the field.
How we can secure our professional future is a question well worth considering.
My immediate response is to encourage you to work through ARNOVA, for several reasons. First, based on my experience, the connections you can make are fun and satisfying, and they can lead to exciting professional opportunities, for example, for meaningful collaboration, expert advice, research support, and academic positions. These opportunities are also much more plentiful that when I entered the field, with established membership sections; awards and funding; and, in my estimation, exceptional support for younger scholars.
Equally important, you will find at ARNOVA other scholars with appropriate nonprofit education and background similar to your own, rather than interlopers wandering in from studying electoral behavior. The nerve of some people.
In addition to building your network, I hope that professional interaction through ANROVA will motivate and entice you to publish your best research in nonprofit journals. We have no better argument for scholarly respect and acceptance of nonprofit studies than the quality of our students and our research endeavors. Journal reputation is judged predominantly based on citation by scholars, with a standard metric called the Impact Factor. Raising the Impact Factor of nonprofit journals -- as the current Editors of NVSQ have endeavored to accomplish -- offers an ideal way not only to alleviate any apprehensions concerning nonprofit publication but also to earn the esteem and approbation of host schools and departments for our faculty members. As a colleague reminded me early in my academic career, paraphrasing a tag line form the popular romance novel Love Story (1970) by American writer Erich Segal, publishing quality research is “never having to say you’re sorry.” Segal had penned, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Close enough.
I urge your active involvement in ARNOVA for one more reason: Not only will you benefit, but also you can benefit others.
Shortly before he passed, I asked my mentor of blessed memory, Professor Deil S. Wright, what made him such a wonderful mentor to so many students and junior faculty members. Deil was perplexed by the question, and, uncharacteristically, was unable to offer a direct response. What he did relate to me was that being a member of this profession and being a mentor were one and the same to him … He did not see the difference.
May I -- may each of us -- be guided by Deil Wright’s example.