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2016 Conference Theme and Call
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Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Government: Policy and Partnerships in an Era of Change

2016 Theme & Call for Participation
ARNOVA’s 45th Annual Conference

November 17-19, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

The size, reach, and scope of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors have never been greater. In the United States, available data indicate that nonprofit revenues, expenditures, and assets continue to expand. Within philanthropy, foundations have experienced significant growth as well, leading some to declare that the foundation field is in the midst of a second golden era, comparable only to the period when these institutions first achieved legal status. Despite a significant slowdown due to the Great Recession, growth also characterizes the long-term trend in individual giving. Much more than a U.S. phenomenon, efforts to document cross-national trends in nonprofit, philanthropic, and broader civil society initiatives reveal a striking global pattern of increased activity.

What are the origins and the implications of these developments? The conference this year will explore these questions, especially in relation to policy and partnerships with government. Though widely used labels like nongovernmental organization (NGO), the third sector, and the independent sector connote separation from government, the public sector is intimately linked to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Many studies have demonstrated that the growth of civil society and nonprofit organizations in the United States is inextricably linked to the structure and growth of governments in the U.S., from the founding of the colonies to modern times. Especially noticeable in the last few decades, the outsourcing of public services has contributed to the professionalization of nonprofits. Public policy is a more immediate source of exchange, though the direction of influence is not always clear. Public policy defines the regulatory framework for the nonprofit sector, for instance, but nonprofits also influence public policy through lobbying and advocacy.

Partnerships imply direct interaction, and the role of the nonprofit sector in providing public services is well established. Besides interacting with government through formal contracts and grants, many nonprofits have informal ties with public agencies and collaborate through multi-sector networks. Economic conditions and the Federal government's emphasis on social entrepreneurship and innovation also have led to more formal partnerships between public agencies and nonprofits. These partnerships by no means are limited to public charities. Foundations are establishing partnerships with public agencies to develop social impact bonds and to facilitate other innovations for the public good. Organizations engaging in hybrid, double-bottom-line activity - “doing good” and “making money” - have won new legal status in the form of benefit corporations and L3Cs in many states. What does the future hold for public policy and partnerships in this era of change? Research on the relationship between the nonprofit and public sectors has a long history in the field, and the conference this year will build on this tradition by considering recent changes in this relationship in the U.S. and around the world.

The Conference Committee welcomes proposals addressing a broad variety of topics, in addition to the Conference theme. We invite proposals from all disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) perspectives. We are interested in a diversity of cross-national, comparative, regional, domestic, and local perspectives.

Proposals may focus on the entire sector or on any type of nonprofit field of activity or organizational type and setting. We look forward to entertaining a wide variety of proposals, and invite you to submit yours. We particularly welcome newer scholars and members of under-represented groups to engage with our community of scholars through participation in the upcoming Conference.

Proposal Submission Tracks for the 45th Annual ARNOVA Conference
Below are examples of the types of questions that could be considered for each track, but please do not read these suggestions as exclusionary. They are intended only to be illustrative.

The Conference Track– Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Government: Policy and Partnerships in an Era of Change – We invite proposals on a wide variety of issues related to this theme.
Boards & GovernanceWhat important challenges does the board face today? How are they being met?  How are governance models changing? What are the strengths and weaknesses of different models? Are certain board practices associated with certain outcomes?
Community & Grassroots Organization (Secular & Faith-based)What is the role of social movements today? How are new technologies changing the way organizing and voluntary action take place? Is the role of faith communities changing in advocating for and meeting human needs?
Accountability, Effectiveness, Evaluation & Program OutcomesHow do nonprofits balance and prioritize accountability to different constituencies? How do we know when nonprofit work is effective? How are evaluation practices and metrics shifting to capture large-scale community change? What kinds of programs are thriving or failing, and why?
Collaboration & NetworksHow and why do nonprofits collaborate? With whom? What are some formal and informal types of collaboration in the nonprofit and voluntary sector? What are some tools, methods, and theories to help us understand collaborative activity within and across sectors? Are certain collaborative models more or less effective in achieving different outcomes?
Philanthropy, Fundraising & GivingHow is the concept and practice of philanthropy evolving? How is giving changing? Are donors and fundraisers shifting their behaviors? How? How do the mechanisms of giving operate differently in different contexts?

Innovation & EntrepreneurshipAre nonprofits breaking new ground in their approaches to social change or service delivery? Are new (or hybrid) organizational forms replacing traditional ones? What are the implications of hybrid organizational forms? What is the relationship between traditional nonprofit models and new models of social entrepreneurship?  
Management, Leadership & Strategy– Have globalization and technology changed the approaches to and activities of management in nonprofit and voluntary organizations? Are styles of leadership changing? If so, how so, and why? Are organizations adopting new strategies in response to changed circumstances? How do management and leadership vary across organizational characteristics?
Public Policy & LawWhat are the implications of changing sectoral boundaries for nonprofit law? How do issues of policy or law play out in varied national settings, in regional or local settings, and across policy domains? What is the role of the nonprofit sector in advocating for social needs? How are policy and advocacy related to issues of collaboration and entrepreneurship?
Teaching & Education– What is being done to prepare the next generation of nonprofit leaders? Should programs and pedagogy be changing in these times? If so, in what ways?

 Voluntarism & VolunteeringHow is voluntarism changing in the current environment? What new or additional knowledge, skills, and abilities will be needed by volunteers? What do we know about how organizations deploy volunteers? What contributions do volunteers make to mission accomplishment?

Types of Presentations & Submissions:

Proposals can be for Individual Papers, Panels (pre-arranged) of 3-4 papers, Colloquia or Posters.
Submissions by practitioners and doctoral students engaged in research are also welcome.
Panels and Colloquia should (as a rule) involve people from multiple institutions.


Dates & Deadlines

The on-line proposal submission system will open February 1, 2016, and close at noon EST, April 4, 2016
Submissions for posters will be May 16 - June 15, 2016

More information about types of sessions and presentations, and about submitting proposals is available online here.

To submit a proposal, you will be able to go to, and click on the tab that says “Submit a Proposal

Questions can then be directed to the ARNOVA office at (317) 684-2120, or to

more Calendar

WEBINAR: Civic Agency in the Nonprofit Classroom: Using Service Learning to Enhance Practical Skills

2016 Symposium on Public Policy

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ARNOVA is a leading interdisciplinary community of people dedicated to fostering through research and education, the creation, application and dissemination of knowledge on nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, civil society and voluntary action.

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2014 Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.

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