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2019 ARNOVA Distinguished Achievement in Leadership and Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research Award

From the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA)

Annual Conference Luncheon Plenary Session

November 21, 2019

Dwight Burlingame, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

I am honored and humbled by this distinguished Achievement Award from ARNOVA.

It is especially meaningful to me because ARNOVA has been the primary professional organization in my life for the last 30 years.   It is indeed special to join the company of the past awardees of this award and to receive it at the same time as Susan Ostrander, (Congratulations Susan) who I first met in 1992 at the ARNOVA Research conference held at Yale University. It was a significant event since it was my first paper presented at an ARNOVA Conference. Thanks to the many ARNOVA colleagues and friends that have been part of the network that has helped me achieve whatever success I have obtained in this relatively new field of philanthropic, civil society, nonprofit, or voluntarists studies(As our Founder David Horton Smith named it). I would also like to acknowledge the support of my family and especially my wife, Audrey, of 52 years who is unable to be here today.

This award has prompted me to reflect on my intellectual and personal journey. After receiving my master’s in Library Science in 1967, I worked in various administrative and teaching positions over a period of 17 years in the library/learning resources field—with a 2- year Army service interruption. It was in the spring of 1984, when the President of Bowling Green State University called me into his office and asked me to take the position of Vice President for University Relations and head of the University Foundation. That changed my career path.   It was through that position and the discussion with donors about the role of philanthropy and their dreams that  led me 6 years latter  to accept Robert Payton’s offer to come to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and head up the academic and research programs at the Center.  It was a great opportunity to be actively engaged in working with faculty, staff and students in the development of a new field.

One of my first duties was to educate myself about the history and practice of philanthropy and of voluntary organizations in the US and internationally.   The reading list was long and the participation with professional colleagues was foremost. Participation in the Research forum of Independent Sector in 1990 provided the first opportunity to meet Virginia Hodgkinson, Michael O’Neill, Dennis Young, Paul Schervish, Jon Van Till, and Elizabeth Boris among others which have become friends and mentors for the last thirty years. In 1991, I helped organize a meeting at the Center which helped in the establishment of ITSR. Another community of scholars and practitioners, many also members of ARNOVA, devoted to building our understanding of the “third sector” in the world community. Through connections made possible by ITSR and grants from various foundations—especially an Eastern European Initiative grant from Mott Foundation in 1993, my quest for understanding civil society and the role of philanthropy in it was firmly planted. From Europe (especially Giuliana Gemelli at the University of Bologna where we developed a Master in International Studies in Philanthropy(MISP) 2001-2010) to Latin America ( Especially with the support of the Kellogg Foundation in the Building Bridges project) to Japan, Korea and China and to the Middle East and Southern Africa, so many people to whom I am indebted.

Finally, I got to work with the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council.  The group’s interest in building and expanding education and research in our field has been a core focus of my contributions. Working with colleagues on developing curricular guidelines for the field was particularly rewarding.

Over the last 30 years at Indiana, I met many leaders in the field  but ARNOVA continues to provide the intellectual home for me and the opportunity to work with so many colleagues who believe in the importance of serving not only their individual academic interests but the importance of engaging with and service in community. Thanks especially to the many individuals here and to those who could not be here today that have been social innovators, advocates and critics as we work to create a just civil society for all.

Most of all I owe much to my colleagues current and past at the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University now the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and its many donors which provided much needed resources for the Indiana experiment. First and foremost was Robert Payton, who hired me—followed by Warren Ilchman, Gene Tempel, Patrick Rooney, and our current dean Amir Pasic. Over the years I have had the pleasure to work with more than 100 faculty colleagues. For example , recently  I had the opportunity to sit down with  Lehn Benjamin, a faculty colleague at the School, and discuss her work where she reviewed much of the research published in three major journals in the field(NVSQ, Voluntas, and NM&L)  over the last decade.  I was struck with her finding that we have focused much of our work on the organizations, leaders, donors and volunteers but to a much lesser degree to the “front-line workers” who deliver our services and to the beneficiaries of our work. Perhaps if we understood better all the actors in our community, we would make even more progress as we work to achieve a greater just society for all.

Perhaps most important for me has been the hundreds of students that I have had the privilege to teach and grow with as we have explored the role of philanthropy and civil society across the globe. Building new degree programs and nurturing research useful for practitioners in the field has made for an exciting and rewarding career. Along with the development of degree programs was the establishment in 1990 of a book series within the Indiana University Press on Philanthropic Studies with co-editor Robert Payton. In 1999 David Hammack joined with me as co-editor through 2018 when more than 50 scholarly works had been published. From l994-2000- I co-edited a practitioner series on New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising; and from 2004-2010 I had the privilege to be co-editor of NVSQ with my colleague and friend Wolfgang Bielefeld. Working with the authors and reading their works was truly a rewarding education. I mention  these editorships to convey my hope that many of you will seek to do “translational” type of work that reaches a wide and diverse audience, in addition to the “deep dive”  into a special area of  research that faculties often expect  for one to obtain the tenure card. Applied research is especially needed when we engage with diverse communities outside of the University to build a better civil society for all.

When looking back over the last 30 years as prologue for the next generations of leaders in the field, I have faith that the ideals of justice and compassion will be revitalized in our communities. I find myself returning to reading Building Community by John W. Gardner published in l991 by INDEPENDENT SECTOR. He said: “Strong and resilient communities can stand between the individual and any government that tries to impose dictatorial solutions from the right or left.” (p.5) The urgency of our action seems ever more needed in today’s USA as well as many other countries around the globe. Philanthropy and nonprofit/voluntary organizations rightly understood are so important for that just society that we research and study as members of the community of ARNOVA.

In a recent headline of the Chronicle of Philanthropy the question asked was “How can Philanthropy save our Democracy?” In the US context today, I wonder if perhaps the question might have been: “How can Philanthropy work with government and business to save our Democracy?” In correspondence with Judith Saidel, (another ARNOVA colleague) she rightly pointed out that civil society/philanthropy “will sometimes have to take the lead”. Are we ready to help civil society take the lead? I think so! As many past participants at ARNOVA know I love to express joy through music. Thus, on this occasion I leave you with the ARNOVA song that I wrote several years ago:

ARNOVA  (to the tune of Maria from “West Side Story”)

The most beautiful org I ever                         ARNOVA  Say it loud

Knew                                                                           and there’s music playing

ARNOVA     ARNOVA                                                Say it soft

ARNOVA                                                                    and its almost like thinking

All the beautiful folks of the                            ARNOVA

world in a single org                                        I’ll never stop saying

ARNOVA     ARNOVA                                                ARNOVA

ARNOVA                                                                    (Repeat one)


(Begin Repeat One)                                                   (Ending)

ARNOVA                                                                    The most beautiful org I ever

I just found an org named                                           knew.  ARNOVA


Not just an acronym

But a research synonym

To me…….     ARNOVA

Where would this sector be

Without its inquiry------To see

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