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Toward an Index of a Healthy,

U.S. Nonprofit Sector

ARNOVA's Sixth Symposium on Public Policy for Nonprofits

Call for Proposals

The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), in collaboration with Independent Sector, invites proposals from researchers interested in developing short, concept papers (approximately 2,500 - 3,000 words) on the subject of a health index, or indices, for the U.S. nonprofit sector.  Proposals are due by June 12, 2017, and selections will be announced by June 26, 2017.  Initial drafts of the concept papers are due by October 2, 2017, with final papers due by January 15, 2018.  Researchers will participate in a panel session at Independent Sector’s annual conference in Detroit on October 25-27 and will also be part of a session at ARNOVA’s annual conference in Grand Rapids on November 16-18.  Selected researchers will receive $750 travel/lodging grants and a one-day registration at the Independent Sector conference.  Researchers will be encouraged to seek publication of suitable versions of their final papers in appropriate outlets, such as Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Nonprofit Policy Forum, Voluntas, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, Nonprofit Times, etc., ARNOVA currently expects to award grants to up to five researchers.

Background on a Health Index for the U.S. Nonprofit Sector

How healthy is the U.S. nonprofit sector? The answer is that we actually do not have a clear and consistent way of routinely assessing the financial and non-financial health of this important sector of the American economy.

As an initial step toward creating a health index, or indices, for the charitable sector in the U.S., researchers are invited to develop short, concept papers that address some of the following or related questions:

  • What are the most appropriate financial and non-financial indicators of a healthy U.S. nonprofit sector? A discussion of financial indicators of the health of the overall nonprofit sector might discuss the relevance of literature on the financial health of individual nonprofits. Non-financial indicators might take into account the level of a variety of risks to the nonprofit sector, including political risks (e.g., efforts to constrain nonprofit activity), identity risks (e.g., drift away from nonprofit missions), and others.
  • What measures are currently being employed to assess nonprofit sector health? How comprehensive or narrow are current measures? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What new measures are needed to assess the health of the U.S. nonprofit sector? How easy/hard would it be to implement these measures? How can we assess nonprofit sector health in the lowest cost and highest quality way? What existing measures that are currently being used for other purposes can be adapted to help measure nonprofit sector health?
  • What global indices (e.g., U.N. Sustainable Development Goals) might be applicable to a U.S. charitable sector health index? What are the advantages/disadvantages to adopting/adapting a global index for use in the U.S.?
  • Who currently uses information about the health of the U.S. nonprofit sector? How well do current measures meet the needs of various audiences? Who might use information about nonprofit sector health in the future?
  • What additional questions need to be addressed before a nonprofit sector health index can be developed?
  • Who are the experts who should be engaged in developing an index of nonprofit sector health?

Concept papers may take a variety of different forms including literature reviews, environmental scans, thought pieces, policy briefs, etc.,



Proposals are due on June 12, 2017 and should include:

  • A short description (approximately 350-500 words) of the concept paper that the researcher plans to produce: What questions will the researcher address in the paper? What are some relevant references or other material that will inform the researcher’s work? What form will the concept paper take (e.g., lit review, original thought piece, policy brief, etc.,)? What “methodology” will be used to complete the paper?
  • The researcher’s CV/resume, with a brief description of relevant nonprofit and/or policy-related research that the researcher has engaged in.

For further information, please contact Alan Abramson, George Mason University, ARNOVA Policy Symposium Chair, at



View reports from previous Symposiums



Submissions closed

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The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) is a diverse community of scholars, educators, and practice leaders that strengthens the field of nonprofit and philanthropic research in order to improve civil society and human life.

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