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2018 Theme & Call for Participation

ARNOVA’s 47th Annual Conference

November 15-17, 2018 | Austin, TX



From Relief to Resilience: How Philanthropy, Nonprofits and Volunteers Bridge the Gap between Crisis and Sustainability


Over the last few years, citizens around the globe have faced a litany of challenging crises. The list seems to go on and on: natural disasters in the form of hurricanes, droughts, and fires; increased threats to civil society even in established democracies like the United States; the political instability of Brexit; refugee crises; increasing climate change; and domestic and international terrorism. Many communities have suffered and governments have often fallen short of promises. In this context, nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, and voluntarism are more important than ever, but how best to carry out this vital work? And how can social sector organizations overcome the challenges of collaboration and coordination to jointly contribute to community resilience? For the 2018 conference, ARNOVA will shine a light on efforts to build sustainable and resilient communities around the globe in the midst of ongoing challenges.


Our location in Texas provides a microcosm of both the human service priorities and management issues facing the broader nonprofit and voluntary sector.  In rural areas of Texas, hundreds of miles separate small communities, threatening to distance them from resources and attention. Even within thriving cities, the ability to collaborate effectively remains a challenge and there is no unifying body to connect philanthropic efforts across the state.  Differences in community capacity create challenges for public trust and accountability, requiring nonprofit and community leaders to effectively manage and meet public expectations in an inclusive and equitable way.  With an international border, local issues become global, and the role of nongovernmental actors is even more critical to developing immediate and long-term responses. In short, Texas’ challenges provide valuable lessons for the philanthropic and nonprofit sector globally.  


In times of crisis, we face a call to react with compassion and commitment. From community leaders to chambers of commerce, family foundations to community foundations, from well-connected nonprofit organizations to small social enterprises, how can the third sector organize in new ways in order to achieve a more sustainable future? Some questions we are particularly interested in for the 2018 conference include: How can nonprofits and philanthropic organizations of all shapes and sizes work better to address community needs? How do emergency situations expose certain vulnerabilities, or strengths, of the nonprofit and voluntary sector? What capacity and role does the nonprofit sector have to tackle physical infrastructure and development issues that are traditionally the domain of government? How can we build sustainable programs that address the diversity and complexity of populations and geography? How can notions of civic engagement and community mobilization be used to inform nonprofit strategy around issues of sustainability? How can we be better prepared to handle future natural and man-made disasters and make sure the efforts are sustained? What can we learn from effective rebuilding and resistance efforts that can help address other social and environmental challenges in our communities?  



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. We are also interested in proposals that explicitly address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as proposals that call out these issues as part of the research.


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 47th 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 From Relief to Resilience: How Philanthropy, Nonprofits and Volunteers Bridge the Gap between Crisis and Sustainability – We invite proposals on a wide variety of issues related to this theme. 
  • Civil Society – NEW for 2018This new track explores questions related to the relationship between citizens, their associational relationships, and cultural and political traditions. The types of questions that this track may consider include:  In what ways does the third sector contribute to improved democratic outcomes? How can we build more enduring forms of social capital and trust in communities? How is globalization affecting civil society in different nations? What new forms of civil society are developing and what is the impact on the state and citizens? What are the drivers and implications of changing spaces for civil society?
  • Accountability, Effectiveness, Evaluation & Program Outcomes – How 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?
  • Boards & Governance – What 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?
  • Collaboration & Networks – How and why do nonprofits collaborate? With whom? What are the implications of different formal and informal types of collaboration in the nonprofit and voluntary sector? What tools, methods, and theories help us understand collaborative activity within and across sectors? Are certain collaborative models more or less effective in achieving different outcomes?
  • Humanities Are giving and altruism defining characteristics of human interaction?  How do philanthropy and nonprofit organizations express competing religious, ethical, and political values?  How have practices, purposes, and forms of charitable organization changed over time?   How are civility and civil society related to democratic practice?
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship – What new ground is being broken in approaches to social change or service delivery? What new (or hybrid) organizational forms are emerging? 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 – How have approaches to management in nonprofit and voluntary organizations changed and what are the implications? 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?
  • Philanthropy, Fundraising & Giving – How 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?
  • Public Policy, Law, & Advocacy  – How do nonprofits engage in the policy process? What are the implications of changing sectoral boundaries for nonprofit law and regulation? How does engagement in the policy process, law and regulation of nonprofit organizations vary across national, regional, or local settings? How do public policy, law and regulation impact the nonprofit sector's voice in advocating for their missions?
  • Research to Practice  –  What are the major challenges facing public policy and nonprofit practice that nonprofit scholarship can address? What is the role of social media in making this connection? What role should journals be playing in connecting to policy and practice and how? How important is measuring the reach and impact of research, what measures are appropriate and how might this change the landscape of academic publishing?
  • 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 & Volunteering – How is voluntarism changing in the current environment? What new or additional knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed by volunteers? What are the implications of the ways 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, Lightening Research Roundtables (pre-arranged 5-7 presenters with facilitator), Colloquia or Posters.

Submissions by practitioners and doctoral students engaged in research are also welcome.

Panels, Roundtables and Colloquia should (as a rule) involve people from multiple institutions. 


The on-line proposal submission system will open February 9, 2018, and close at 11:59 pm EST, April 2nd for nonmembers and at 11:59 pm EST, April 9th for members.  


Poster submissions will take place July 6th and close August 15th.

To submit a proposal, go to, and click on the tab that says “Submit a Proposal.” 


Information about types of sessions and presentations, and about submitting proposals are available online under “Guidelines and Instructions for Proposal Submission.”

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



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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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