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ARNOVA's 41st Annual Conference

Re-Examining Philanthropy: Exploring Root Concepts for our Field(s)


Indianapolis, Indiana
November 15-17, 2012


Our meeting site this year at the home of the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy provides an ideal setting to explore afresh the larger question of what is philanthropy, and how do we encourage a broad and diverse approach to understanding philanthropy in theory and in practice?

Some would argue that “philanthropy” is both a core and an overarching concept for the fields of study ARNOVA embraces. Robert Payton’s definition of philanthropy as “voluntary action for the common good” is contested, but has long been cited to describe such a view. Others would argue the concept of philanthropy is archaic. In recent years it has often been reduced to a synonym for giving, especially organized or institutional giving. Nevertheless, some vision of or connection to philanthropy underpins all that we study in examining nonprofit organizations and voluntary action.

The nonprofit and voluntary sector, or social economy, embraces a societal space where many different approaches to increasing the welfare of humankind have been adopted. From grassroots groups to storefront nonprofit organizations to large nonprofit hospitals and universities, the rich variety of forms that people employ in collective action to promote well-being and change vary across the sector. How can the research and teaching we do support a rich and vibrant ‘independent’ sector and a healthy civil society? There are also a multiplicity of ways through which people give time and money—in congregations, workplace giving, private foundations, organized volunteering programs, national and civic service. What are we learning about new ways of incorporating people into philanthropy, while maintaining existing structures and practices?

Exploring questions like these will be one focus for our Conference next November. We hope to encourage a public conversation about matters of such importance to our fields. One track will be devoted to this Conference theme to create a shared exploration of these ideas, issues, and questions. While we also have tracks focused on specific techniques and issues of fundraising and giving and volunteering, we encourage papers considering larger or fundamental questions about practices, meanings, traditions, structures, and visions of “philanthropy” –from the social sciences and the humanities—to submit to the conference track.

The full text of the "Call for Participation," with a list of the thematic Tracks for proposals and presentations, can be found on ARNOVA’s website (www.arnova.org).


In addition, ARNOVA’s Annual Research Conference will, as always, be a key opportunity to present and discuss the latest research on the wide range of topics relating to nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, voluntary action and civil society.

The conference committee welcomes proposals addressing a broad variety of topics, in addition to the theme. We invite proposals from all disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) perspectives. We are very interested in international as well as national and local perspectives. Proposals may focus on the entire sector, or on any type of nonprofit or field of activity. We look forward to entertaining a wide variety of proposals, and invite you to submit yours. We particularly welcome younger scholars and members of under-represented groups to make their interests known to the conference organizers so we can include you in our community.
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