Nonprofit Research Seminar: “Nonprofit Entrepreneurship as a Research Field: The State of Knowledge and New Data Frontiers”

Monday, December 3, 2018 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

This is a past event.

Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall (VPD), 203
635 Downey Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Nonprofit Research Seminar Series – Fall 2018
Hosted by The USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy

“Nonprofit Entrepreneurship as a Research Field: The State of Knowledge and New Data Frontiers"

Jesse Lecy, Associate Professor
School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University

The political economy of nonprofit entrepreneurship: using open data to explore geographic and demographic dimensions of nonprofit mission

America’s nonprofit sector has increased in political and economic importance; it now accounts for roughly ten percent of the US economy (McKeever et al., 2016), and has been shown to significantly impact the quality of life of communities (Sharkey et al., 2017; Rupasingha et al., 2000), and it plays an important role in the delivery of essential government services in the era of the “hollow state” (Smith and Lipsky, 2009).  As a result, some have argued that the nonprofit sector represents an alternative to large government that uses tax expenditures to support local solutions and community autonomy. This viewpoint, however, fails to consider access and equity considerations. Nonprofits are more likely to locate in wealthy communities than poor ones (Joassart-Marcelli & Wolch, 2003), are less likely to channel human service grants to diverse communities (Garrow, 2012), and can be used to circumvent public policy designed to equalize public goods across communities (Nelson & Gazely, 2014). 

To better understand the geography of nonprofit activity we introduce a framework for studying the political economy of the nonprofit sector using a new open dataset of 150,000 nonprofit start-ups and their founding leadership teams. We are able to link geographic and demographic characteristics of managers and board members to taxonomies of nonprofit mission to examine relationships between founder wealth, race, and political partisanship with features of nonprofit activity. We test for alignment of supply and demand-side factors – density of nonprofits and community need. In this way we can generate a high-level understanding of the geography of nonprofit mission and its relationship to population characteristics of the communities in which they operate.

*Lunch will be served.  Please RSVP by Thursday, November 29, 2018 to

Garrow, E. E. (2012). Does race matter in government funding of nonprofit human service organizations? The interaction of neighborhood poverty and race. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

Giridharadas, A. (2018). Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World Hardcover. Knopf Press.

Joassart-Marcelli, P., & Wolch, J. R. (2003). The intrametropolitan geography of poverty and the nonprofit sector in Southern California. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 32(1), 70-96.

Mayer, J. (2017). Dark money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. Anchor Books.

McKeever, B. S., Dietz, N. E., & Fyffe, S. D. (2016). The Nonprofit Almanac: The essential facts and figures for managers, researchers, and volunteers.

Nelson, Ashlyn and Beth Gazley, (2014). The Rise of School-Supporting Nonprofits. Education Finance and Policy 9, no. 4: 553.

Rupasingha, A., Goetz, S. J., & Freshwater, D. (2000). Social capital and economic growth: a county-level analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 32(3), 565-572.

Sharkey, P., Torrats-Espinosa, G., & Takyar, D. (2017). Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime. American Sociological Review, 82(6), 1214-1240.

Smith, S. R., & Lipsky, M. (2009). Nonprofits for hire: The welfare state in the age of contracting. Harvard University Press.

Event Type

Lecture / Talk / Workshop


Students, Alumni, Faculty/Staff


University Park Campus



Price School of Public Policy
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