National Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy (CNP), The Urban Institute
By Sara Bucheri
Graduate Student, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
The National Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy (CNP) is a research organization that conducts and disseminates information regarding the role and impact of nonprofit organizations and philanthropy. The CNP researchers analyze the responsibility and capacity of nonprofit organizations as they change over time, particularly in relationship to government. The CNP also examines the effects of policy changes in order to clarify the need for and duties of the nonprofit sector in providing services, promoting citizen participation, and improving civil society.
Additionally, using data developed and maintained by sources including one of its own programs called the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), the CNP researches and analyzes operational and financial trends of U.S. charitable organizations.
The CNP is a part of The Urban Institute, which is a nonprofit nonpartisan policy research and educational organization. In order to help decision-makers address challenges and to enhance citizen understanding of policy issues, The Urban Institute provides people with information and analysis regarding public policy (Urban Institute).
In 1996 The Urban Institute received a five-year anonymous grant to deepen understanding of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, and the CNP was established. The goal of the center was to research and analyze how nonprofit organizations are serving the poor and enhancing civic participation. Originally established in 1982 by a research division of the Independent Sector, the NCCS has been maintained as a program of the CNP since July 1996 (Urban Institute).
The Urban Institute itself was born out of a panel of social scientists and economists chosen by President Lyndon Johnson to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of federally sponsored programs of the Great Society (Learning to Give).
During the past 10-15 years, there has been a movement toward recognizing the third sector as a more coherent area as it relates to policy and study. By examining the effects of policy changes, the CNP plays the important role of providing a place where those involved in or researching nonprofits can gather data, examine analysis, and find answers to questions pertaining to the third sector.
The goals of CNP projects such as the one in 1997, which consisted of the collaboration of the NCCS, the IRS, and Philanthropic Research, are to collect and disseminate current and comprehensive information (Billitteri 1997).
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
The CNP is directly tied to the nonprofit sector in that it acts as a central location to house statistics regarding nonprofit organizations as well as a place to begin research on important issues facing the sector, most importantly those issues related to public policy.
The CNP provides tools to those directly involved with the sector. Its programs include: Subsector Analysis, which will produce reports on the status of various fields where nonprofit organizations are involved, including arts and culture, social action and advocacy, and human services; Emerging Issues in Philanthropy, which is a seminar series focusing on issues such as the design and evaluation of tax policy and the accumulation of wealth by nonprofits; and Charting Civil Society, a series of policy briefs which touch on areas such as church-state partnerships and ways to improve child care quality (Urban Institute).
Key Related Ideas
Public policy is defined as “the body of laws, rules, guidelines and court decisions by which an open society organizes and conducts its affairs” (Infoweb). One of the main roles of the CNP is to provide information regarding the effects of public policy on nonprofit organizations.
Civil Society is defined as “the broad range of institutions that occupy the social space between the market and the state” (Salamon 2003). “Civil society remains a popular topic in literature as the nonprofit sector continues to expand [and]… plays an essential role in providing social services to the public” (Foundation Center). See Learning to Give Briefing Paper on…
Nonprofit capacity building consists of “actions that improve nonprofit effectiveness” (Blumenthal 2003). In business terms capacity building could mean organizational development, effectiveness and/or performance management. There are a variety of approaches to capacity building including granting funds, providing training and coaching, and supporting work with other nonprofits (Authenticity Consulting). By providing research and analysis, the CNP supplies tools to nonprofits so that they may enhance their capacity.
Important People Related to the Topic
- Dr. Elizabeth Boris: Dr. Boris is the current director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. Previously, she was founding director of the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Sector Research Fund, and Vice President for Research at the Council on Foundations. She has authored many publications on philanthropy and nonprofits including Philanthropic Foundations in the United States: An Introduction, and she co-edited Nonprofits and Government: Collaboration and Conflict with C. Eugene Steuerle. She serves on many boards, journals and advisory committees, is the past president of the Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Action, and on the list of Nonprofit Times Top 50 leaders 2000-2003.
- William Gorham: Gorham was the Urban Institute president from 1968-2000 and one of the original economists recruited by Lyndon Johnson. He was one of only two presidents in the Institute’s 35-year history. The CNP was established during his presidency (Learning to Give).
- Lester Salamon: Salamon is a professor at Johns Hopkins University, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, and director of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, which has extended his analysis to the international sphere. He is the author of a number of publications including America’s Nonprofit Sector: A Primer, and The Federal Budget and the Nonprofit Sector (1982), the first book to document the scale of the American nonprofit sector and the extent of government support to it.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- Independent Sector is committed to strengthening, empowering, and partnering with nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in their work on behalf of the public good. Its membership of nonprofit organizations, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs collectively represents tens of thousands of charitable groups serving every cause in every region of the country, as well as millions of donors and volunteers.
- ARNOVA, the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, is a neutral, open forum committed to strengthening the research community in the emerging field of nonprofit and philanthropic studies. ARNOVA brings together both theoretical and applied interests, helping scholars gain insight into the day-to-day concerns of third-sector organizations, while providing nonprofit professionals with research they can use to improve the quality of life for citizens and communities. Principal activities include an annual conference, publications, electronic discussions and special interest groups.
- The Nonprofit Sector Research Fund (The Aspen Institute) awards research grants and organizes convenings to expand knowledge of the nonprofit sector and philanthropy, improve nonprofit practices, and inform public policy related to nonprofits.
The International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) is a major international association promoting research and education in the fields of philanthropy, civil society and the nonprofit sector. The ISTR reflects the growing worldwide interest in Third Sector research and provides a permanent forum for international research, while at the same time building a global scholarly community in this field.
Related Web Sites
The National Center for Charitable Statistics at http://www.nccs.urban.org, a program of the CNP, provides access to statistics about nonprofit organizations, including tax-related information and provides resources to compare national, state, and regional organizations and their activities.
The Guidestar website at www.guidestar.com houses a national database of nonprofit organizations. The database searched over 850,000 nonprofit organizations and provides access to IRS forms as well as other financial information. Also, they offer a Grant Explorer and a Salary Search.
The Independent Sector website at www.independentsector.org provides information on its members, a coalition of foundations, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and individuals. It also includes information regarding its publications and conferences, and areas that provide overviews of current research and public policy.
FC Stats at http://fdncenter.org/fc_stats/index.html is a free online resource developed by the Foundation Center. It provides users with access to statistical data on U.S. private and community foundations and their funding patterns. FC Stats currently offers more than 2,300 data tables, which provide the most frequently requested types of summary financial data on foundations at the national, state, and major metropolitan-area levels, as well as detailed data on funders and funding patterns by subject area, type of support, population group, and geographic focus.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Authenticity Consulting. Accessed 31 October 2004. http://www.authenticityconsulting.com
Billitteri, Thomas J. “Two Research Projects Aim to Provide Detailed Picture of Non-Profit Organizations,” Chronicle of Philanthropy (Nov. 27, 1997).
Blumenthal, Barbara. Investing in Capacity Building: A Guide to High-Impact Approaches. The Foundation Center, 2003.
Foundation Center. Accessed 31 October 2004. http://fdncenter.org/learn/topical/globalsociety.html
InfoWeb Newsbank. Accessed 31 October 2004. http://iw.newsbank.com/correlationbank/
Learning to Give. Accessed 8 October 2004. http://www.learningtogive.org/papers/organizations/urban_institute.htm
Salamon, Lester and Wojciech Sokolowski. Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector. Kumarian Press, 2003.
Urban Institute. Accessed 1 October 2004. http://www.urban.org
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