Building Nonprofit Management Education in the US: The Role of Centers in Supporting New Academic Disciplines


  • Peter Weber Auburn University
  • Carol Brunt University of Wisconsin–Whitewater



Nonprofit Management, Academic Centers, Institutionalization, Academic Disciplines, Socio-Scientific Movements


Nonprofit and philanthropic studies (NPS) is a visible presence at American universities and has achieved academic credibility. This study analyzes the role of academic centers devoted to the nonprofit sector in institutionalizing NPS as a distinctive academic field. It relies on a survey and selected case studies to map nonprofit academic centers and assess their field-building efforts. We find 55 US-based nonprofit academic centers that vary in size, revenue streams, and institutional location. Centers offer a broad range of services that span academia and practice supporting the local and regional nonprofit communities. Both endogenous and exogenous factors supported the founding of these centers, whose sustainability relies on interdisciplinarity, internal and external funding, and institutional support. We propose an evolutionary explanation for NPS’s institutionalization.

Author Biographies

  • Peter Weber, Auburn University

    Peter Weber is an assistant professor in philanthropy and nonprofit studies at Auburn University. His research interests include the institutionalization of nonprofit education, capacity building in international perspective, and philanthropic innovations through the lenses of program-related investments (PRIs). This broad-based approach tracks changes over time in associational action and philanthropic strategies to better understand today’s philanthropic practices. As a multidisciplinary scholar, he has published extensively in edited volumes and peer-reviewed journals, including diverse disciplinary outlets such as Voluntas, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Journal of Civil Society, Global Society, Central European History, Journal of Public Affairs Education, and Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership.

  • Carol Brunt, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater

    Carol Brunt is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and founder of UW-W’s Institute of Nonprofit Management Studies, an interdisciplinary research institute, housed in the College of Business and Economics. Her multiple research interests focus on human resource management (HRM) policy and practice in nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations and its adoption as a strategic approach that impacts organizational performance, as well as program growth and development in nonprofit management education (NME) in the USA. Her academic research has been published in scholarly peer-reviewed journals including the International Journal of Human Resource Management (IJHRM) and the European Journal for Development Research (EJDR).






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