The nonprofit world has long been a subject of fascination for scholars from various disciplines, including historians, anthropologists, sociologists, economists, legal scholars, public management experts, and more. Regardless of their academic backgrounds, researchers delving into nonprofit organizations and philanthropy share a common imperative — prioritizing practical considerations and real-world applications above all else.
During my tenure as a Visiting Scholar at Independent Sector (IS), I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the potential for bridging the gap between academia and practice, alongside IS’s unwavering commitment to enhancing the nonprofit sector. I embarked on this Visiting Scholar journey with the ambition to shed light on public policy work concerning issues of profound significance to the entire sector.
My Role at Independent Sector
During my time as an IS Visiting Scholar, I immersed myself in the substantial issues that impact nonprofit organizations in the United States. I authored two white papers: the first explored diversity in nonprofit entrepreneurship, while the second delved into the nuanced impact of COVID-19 on nonprofit financial resilience (stay tuned for the forthcoming release!). These papers were meticulously crafted to provide valuable insights that practitioners can leverage to inform their strategies. In addition, I developed and led a webinar tailored for nonprofit practitioners. In this session, I translated current research on nonprofit financial accountability into actionable advice to improve the governance of their organizations. This experience allowed me to directly engage with practitioners who were eager to bridge the gap between research and practical application.
Shaping Research and Public Engagement
Beyond my role as a Visiting Scholar, I had the privilege of contributing to shaping IS’s research on nonprofit public engagement. This work is pivotal in understanding how nonprofits connect with the public, fostering a more vibrant, informed, and inclusive sector. It exemplifies IS’s unwavering commitment to fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange between academics and practitioners.
Blogging for Impact
To facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and ignite meaningful conversations, I authored several blog posts. These pieces explored various topics, such as understanding the birth of nonprofits; the impact of nonprofits on civic engagement; the factors influencing nonprofit creation and survival; and how a deeper understanding of nonprofit entrepreneurship can drive equity. These blogs, listed below, aimed to bridge the gap by making academic insights accessible and actionable for practitioners.
- New Year, New Nonprofits: How Understanding Their Birth Helps Create a More Vibrant Sector
- Determining Nonprofit Impact on Civic Engagement
- Influences of Nonprofit Creation and Survival
- Increasing Equity Through Greater Understanding of Nonprofit Entrepreneurship
The Need for Continued Bridge-Building
My experience as an IS Visiting Scholar has reaffirmed the vital importance of connecting academia and practice. I’ve witnessed the mutual desire for increased collaboration from both sides, with practitioners eager to tap into research findings and academics enthusiastic about making their work practical. However, the divide persists, largely due to the absence of external incentives to bridge it.
Independent Sector’s commitment to fostering this bridge is evident through initiatives like the Visiting Scholar program. It provides a clear pathway for researchers and practitioners to come together, exchange insights, and contribute to building a more robust nonprofit sector. I’m hopeful to see even more substantial efforts in this regard, not only within IS but also across the wider nonprofit community.
Concluding My Visiting Scholar Journey, but the Work Continues
My journey as an IS Visiting Scholar has been immensely rewarding, filled with opportunities to make a tangible impact on the nonprofit sector. As I continue my work and research in this field, I remain inspired by the potential for collaboration between academics and practitioners. Together, we can strengthen the sector, enhance public policy work, and create lasting, positive change.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Independent Sector for this enriching experience and encourage all stakeholders in the nonprofit world to join the effort to bridge the gap between academia and practice. Let’s keep the conversation alive, share insights, and collaborate toward building a stronger nonprofit sector that effectively serves the needs of all communities.
Mirae Kim is an Associate Professor of Nonprofit Studies and MPA Program Director at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.