Alan Abramson Joins Independent Sector as Visiting Scholar

I hope all of you have had the opportunity to squeeze every drop out of summer. It is amazing to me how summers seem to come and go more rapidly with each passing year. I cannot imagine it has anything to do with growing older!

Regardless of how you spent it – or how quickly it may have moved for you – I hope the summer has left you feeling refreshed and ready for the new beginnings that often come with the onset of autumn.

We have a new beginning of sorts here at Independent Sector that I’d like to share. As of August 27, Alan Abramson has joined the organization as a Visiting Scholar. This one-year, part-time position is new for both IS and for Alan, and we are very much looking forward to this opportunity.

Alan will be known to many of you. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on the nonprofit sector, having researched and written on important nonprofit issues for many years. Alan is currently a professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and is also the director of George Mason’s Center for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Policy. He comes to IS by way of a well-earned period of study leave from the university. You may also know Alan from his time as the president of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA).

We are honored that Alan agreed to come to IS and to spend his time thinking about a question that has long been on his mind and ours: “How can we measure the health of the nonprofit sector in a way that is both comprehensive and timely?”

While the Dow Jones Industrial Index and other existing indices provide timely – even second-by-second information about the health of the commercial sector, there is no comparable measure of how well the charitable nonprofit sector is faring. What data is available, such as 990 filings, often comes with long lag times before comprehensive, high-quality data is available to the public.

As we step into this work under Alan’s leadership, we will begin by testing several core assumptions we are making. We will look to better understand the ways in which our key stakeholders – policy makers, nonprofit leaders, and sector regulators among them – would make use of such an index. And, while we believe that such a health index could help to better focus public attention on the sector and the critical role it plays in American life, we need to examine the specific ways in which such a measure can inform and improve the narrative of our sector.

Alan will be in the “interview and discovery” mode for much of the remainder of this year, and he will be sharing more about the direction of this work when we all gather at Upswell in Los Angeles come November.

Between now and then, if you have questions about this work, or want to offer some ideas that could help shape this work, please reach out to Alan directly at

Please join me in welcoming Alan to the IS team. And, as always, thanks for taking the time to review the latest edition of Voices For Good.

Have a wonderful Labor Day.

Types: Blog, Policy Update
Global Topics: Data, IS Staff, Public Policy, Voices for Good