Yale Program to Mark 20th Anniversary With Conference on the Statistics of Nonprofit Organizations

On Dec. 11-13, the Program on Non-Profit Organizations (PONPO) at Yale – which recently relocated from the Institution for Social & Policy Studies to the Divinity School – will celebrate its 20th anniversary by hosting a national gathering of scholars studying the quantitative dimensions of voluntary, nonprofit and religious entities and activities.

“When PONPO started its work two decades ago, we were still trying to figure out what the term ‘nonprofit’ meant and whether the voluntary associations, tax-exempt organizations, religious bodies and other non-governmental entities constituted a distinct and coherent institutional sector,” says program director Peter Dobkin Hall. “Today, with privatization and welfare reform shifting essential services from government to secular and religious nonprofits, there can be no doubting either the reality or significance of these nonprofit organizations.”

One indicator of the growing significance of nonprofits, Hall notes, is the fact that more than 200 colleges and universities now offer courses and degrees in a field in which, 20 years ago, Yale stood alone.

Another was the invitation to compile a chapter on these organizations and their activities for the forthcoming Millennial Edition of Historical Statistics of the United States. “That the authoritative statistical reference work on American institutions, which had never before considered secular or religious nonprofits worthy of attention, has turned to PONPO for this task is a real compliment to the efforts of faculty, students and visiting scholars who have worked at Yale over the past two decades to map the dimensions of this centrally important, but largely unknown, domain,” Hall says.

Historical Statistics, published in 1949, 1965 and 1975, is a supplement to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s annual Statistical Abstract of the United States. When Congress cut the department’s budget, it outsourced Historical Statistics to the Cambridge University Press and to an editorial board chaired by economic historian Richard Sutch, University of California, Berkeley. The Millenial Edition is expected to appear early in 2000.

At the conference, Hall and his co-editor, historian and statistician Colin B. Burke of the University of Maryland, will share their findings with Yale faculty and such leading experts on civic life, organizations and religion as Harvard’s Sidney Verba and Theda Skocpol; Princeton’s Robert Wuthnow, Paul DiMaggio and Julian Wolpert; Roger Finke, founder of the American Religion Data Archive; and researchers from the Urban Institute’s National Center on Charitable Statistics and the American Association of Fund Raising Counsel.

“The purpose of this conference is prospective,” says Hall. “We hope that it will help scholars, policy makers and agencies reach a consensus about what counts and how to count it so that, a quarter century from now, when the next edition of Historical Statistics is compiled, editors will have better information to work with.”

Datasets for the chapter can be accessed from http://research.umbc.edu/~burke/hsush1.html.

The compilation of the chapter and the forthcoming conference were made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation, the Lilly Endowment Inc., the Nonprofit Sector Research Fund of the Aspen Institute, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Institution for Social & Policy Studies at Yale.

For further information, contact Peter Dobkin Hall, senior research scholar at Yale Divinity School, at (203) 432-6591.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325