Grassroots Associations


David Horton Smith

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  • Back Matter
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  • Part I: Toward a Round-Earth Paradigm for the Voluntary Nonprofit Sector

    Part II: The Distinctive Nature of Grassroots Associations

    Part III: Theoretical Paradigms and Conclusions

  • Dedication

    For Helen and Karen


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    Key Abbreviations in This Book

    GAs = grassroots associations, which are significantly autonomous, formal nonprofit groups that use the associational form or structure, that are volunteer run and composed essentially of volunteers as analytical members, and that have a relatively small local scope (i.e., locally based). Hence, they are one important form of nonprofit group.

    VGs = voluntary groups, which are nonprofit groups or any type, whether GAs or based on paid staff, and whether local, national, or international in scope. To be a VG, a significant proportion of a group's analytical members (regular service-providing affiliates) must be acting out of voluntary altruism, as defined in Chapter 1.

    VNPS = voluntary nonprofit sector, which is the voluntary, independent, so-called “third sector” of society that manifests voluntary altruism and may be divided into the member benefit subsector and the nonmember benefit subsector. The other three sectors are the household/family sector, the business sector, and the government sector.


    David Horton Smith has studied and written about voluntary associations for more than 30 years. He founded the principal scholarly group (the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) and the principal journal (Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly) in the field. This book might well be his magnum opus. It distills his research and that of more than 2,000 other scholars who have studied what he calls “grassroots associations” (GAs), and it presents important new theoretical constructs for helping us understand these groups.

    The book should help rebalance this scholarly field. Smith argues—correctly, in my view—that the past two decades of nonprofit sector scholarship have carried us away from an older, broader, and (in many ways) more accurate view of the organizational phenomenon that lies outside the family, the state, and the market. He claims that recent attention to large, visible “paid-staff nonprofits”—universities, hospitals, cultural organizations, and social service agencies such as the YMCA, the Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities—ignores perhaps 90% of the real voluntary or nonprofit sector, which he calls the “dark matter” of the nonprofit sector, just as physical dark matter constitutes about 90% of the mass of the universe.

    In a perfect illustration of the principle that “whatever goes around comes around,” this book brings us back to the larger sociological, anthropological, and historical vision out of which nonprofit studies originally came. It is a much-needed corrective. Although getting data on nonprofit hospitals and universities is easier than getting data on GAs, and although writing about the Ford Foundation and the Metropolitan Museum often is more appealing than writing about self-help groups, book clubs, Bible study groups, choral groups, garden societies, and hobby clubs, the latter groups constitute the bulk of nonprofit effort. This large world of small public benefit organizations, mutual benefit organizations, and unincorporated associations has been largely ignored by mainstream nonprofit scholarship of the past 20 years. Smith's book brings much-needed attention to this dark matter of the nonprofit universe.

    Public benefit is, in fact, a questionable term, Smith says. He prefers non-member benefit to public benefit. Although that substitution probably does not have much of a political chance, it is a point worth pondering. Most “public benefit” or “charitable” nonprofits bring some benefits to the special groups served by the agencies as well as to the agencies' staffs, boards, and volunteers. Conversely, many “mutual benefit” or “noncharitable” nonprofits serve some charitable purposes.

    An interesting contribution is Smith's attention in passing to socially deviant associations such as the Ku Klux Klan, witches' covens, paramilitary groups, gangs, and cults. He argues that just as the for-profit sector has its Mafia and other embarrassments, the nonprofit sector also has its unpleasant side that is too easily ignored.

    The entire book is a critique of excessive attention to “establishment” nonprofits. Smith is particularly critical of the research work of Independent Sector, discussing in some detail its Nonprofit Almanac, giving and volunteering studies, National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities, and other products. He also criticizes the nonprofit academic centers for giving too much attention to paid-staff nonprofits and insufficient attention to GAs. Nor is he totally satisfied with the work of the organization and journal he founded or of the two other scholarly journals in the field (Voluntas and Nonprofit Management and Leadership). Too often, he claims, these promote “flat-earth maps” of the nonprofit sector, ignoring everything except paid-staff, formal, incorporated public benefit nonprofits.

    Some of the most interesting parts of the book come in Smith's analysis of the fundamental concept of “voluntary altruism” as well as the organizational characteristics of GAs, such as the organizational life cycle of associations and the organizational effectiveness of associations.

    Smith's book is an excellent introduction to a huge amount of research and theory, from many academic disciplines and professions, on voluntary associations. Both experienced scholars and students new to the field will find his long list of references valuable. At different points in the book, Smith says he has come across more than 2,000 references related to the topic, citing about 1,200 of them. He is deeply aware of this community of scholars on whose shoulders his work stands.

    Readers will appreciate the short and lucid concluding sections at the end of each chapter.

    This is a labor of love, the result of a 30-year love affair with what the author now calls grassroots associations. Smith is one of the relatively few nonprofit scholars who has given serious general attention to the smaller, more informal, often unregistered nonprofit groups. He criticizes people who, in their passion for “bigness and brightness,” ignore the smaller groups. The important thing, he stresses throughout the book, is not the size, wealth, or power of particular nonprofit organizations but, rather, the cumulative impact of the millions of small nonprofit groups.

    Readers will find things to like and dislike in this ambitious book. Some might be put off by the long list of references, others by the theoretical discussions. I would quibble with some of the categorization; it seems to me that Smith tends to “over-separate” paid-staff nonprofits and GAs, whereas the reality often is quite mixed. For example, I know of a choral society with a paid music director and a paid half-time assistant as well as 30 to 40 unpaid singers, a 10-person volunteer board, some program volunteers, and so on. This is technically a paid-staff nonprofit and might even fall into the 10% of “light matter” nonprofits, according to Smith, but such a group hardly compares with truly “establishment” nonprofits such as Stanford University and Massachusetts General Hospital.

    This is both a general readership book and a serious technical book. It covers a very broad territory. Only a David Horton Smith could have attempted it. We are the beneficiaries of his daring.

    MichaelO'Neill, Professor and Director, Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management, University of San Francisco


    What do the following groups have in common: an Alcoholics Anonymous local group, a Lions Club, a citizens' group organized to prevent siting a toxic waste incinerator in its town, a witches' coven, a Girl Scout troop, a Masonic Lodge, and a Bible reading group of a church? All are what many sociologists for decades have called voluntary associations. I choose to call them grassroots associations (GAs) to emphasize that I am concerned centrally here with voluntary associations that are local in scope, not with supralocal voluntary associations such as state, regional, national, or international associations.

    GAs, as I deal with them here, are mainly volunteer in composition, with more volunteer work/activity hours per year than paid-staff hours serving the groups' goals. In very rough terms, GAs and supralocal volunteer groups have less than one paid-staff full-time equivalent (less than 1,700 hours of annual paid staff work for the group). I deal with these and other definitional characteristics of GAs briefly in Chapter 1 and at more length in another document with a colleague (Smith and Dover, forthcoming). Most of the book deals with empirical and theoretical GA characteristics.

    I have tried to think of many of the important questions about GAs and then to answer them based on the theory and/or empirical research available including my own. In this process, I hope that I have asked some new questions. I have presented some new theory of my own and/or elaborations of earlier theories where I could and where I felt that it was potentially useful. The very analytical structure of the book's chapters gives an overview of the questions that I think are most important to ask and answer about GAs as groups and sometimes organizations (formal groups).

    I weave together a quarter-century of hitherto widely scattered research and theory in this book. The result is a type of tapestry, with strands of research and strands of theory—the vast majority of it based on the period since the publication of an earlier overview work by C. Smith (no relation) and Freedman (1972; see also D. Smith, 1975, and Knoke, 1986, for overviews). I present and expand on some microtheories of GAs and develop inductively a broad theory of GAs of my own throughout the book. But most important, I have developed a general theoretical and empirical critique of the entire field of nonprofit research in this book. I present this critique briefly and generally here and in Chapter 1, with more detail on this “round-earth” paradigm in every substantive chapter of the book. I treat this metaphor and critique again at length in Chapter 10.

    In essence, I argue in this book that there are many “flat-earth” voluntary nonprofit sector (VNPS) paradigms that are distorting the reality of the VNPS in related but different major ways. I define a flat-earth VNPS paradigm as any general perspective on the VNPS that omits major “territories” of the sector. So defined, flat-earth VNPS paradigms can be avoided only by studying VNPS phenomena with great balance and comprehensiveness.

    The most widespread example of a flat-earth paradigm among mainstream VNPS scholars existing today is the paid-staff nonprofit flat-earth VNPS paradigm. It overemphasizes the larger, wealthier, older, more visible nonprofits in which most of the work is done by paid staff rather than by volunteers (Hodgkinson and Weitzman, 1992; Hodgkinson et al., 1992). This paradigm emphasizes (a) volunteers in service volunteer programs, which are nonautonomous “volunteer departments” of work organizations, or (b) informal volunteers, who have no organizational auspices for their volunteer activity. About 100 million associational volunteers participating in GAs in the United States circa 1990 are potentially ignored as such (Hodgkinson and Weitzman, 1992; see also Chapter 2).

    Most of this book deals with GAs during the past 25 years or so, and for this period mainly GAs and their volunteers in the United States. This means that I am de facto falling prey to the distinctive nationalist focus flat-earth VNPS paradigm and the antihistoricism flat-earth VNPS paradigm in this book (but see Smith, 1997c).

    I urge social science and social profession scholars in all countries to contribute to the study of GAs and voluntary action in those countries and in the world as a whole throughout human history and “prehistorical” anthropology and archaeology by making their own attempts at theoretical and empirical syntheses.

    The field of nonprofit and voluntary action research (or “nonprofit research”) generally has come a long way during the past 25 years or so since it was “aggregated” by the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars as the forerunner of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and by the Journal of Voluntary Action Research as the forerunner of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (see Appendix A). Although still a fledgling field or “discipline,” nonprofit research probably now has a “million-year future.” What has been done during the past quarter-century or more in this nonprofit research field is very tiny relative to the research on nonprofits, including GAs, that is likely to be done during the 21st century or new millennium (Smith, forthcoming b). This field of interest is growing rapidly.

    The VNPS, volunteer groups, other nonprofits, and individual volunteering are not likely to suddenly vanish in the future of humankind unless there is a world catastrophe or dictatorship of vast proportions. Hence, there probably always will be a significant and perhaps growing scholarly field that studies such correspondingly growing voluntary action phenomena. The scholarly discipline of economics is likely to still be around for the new millennium because presumably there always will be some significant degree of monetary exchange and other relevant economic phenomena of the business sector among human-kind, wherever people live and for however long they live.

    This very long future existence of major social science academic disciplines also is likely to be true with the discipline of political science because there presumably will still be forms and aspects of government, laws, and power for the new millennium if humankind survives that long. Seen in this very long future perspective, or even in the much briefer but still long-term perspective of the 21st century, nonprofit and voluntary action research is a strong contender for most future growth because the VNPS is likely to show the greatest relative growth among the four or five major sectors of human society.

    In the final chapter, I predict that the 21st century will be the century of voluntary action and of volunteering as defined in Chapter 1. I see the 19th century as the century of the “industrial person” and the 20th century as the century of the “service/information person,” to be followed by the new century of the “volunteer person” or Homo Voluntas.

    I believe this book to be more comprehensive than any other so far published about GAs and their volunteers. I hope that the book will be interesting and instructive to readers of various types, but there is a great deal more to learn and a great deal more literature in sociology and other disciplines that needs to be reviewed and integrated.

    • Perhaps some scholars might be influenced to look anew at their general research paradigms and their theoretical and empirical research questions concerning GAs because of the book.
    • Perhaps some practitioners might find some useful nuggets of information about GAs in the book. This could be true for paid-staff nonprofit leaders as well as GA leaders because research on GAs has some significant implications for paid-staff nonprofits, especially with regard to volunteer programs located in work organizations such as paid-staff nonprofits, businesses (e.g., proprietary hospitals), and government agencies.
    • Perhaps some research funding organizations, such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Aspen Institute Nonprofit Sector Research Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, and other similar funders of some research on nonprofits and volunteer groups, might begin to see more clearly the overall cumulative importance of GAs as the “dark matter” of the nonprofit sector. If they do, then they might correspondingly provide more funds for needed research on GAs, especially comparative research on paid-staff and volunteer nonprofits now lacking, as noted earlier here and later in this book.

    In addition to scholars listed in the References section of this book, I also have major intellectual debts owed to a variety of other social science scholars who have done little, if any, significant work in the nonprofit research field, especially Alex Inkeles, my graduate school mentor.

    Although I have not had any grants for the literature reviewing or the writing involved, I am grateful for a small grant from the Project on Nonprofit Governance, directed by James R. Wood, of the University of Indiana at Bloomington and the Center on Philanthropy of the Indiana University at Indianapolis. This grant was of significant help in my research on GAs in one suburb (Appendix C), a study that I draw on repeatedly in this book.

    I benefited from part-time research assistance from three graduate students in the sociology department at Boston College: Julie Boettcher, Aimee Marlow, and Marlene Bryant (who has been especially competent and helpful in securing documents and in the final stages of preparation of the references). Maureen Eldredge and Eunice Doherty, secretaries of the department, have been my principal long-distance liaisons with my department, sending to me in Florida regular shipments of mail coming to the office at Boston College. I am grateful for their help.

    There are many people who I want to thank for helping me directly with the work of researching and writing this book including both professional colleagues and friends/relatives, some of whom are both. My friend, Michael O'Neill, gave me encouragement to start another book project when I was uncertain whether I could or would ever write another book after a decade-and-a-half “dry spell” given personal and health problems. I now believe that he was right, and I thank him for the perspicacity to see that it was possible and for the kindness to tell me about it. Other close friends, such as Terry Adams, Burt R. Baldwin, Al Hogle, David Karp, Ce Shan, and John Yong, also have been very supportive, as has Gary Prince. Karen Fruzan has been particularly inspirational during the past year or so. I need all of them in my life to keep going and to “do my thing,” as people used to say. I am very grateful that each of these persons exists and wants me in his or her life as well.

    My sister, Helen Marie Smith, has made invaluable contributions in affection, moral support, and companionship at crucial times. She also has done a great deal of volunteer work on the extensive references. I could not have written this book without her help in these ways, and I will continue to be deeply grateful for all that she has done for me in my life. My daughter, Laura, also has been a treasure who helps me keep going via telephone calls, even though I see her less often than I would like. My former wife, Barbara, gave me needed moral support and companionship while some ideas for this book were percolating in my mind prior to our separation in 1995.

    The two most recent former Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly editors-in-chief, Jon Van Til and Carl Milofsky, have been exceptionally helpful, as have John Messer (former associate editor) and anonymous reviewers, in helping me make “silk purses out of sows' ears.” They often have seen more value in my earlier related articles that I have written than I have been able to see initially myself. Their constructive style of criticism has helped me to feel like reworking my initial pieces for rerunning the gauntlet of peer reviewing.

    In this same vein, I appreciate the useful and constructive criticism on articles that are related to, or are parts of, the present book from anonymous reviewers of other major nonprofit research/management journal. Dennis R. Young, editor of Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and Linda Serra, that journal's co-managing editor, have been very helpful in seeking to publish the best version that I was capable of writing for certain articles that are partly included in this book or are roots of present ideas in the book.

    Michael A. Dover was of immense help in getting my references organized in computer-readable format. I also received helpful comments from various colleagues on one or more book chapters, and I wish to thank all of them for their time, their minds, and their generosity: Wolfgang Bielefeld, Thomasina Borkman, Mary Anna Caldwell, Justin Davis Smith, Julie Fisher, William Gamson, David Knoke, Mark Lyons, David Mason, Michael O'Neill, Susan Ostrander, Jone Pearce, Richard Sundeen, and Jon Van Til. Unfortunately, I cannot now recall some other colleagues who have commented on much earlier article forms of some chapters in this book. If I have left out some such people, then it is simply because of my bad memory, not meanness of spirit.

    My Sage Publications editors also have been exemplary: James Nageotte, my editor at Sage, and Armand Lauffer, my substantive editor (a professor of social work at the University of Michigan). Nageotte, in particular, was astute enough to see the potential value of my book prospectus when many other publishers to whom I also sent the prospectus could “not find room for it” in their book lists. I could not ask for better editors. I especially appreciate their patience in letting me take the necessary time to do what I thought needed to be done so as to make this book as magnum an opus as I could under the circumstances.

  • Appendix A: Description of the (Largely North American) Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action

    Nonprofit organizations and voluntary action is a growing field of interdisciplinary and interprofessional study. This field began formally in the United States in 1971 when the Center for a Voluntary Society provided seed money through grants to Boston College and part of my paid time as director of research at the center to pursue my idea of developing an academic association for this field. James Shultz, the first director of the center, and later John Dixon, the second director, were instrumental in making these resources available. Those who find congenial the “resource mobilization” perspective on social movement origins and growth (McCarthy and Zald, 1977) will note the parallel here for a nonmovement.

    Burt R. Baldwin and Richard D. Reddy, initially as graduate students of mine at Boston College and later as colleagues at their own colleges (Central Connecticut State University and State University of New York at Fredonia, respectively), were of tremendous help to me in getting the new association, the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars (AVAS), formed and going. Eugene D. White, Jr., the first office manager and later executive officer of AVAS, also was virtually indispensable in helping get AVAS going during the first few years. More of this history of the field can be found in “Researching Volunteer Associations and Other Nonprofits: An Emergent Interdisciplinary Field and Potential New Discipline” (Smith, forthcoming b).

    Concerted research on nonprofit organizations and voluntary action, applied and scholarly, is a field of study that is, thus, a bit more than 25 years old (Smith, 1993a, 1995e). AVAS, which since has become the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), has published its journal for more than 25 years. This Journal of Voluntary Action Research, now Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ), was the first journal of its kind anywhere focused totally on voluntary action and nonprofit organizations (Smith, 1972a, 1972b).

    In 1977, Yale University formed the Program on Non-Profit Organizations (PONPO) as the first university-based research center of its kind in the world. The two entities represented different streams of interest—voluntary action versus nonprofit organizations—that remained separate during the early years. The two traditions were unified, and the journal and organization were renamed in 1989 and 1990, respectively. In 1993, ARNOVA formed a new partnership with PONPO that assumed joint sponsorship of NVSQ under Carl Milofsky as editor-in-chief. When Steven Rathgeb Smith became editor-in-chief in 1998, the NVSQ headquarters location transferred to the University of Washington and the PONPO connection ended. At about the same time, in 1993 the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis began to house ARNOVA headquarters, which previously had been located at Boston College, Pennsylvania State University, Tufts University, and Washington State University. This involved a substantial annual support grant from the center to ARNOVA in addition to space.

    ARNOVA is an independent, multidisciplinary, multiprofessional society whose mission is to foster research, both applied and theory oriented, on nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, citizen participation, and voluntary action. Our annual conference provides opportunities for independent scholars and thoughtful practitioners from diverse disciplines and service industries to interact as a community of scholars. More than 500 people participated in the 1999 conference including about 100 non-U.S. participants from 22 nations on four continents and Australia (my computation from 1999 list of participants).

    ARNOVA is committed to building nonprofit research as a recognized field of study; remaining a neutral open forum for sound scholarship and research-related activities undertaken by scholars, practitioners, academic centers, and foundations; nurturing new scholars; and defining a common core of learning that constitutes the special field of study.

    For more then two decades, ARNOVA's annual conferences have grown in size, diversity, and contribution to knowledge. ARNOVA received more than 500 proposals for the 1999 conference in Arlington, Virginia, up from 125 in 1991, and the number of conference participants has increased correspondingly. The membership of more than 1,000 independent scholars and practitioners at the end of 1999 has grown by more than 100% during the past five years (Anita Plotinsky, personal communication, November 6, 1999). ARNOVA continues to play a groundbreaking role in increasing the depth of knowledge about the nonprofit sector and voluntary action.

    The phenomena on which NVSQ is focused are substantial in the United States and elsewhere, as Chapter 2 demonstrates. The variety of individual nonprofits includes Harvard University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago), the American National Red Cross, the Audubon Society, the Ford Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, a local Girl Scouts troop, a local Parent-Teacher Association, a local Alcoholics Anonymous group, a local youth soccer league, and so on. This field has as much distinctiveness as do the economic and government sectors, for the groups we study have a very different structure than do governments and businesses. Nonprofits are not tied to people's voting or taxes in any territory, nor do they seek to distribute profits (indeed, by definition, they cannot distribute any excess revenues to members, their boards, or “owners”). Moreover, nonprofits or VGs are the main organized expression of voluntary altruism in society, along with service volunteer programs.

    In addition to this growth within the United States, changes in the former Communist bloc and in less wealthy nations have produced growing interest in nonprofit organizations, voluntary action, and problems of civil society world-wide. ARNOVA always has included many Canadians as well as Americans. Elsewhere, there are many members from the United Kingdom as well as a sprinkling of members from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, continental Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere. At the end of 1999, there were members from 55 countries (ARNOVA, 1999). Although the international community of scholars recently founded an International Society for Third Sector Research, ARNOVA has been an international association from its inception, and NVSQ continues to publish occasional articles from around the world.

    For many years, NVSQ has noted in each issue that the journal is interested in research papers on “voluntarism, citizen participation, philanthropy, and nonprofit organizations.” Interested readers of the present book who are not members of ARNOVA might, if interested, inquire of the headquarters office in Indianapolis about a brochure and information on various publications, conferences, and other services. Conferences usually are held in October or November, rotating around the country haphazardly and sometimes meeting in other nations (Canada and the United Kingdom so far). One-page paper proposals are submitted in the spring and are peer-reviewed by a conference program committee. Journal subscriptions should be made through the Indianapolis office. (Please ask your library to subscribe as well.)

    The current ARNOVA address is as follows:

    Dr. Anita Plotinsky

    Executive Director, ARNOVA

    Indiana University Center on Philanthropy

    550 West North Street, Suite 301

    Indianapolis, IN 46202-3162

    Phone: (317)684-2120

    Fax: (317)684-2128



    Appendix B: Creating a Local Nonprofit Sampling Frame Including Grassroots Associations: An American Example

    Standard sampling texts (Henry, 1990; Jaeger, 1984; Yates, 1981) say little or nothing about the special problems of sampling semiformal groups and organizations such as nonprofits (defined in Chapter 1) that are nowhere fully listed. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) registration lists of nonprofits in the United States are very biased and incomplete (Dale, 1993; Gronbjerg, 1989, 1994; Smith, 1997d; see also Chapter 2), contrary to what many researchers seem to believe. The IRS lists include primarily larger and nonreligious nonprofits. Religious groups (including churches) with any level of revenues and nonreligious groups with revenues under $5,000 per year at present do not have to register, and most do not (see Chapter 2). With $25,000 revenues per year, a nonprofit must file a Form 990 annual report. Nonregistered nonprofits in the United States include most nonprofits, which usually are small and volunteer run (Smith, 1997d; see also Chapter 2).

    Given IRS records as a source for larger nonprofits, often with paid staff, the core of the nonprofit sampling problem is the small volunteer nonprofits. Omitting them makes a quite incomplete sample of nonprofits in any territory. Standard sampling procedures tell us to create a sampling frame (complete list) of nonprofits in a territory when none exists (Jaeger, 1984, p. 6; Yates, 1981, p. 63). One may start with IRS-registered nonprofits in an area, but one must go on from there to create a more complete sampling frame if one wishes to generalize to all nonprofits, not just large paid-staff nonprofits. Gronbjerg's (1989) article on creating a sampling frame for a metropolitan area for paid-staff public benefit nonprofits is a rare and welcome contribution. She shows that the IRS-listed nonprofits are only about half of the total even for such larger and public benefit nonprofits (see also Dale, 1993; Gronbjerg, 1994).

    This appendix suggests how such a sample could be even more complete by including volunteer nonprofits (mainly grassroots associations [GAs]) as well as paid-staff nonprofits (Smith, 1981) and by including member benefit groups as well as nonmember benefit groups—all of which are nonprofits (Smith, 1991, 1993b; see also Chapters 1 and 2). Once one has such a sampling frame, either random or systematic sampling of the list will produce a sample of nonprofits that one can study and generalize from to the larger total of nonprofits in the territory. Very few studies have done this.

    For many years, researchers studying voluntary associations have been studying the numbers of associations (volunteer nonprofits) in smaller communities (Babchuk and Edwards, 1965; Laskin and Phillett, 1965; Warriner and Prather, 1965). The usual method of identifying such associations has been to seek local lists and to content analyze the local newspaper, if present. Some general fieldwork has accompanied this. In the best-known U.S. instance of full-scale ethnographic fieldwork with special interest in associations in a town (Warner and Lunt, 1941), a much higher frequency of associations per 1,000 population was found than in most other studies (Smith, 1997d; Smith and Baldwin, 1974b, p. 281; see also Chapter 2), indicating that such fieldwork might be the method of choice for maximum completeness without concern for cost.

    The problem is the completeness versus cost trade-off. It is very labor intensive and, hence, costly to find GAs on a community, even when starting with a major existing list. Most GAs are not in the IRS tax-exempt list, as noted earlier. A locality (e.g., city, town, county) in the United States may or may not have a good existing list. Hence, there is no reliable “single source” for a reasonably complete nonprofit list in most localities.

    A Multimethod Comprehensive Sampling Frame Creation Strategy for Nonprofits

    The aim of the present multimethod strategy is to improve the completeness of the nonprofit sampling frame over use of lists and newspapers without using (very expensive) full-scale ethnography. The following are the elements of the multimethod strategy. Although developed for use in smaller communities, the approach also can be used for cities or even nations as territories.

    Strategy 1: Key General Lists of Nonprofits

    Find and use any existing general lists or directories of nonprofits in the community. Such lists might be kept by the town clerk, the mayor's or city manager's office, the chamber of commerce, the public library, or some organization interested in promoting business and tourism in the community. These days, the list might be computerized in larger localities. For states and nations (and occasionally counties and larger cities), there might be directories of nonprofits of all types or of a certain type of nonprofit. In the United States, for example, there is the Encyclopedia of National Associations (Jaszczak and Sheets, 1997). For Chicago, Gronbjerg (1989, p. 68) used a metropolitan Chicago social service directory as her third most productive source of paid-staff nonprofits. Hungary has a law requiring all GAs and other nonprofits to register with the government (Kuti, 1998), and most GAs may be included in this registration. France has a similar law, probably with similar results (Lanfant, 1976).

    The problem with single lists purporting to be comprehensive is that they almost invariably are not comprehensive. The town clerk in one town I studied produced as “comprehensive” a list of fewer than 10% of the nonprofit organizations I later found in the town using the present comprehensive strategy. In another town, the list produced by a locality promotion/tourism organization was about 80% complete relative to the result of the comprehensive strategy. One cannot be sure about where some supposedly comprehensive list falls on a continuum of completeness until and unless the more comprehensive strategy is used at least in part. However, one can use as a rough guide the knowledge that about 30 nonprofits per 1,000 population usually are present, more in smaller places (Smith, 1997d; see also Chapter 2). The large majority of these are GAs.

    Obviously, when there are two or more lists, one creates a master list eliminating overlaps. I favor a small card file. Others might favor a computer file, even initially, especially in a larger locality. One must take care with nonprofit names and name changes to avoid duplicates. I found particular trouble with people calling a nonprofit by the city name (i.e., “Boston …”) versus not doing so. It pays to cross-reference nonprofits with, and again without, locality names to deal with this problem of possible double listing.

    Strategy 2: Local Mass Media
    • Content analyze the local newspapers for mentions of nonprofit organizations. If there is no newspaper exclusively serving the community, then try to find an area newspaper that has a special section on the community or other area of interest. If there are two or more local newspapers serving the area, then try to identify which one pays more attention to nonprofits. The right newspaper to use might not be the primary or larger circulation paper. In my research, weekly newspapers tended to give more coverage to GAs than do daily newspapers. Look for pages in the newspapers that specialize in volunteer group or nonprofit affairs. Occasionally, the person at the newspaper responsible for volunteer and nonprofit activities will have a card or computer file on nonprofits or associations specifically and will give you access to it. Often, this list, if present, is published at least once a year in the local newspaper.

      Do not assume that all mentions of nonprofits in a newspaper are to be found on special association or group pages. By sampling pages and days of the week, one can identify additional groups through systematic sampling and content analysis. Be careful to list finally only those nonprofits that are in the community of focus; the boundaries of coverage geographically by a newspaper often are vague. Where territorial coverage of a nonprofit is unclear, this can be checked later by telephone in many cases. Consider a GA as located in whatever town has the largest plurality of members in that GA, irrespective of other evidence suggesting alternative locations. Content analyzing newspapers is labor intensive, but in the experience of myself and others, it is more efficient than full-scale ethnography and is quite effective, especially in identifying volunteer (rather than paid-staff) nonprofits.

    • Find local or local-coverage radio stations and seek their records or copies of “public service announcements.” These public service announcements (PSAs) are brief announcements of nonprofit organization activities made over the air by station announcers reading notes or cards sent in by nonprofits, usually GAs. They are more frequent in smaller towns or cities than in larger cities. If you can find a box or basket of these PSA cards at a radio station, it can be very helpful, especially with contact people and addresses. There are fewer of these PSAs now than before the U.S. government deregulation of radio stations during the early 1980s, but they still can be a useful source of information on volunteer and other nonprofits.
    Strategy 3: Telephone Directories
    • Search the local yellow pages from the telephone company under categories that are likely to yield nonprofits. For example, seek nonprofits under categories such as associations, churches, clubs, fraternal organizations, labor organizations, and social and human services.1 The organizations so identified, like many others identified by other methods, need to be screened individually or on a sampling basis to determine whether they are in fact nonprofits. Businesses can work their way into some of these and other categories.
    • Seek in the white (regular) pages of the telephone book for entities listed in all capital letters and/or boldface type, screening for nonprofits with addresses in the target community (in urban areas, single telephone books cover many localities). In very large cities, one may sample pages systematically and use estimation procedures to determine how many additional nonprofits might be in one's frame. There will be many businesses appearing in this source. Most can be identified as businesses by their names and can be omitted (e.g., “Rudy's Cleaners”). Possible nonprofits should be included and later screened as noted earlier. This tactic is tedious and time-consuming but necessary.
    Strategy 4: Government General Lists of Nonprofits
    • Try to obtain a computerized listing of nonprofits in 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) categorizations from the IRS. These now are generally available for a fee. If these cannot be obtained or afforded, then use the latest cumulative list of organizations issued by this source (U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1979, is an earlier version). Do not assume that this source is complete. It overlooks many smaller, newer, low-budget volunteer nonprofits and most religious nonprofits (Smith, 1997d).
    • Try to obtain a computerized list of nonprofits from U.S. state authorities that register nonprofits as part of the state incorporation procedure. Typically, this information is kept by the Office of the Secretary of State. Such lists seldom are published. Some states still keep the information on index cards, I am told. As with the IRS information, this type of nonprofit organization list overlooks many unincorporated, smaller, newer, low-budget, semiformal, or religious volunteer nonprofits.
    • At the town or city hall, ask to see (or have a copy of) the list of tax-exempt nonprofit property on the tax rolls. This list of organizations consists of the wealthier nonprofits that are able to own real property and often buildings to meet in and use as headquarters. Sometimes, counties in the United States might have similar or even broader lists.
    • At the town or city hall or post office, ask about the full list of nonprofits that are entitled to have their own tax-exempt mailing bulk rate numbers.
    Strategy 5: Interviews

    Extensive interviewing is quite expensive, especially if viewed from the perspective of number of new nonprofits identified per interview. Nonetheless, this approach has some special advantages in identifying smaller, more informal volunteer nonprofits in a locality.

    • Using Strategies 3(a), 3(b), and 4(c), identify the likely public meeting places for nonprofits (especially volunteer nonprofits) in the community. Then, seek information through telephone or in-person interviews on what groups actually have met there during the past 12 months. The latter process involves many telephone calls and some in-person visits to meeting sites. In larger places, this can be done on a sampling basis. Some examples of probable meeting places include churches and synagogues, libraries, schools, veterans organizations, historical societies, and fraternal organizations. Every nonprofit identified in Strategy 4(c) should be checked as a meeting place on a random sampling basis, if necessary. For schools, officials should be queried regarding both student and parent groups as well as volunteer programs. For churches, one should ask about church-related as well as nonmember groups meeting at the churches, differentiating integral from nonintegral church-related groups (Smith, 1996).
    • Key informants in the locality (e.g., nonprofit leaders, local government leaders) can be interviewed regarding the nonprofits with which they are familiar or to which they belong. Local leaders tend to belong to many more volunteer nonprofits than does the average person in the community and, hence, can be a richer source of new nonprofits per interview than can the average citizen. However, even if such leaders are sampled carefully, it is difficult to know how many nonprofits one still might be missing when finished with key informants.
    • Interview a representative sample of community residents regarding nonprofits they know, either as a separate process or as part of the initial interviews you perform in the community for some other related purpose. This method shows diminishing returns, but 30 to 50 interviews of this sort can be useful in smaller places (more in larger cities), if only to confirm data from other sources. This tactic can be most sensitive to smaller, poorer, newer, less formal GAs, unlike most other tactics. It is especially effective if done on a careful, representative area-sampling basis, as discussed by Gronbjerg (1989, pp. 77–78) and performed by McPherson (1982). The drawbacks of depending solely on this method are that it fractionates real nonprofit groups in the data collection process and generally substitutes a random member of any group as an informant in place of a leader who is a preferred informant. I believe that identifying the nonprofits first, sampling from a reasonably complete list, and then interviewing leaders (preferably two or more for each nonprofit) is methodologically preferable. Hence, I recommend the present community sampling and interviewing of individuals as an auxiliary rather than the central method.
    Strategy 6: Special Lists

    In addition to general lists, one can find lists of specific types of nonprofits such as in human resource directories, human services directories, “people's yellow pages” (alternative social change-oriented directories), information and referral service directories or card files/computer files, environmental group lists, health-related agency lists, arts and cultural organization lists, ethnic group/minority group lists, community/ethnic housing/economic development group lists, educational institution/group lists, church lists, foundation lists, and trade union lists (most of the forgoing types are taken from Gronbjerg, 1989). Also, one can obtain a list of groups participating in any major local celebrations, parades, and so on from the town or city hall or from the sponsoring organization, if not the local government. This source might be unavailable but is useful if present.

    Gronbjerg (1989) suggests examining official registration and license listings, if any, for nonprofits; seeking grant and contract listings for several years from public agencies, foundations, and councils; and using membership lists from coalitions, networks, and task forces. These might turn up some volunteer-run groups as well as paid-staff nonprofits. For all or a sampling of local banks, one might be able to obtain a listing of accounts that are owned by nonprofit organizations, especially associations. The amount of the account usually is private, but the existence or name of the account might not be. This source is very useful but often is hard to obtain, especially in cities. One may similarly seek a list of post office boxes in a locality, some of which will be rented by nonprofits. One can try to obtain a complete list of nonprofit organization mailing permits from the post office. All of these special list procedures tend to be more haphazard in coverage and time-consuming to use than are the general lists. In European nations, lists of post office bank accounts might be available. Finally, lists of community nonprofits can be obtained from high schools and colleges that have community service programs and place students in volunteer work in these groups (Raskoff and Sundeen, 1998).

    Cleaning the Data

    For all of the forgoing strategies, attention must be given to eliminating duplicates with similar names because of typographical errors, mistakes of hearing or memory, incomplete names, and names that do or do not use a locality (or church, school, etc.) name as a preface (e.g., Lions Club vs. Boston Lions Club). One also must try to catch major name changes. For example, the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars changed its name to the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action several years ago; it should not be counted twice in any national count of U.S. nonprofits. One also must strive to eliminate “dead” nonprofits by seeking evidence of some activity, as by self-addressed return postcards. Businesses and government agencies also must be eliminated from the final list. This can be very difficult. In most cases the names are indicative, but not necessarily. For example, Council on Aging might be a government agency, or it might be a nonprofit; the name is not indicative. When names are not indicative, phone calls can help, but profit-seeking firms often do not like to admit to this status if they are trying to pass as nonprofits (Gronbjerg, 1989). Checking with the IRS or state corporation records can help, and for larger businesses, there are standard commercial directories such as Standard & Poor's (1999). Sometimes, the people to whom one speaks at a nonprofit are genuinely uncertain whether they are a nonprofit or a government agency. A discussion of the nonprofit's funding and tax filing status might clarify this; a nonprofit that depends on a single long-term government contract for most of its revenues might confuse its workers regarding government versus nonprofit status. Gronbjerg's (1989, pp. 65–67) comments should be consulted on all of this.

    Other Countries

    There is not a great deal of literature on identifying and counting nonprofits elsewhere any more than there is in the United States. Salamon and Anheier (1994; see also Salamon, Anheier, and Associates, 1998) have made the largest and most systematic effort in this regard as part of their major project with many others. Even where smaller studies of towns or cities in other nations exist, they often are sketchy in their descriptions of how sampling frames were created (Drake, 1972; Koldewyn, 1984, 1986). Yet the meager literature extant suggests that the methods suggested here have some applicability beyond the United States.

    In some countries, such as France (Lanfant, 1976; Meister, 1972a) and Malaysia (Douglas, 1972), existing official registries (Strategy 4) of volunteer associations at one government level or another greatly facilitate creating a sampling frame. In such nations, the first priority strategy becomes the use of good general government lists (lists far more complete than those in the United States). Even in these countries, however, supplementary methods must be used for completeness (Lanfant, 1976). When systematic government registry is lacking or very incomplete (as in the United States), other systematic sources might permit creation of a reasonable sampling frame using methods suggested earlier. For example, Meister (1972a) used an annual post office list of postal bank accounts (Strategy 6) to identify most associations in Geneva, Switzerland. However, this source omits smaller groups without such accounts and groups with accounts held in the names of treasurers rather than in the names of the groups. In Birmingham, England, Newton (1975) found his more than 4,000 associations using general and special lists (Strategies 1 and 6). Hatch (1980), studying social and environmental service associations in three towns/cities in England, successfully used methods similar to Strategies 1 and 2.

    Societal parameters will affect both the prevalence of volunteer nonprofits and the problem of creating a sampling frame that properly includes them. Most important are freedom of association and assembly. If these are denied, as in totalitarian states, then GAs usually are few or are controlled by the government (blurring sector distinctions). GAs that exist independently tend to be underground and are, hence, very hard to find. In democratic societies with functioning civil liberties, GAs tend to be much more frequent per 1,000 population and easier to study in principle, although they are more resource-consuming to study because of their larger numbers. Freedom of religion and lack of a state church has a similar effect on general civil liberties, as do greater societal decentralization, social heterogeneity, and population size: There is a greater prevalence of GAs, making them easier to study but requiring more resources (Smith, 1973c; Smith and Baldwin, 1983).


    A comprehensive sampling frame for nonprofits in a community can be created by combining the results of a variety of strategies. It is useful to keep track of which independent sources mention which nonprofits, computing overall percentage estimates of completeness. Special attention is given here to including member benefit nonprofits (vs. only nonmember benefit nonprofits) and volunteer nonprofits or GAs (vs. only paid-staff nonprofits), which often are ignored in spite of their collective importance (Smith, 1997a). Failure to include volunteer-run nonprofits results in underestimating the true number of nonprofits in a territory by at least a factor of 5 times and quite possibly 10 times—a gross underestimate (see Chapter 2). The result sought here is a sampling frame for nonprofits in a community that is more truly representative of the actual population of nonprofits, so that research generalizations based on samples from it can be more valid and reliable. The strategies used can be adapted for larger places, in some cases seeking data on a sampling basis rather than on a comprehensive census basis.

    Multiple method strategies for creating a nonprofit sampling frame with special attention to the inclusion of volunteer nonprofits have shown promise when used outside the United States. However, much research effort is involved in creating a good sampling frame, even in societies where there is some registration of associations. Just as those who study paid-staff nonprofits tend to ignore volunteer nonprofits, those studying volunteer nonprofits tend to ignore paid-staff nonprofits in the United States and elsewhere. These two important segments of the nonprofit sector need to be sampled together in a comprehensive fashion if one desires to generalize about nonprofits.

    Each of the various strategies noted here has its advantages and disadvantages. Strategy 1, general lists, has the advantage of simplifying one's work if a fairly complete list can be located. However, it might be very incomplete indeed, as is an IRS nonprofit listing for an area (Dale, 1993; Gronbjerg, 1989, 1994). Strategy 2, mass media sources, gives a lot of fine detail but is very time-consuming. It omits smaller and less publicly visible nonprofits. Strategy 3, telephone directories, also is time-consuming but is the easiest way in which to identify religious groups systematically missing from some other sources such as the IRS nonprofit listings. Strategy 4, government lists/data, can be easy but costly to access and tends to be very biased toward wealthier and more established nonprofits. Strategy 5, interviews, is strongly favored by some for its coverage of smaller nonprofit groups and for its potential randomness and generalizability. However, it is expensive and insufficient for studying any given group well because it does not let one speak to many nonprofit leaders directly. Strategy 6 has a haphazard quality to it and does not permit good estimation of what nonprofits are missing. However, if done fairly systematically, it is part of a good comprehensive strategy and can be relatively inexpensive.

    I recommend that researchers in the United States use the suggested strategies in the order presented, going as far as resources will permit. I further recommend that research resources be spread over several, and preferably all, of the six strategies noted rather than being concentrated in one or two strategies (as others have done). This permits cross-checking the data from different sources and will yield a better estimate of how good any given source is. Statistically, the greater the overlap of two or more reasonably independent sources of information on existing nonprofits, the better these sources are and the fewer additional nonprofits are likely to be “out there” unnoticed. The less overlap there is, the poorer the sources are and the more nonprofits are likely to be missing from one's composite list.2 More resources are needed to create a reasonable sampling frame in a big city than in a small town, but there are economies of scale in regard to some methods (e.g., long lists might cost about the same to obtain as do short ones) but not others (e.g., use of telephone directories, although sampling them will help limit costs).

    Overall, the multistrategy approach seems superior to any single source, if only because multiple sources permit a more reliable estimate of the number of nonprofits missing from one's sampling frame. Multiple strategies also increase one's confidence in the existence of any given nonprofit in one's final composite list if its existence is suggested by two or more independent sources. Generalizations about the nonprofit sector should be based on valid and reasonably representative samples, not heavily biased ones such as IRS listings in the United States. We have gone past the initial stage of research on nonprofits when scholars could be forgiven for their use of convenient but inadequate data such as IRS listings. Higher standards of representativeness and completeness of sampling now must apply.


    1. Other categories that often include nonprofits are abortion alternatives, abortion services, adoption services, alcohol information and treatment centers, art instruction and schools, arts organizations and information, athletic organizations, birth control information centers, chambers of commerce, child care centers, clinics, consumer cooperative organizations, cooperative organizations, credit unions, environmental-conservation and ecology organizations, family planning information centers, foundations, hospices, hospitals, humane societies, libraries (can be nonprofits even though they are funded by local government), mental health services, museums, nursing homes, professional organizations, religious organizations, rest homes, retirement homes, retreat facilities, schools (all types), senior citizen service organizations, veterans' and military organizations, youth organizations and centers.

    2. In a personal communication, a statistician colleague (Paul Holland) suggested that a rough estimate of the completeness of a sampling frame or composite list (as in making a complete census) can be estimated as the product of the total number of elements in two independently derived lists used to create that frame, all divided by the number of overlapping elements present in both lists. When two such independent lists overlap completely, the composite list from the two sources is estimated as complete. When there is no overlap of such lists, the estimated larger universe of elements is estimated as infinite (dividing by zero) or at least very large. Usually, lists of similar things from a given territory have some overlap, and the estimate of the total universe of elements is finite but larger than one's composite list. By taking the number of elements in one's composite list divided by the estimate of the larger universe from the list overlap, one can compute the current extent of completeness of one's composite list. Two or more independent lists can be combined, and successive approximations of the total universe can be computed using subsequent independent lists/sources. This approach is very useful in creating a local nonprofit sampling frame because it gives a reasonable, if rough, estimate of how well one is doing and when it might be reasonable to stop one's sampling frame work (e.g., stopping with an estimated 80% or 90% completeness). If one is seeking to create a sampling frame or census of a specific type of nonprofit, then one should overlap “purified” lists that are thought by inspection of their names to deal with the purposive type of nonprofit of interest. If a list obtained from somewhere already is “pure” in the sense of containing, say, only health nonprofits or only self-help GAs, then no further purification might be necessary. However, if one obtains a broader list of nonprofits for the territory of concern, then the non-health-related or non-self-help-related groups would have to be deleted to get a purified list, which can then be overlapped with other independent lists of that same type of nonprofit entity. The resulting estimate of the nonprofit universe refers to that purposive type only, not to all nonprofits in the given territory.

    Appendix C: Methodology of the Smith One-Suburb Study

    The site of this study was a small, middle-class bedroom suburb of Boston with a population between 10,000 and 20,000. The town was chosen because preliminary inquiry suggested that there was a wide variety of both nonmember and member benefit nonprofits present and because of geographical convenience for fieldwork.

    The first phase of the fieldwork involved creating a sampling frame of all the nonprofit voluntary groups in town (see Appendix B). This included tactics such as consulting the town clerk for a list of groups; obtaining the list of nonprofit tax-exempt properties in town; asking managers of meeting places in town about groups that met there; talking to church, school, and library leaders about their affiliated groups and other groups that met there; examining the white and yellow pages of local telephone directories; and talking to initial interviewees about groups they knew in town.

    As the list of groups lengthened, I made telephone calls to groups that looked as though they might be businesses or parts of the local government, verifying their status. Sometimes, I was misled until a later point of contact. Occasionally, there were duplicates that I had to catch, owing to similar but different names given by different informants for the same group (e.g., Couples Club vs. Mr. and Mrs. Club).

    The initial focus of the research was on the differences between public and member benefit groups. Thus, soon after I started on the sampling frame, I began to try to classify the groups as public versus private benefit in nature. I quickly found that I needed a middle category of mixed benefit groups for either uncertainty or verified mixture of aims. I made calls to a number of mixed benefit groups so as to verify proper classification. No attempt was made to call all mixed category groups. Groups also were classified as probable paid staff (at least one hour per week) or probable without paid staff. This low threshold of paid staff status reflects the generally small size and income of local groups. Such a threshold did not turn out to be meaningful in the data analysis, so that I now recommend a threshold of roughly one full-time equivalent in a grassroots association (GA) (see Chapters 1 and 2).

    Using the sampling frame as it existed about a week before the start of interviewing, a stratified sample was drawn as follows. A total of 19 groups were randomly selected, if available, from each of the three group type categories (public benefit, mixed, and member benefit), and each set of 19 was further stratified into 12 without paid staff and 7 with some paid staff (at least one hour per week). Because of difficulties in ascertaining accurate classification on initial contact and the desire not to discard interviews once conducted, the final sample of groups looked like Appendix Table C-1. In the category that has only 10 all-volunteer public benefit groups, there were no more in town to sample.

    Appendix Table C-1 Sampled Groups by Categories (N = 59)

    When a group leader was interviewed who indicated facts suggesting that the group belonged in a different category, the group was transferred there, even though this had some negative effect on the stratified random sample. The aim was to obtain a sample that varied in purposive type and, to some extent, in paid-staff presence while being as random as one could make it under the circumstances of time and effort. No attempt is made to weight the sampling categories according to the size of the categories in the total sampling frame. Some disguised examples for the various sampling categories are as follows:

    All-volunteer public benefit:Group to help an established nonprofit organization operate
    Some paid-staff public benefit:Foundation
    All-volunteer mixed benefit:Parent group helping students in some way (fund-raising)
    Some paid-staff mixed benefit:Student group that significantly involves both personal and public benefit
    All-volunteer member benefit:Non-school-based youth sports group
    Some paid-staff member benefit:Trade union

    Interviews were the primary means of data collection—partly qualitative, partly quantitative. There was a slight preponderance of quantitative over open-ended or qualitative questions in the interview schedule, but unplanned qualitative questions that were not in the interview occasionally were pursued. The interviews were made with a sample of 59 GA leaders in town and lasted about an hour (median = 60 minutes). The leaders were the top officials of their respective groups, with the exception of two rather leaderless groups. Sometimes, one of two co-leaders was interviewed, but never both. The leaders were chosen because they were the current official leaders of groups that fell into the GA sample.

    A total of 198 nonprofits were identified circa 1991. A nonprofit was identified by me at that time as a group (Smith, 1967) with a nondistribution constraint (Hansmann, 1980), autonomous of government (Salamon, 1992), reasonably autonomous of other groups (Smith, 1994b), and not based mainly on kinship or marriage (Smith, 1991). Legal incorporation, let alone Internal Revenue Service registration as 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4), was unnecessary for inclusion because these are legal/administrative distinctions, not reasonable aspects of analytical social science definition. They are important distinctions but are far too limiting when studying volunteer-managed nonprofits. Semiformal groups (Smith, 1992b), as well as more formal organizations, were allowed into the sample for inclusiveness. This meant that member boundaries did not have to be clear and the leadership structure could be loose, but a unique and “proper” name was required. To be counted in the sampling frame, a nonprofit also had to have a plurality of its members thought to be living in the suburb, according to the leader's estimate.


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    About the Author

    David Horton Smith has been a Professor of Sociology at Boston College since 1976 and was Associate Professor there from 1968 to 1976. He currently is on a leave of absence from the university.

    Born and raised in the Los Angeles Area, he received his B.A. from the University of Southern California (1960) magna cum laude in three major departments/fields: philosophy, psychology, and sociology. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honorary societies, and on graduation he received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Honorary Fellowship. His M.A. (1962) and Ph.D. (1965) in sociology were received from Harvard University in the interdisciplinary Department of Social Relations.

    He was the founder and first president of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), the first interdisciplinary and interprofessional association in the field (1971), and he was the founder and first editor of its journal Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (1972). He spent the period from 1971 to 1974 in Washington, D.C., as research director for a nonprofit concerned with voluntarism (the Center for a Voluntary Society) that supported his work in founding ARNOVA through Boston College. He has published more than 100 articles and book chapters on nonprofit and voluntary action research and has written or edited eight earlier books in the field. His major books include Voluntary Action Research: 1972, 1973, and 1974 (a three-volume series), Participation in Social and Political Activities (1980), and International Participation in Voluntary Action Research (1983, edited with Jon Van Til).

    He was the recipient of the first ARNOVA Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Contribution to Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research (1993). Recently, he has been the founding chair of the new Community/Grassroots Associations Section of ARNOVA.

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