April 12, 2018; Third Sector UK

It is no secret that much of the research done in the United States on nonprofit organizations rarely makes it in any significant way into the hands of nonprofit leaders. This may in part be due to a lack of relevance, in that the questions that charities have about their own work are not well answered. NPQ and a whole field of “pracademics”—academic researchers who make it their business to closely align their work to the questions that nonprofits have—are providing an ever-more-active bridge between nonprofits and those who research them, relaying questions from the field and hosting gatherings where researchers and nonprofits can talk together. But another idea has also emerged in the UK: Charities and their donors are to be asked in survey form what topics need to be explored by those who research their practice.

The online survey will be done by Charity Futures, the voluntary sector think-tank led by Sir Stephen Bubb, who explains, “Too often research in the charity sector is not focused on what matters to charities and donors. We need to remedy this.”

High-quality, relevant, future-looking research has a big part to play in making the sector stronger, and our consultation will give donors and charities a unique chance to shape the research agenda in support of their work.

Caroline Fiennes, director of Giving Evidence, says, “This study seems to be the first time that anybody has systematically consulted the people whom academic research about charities and philanthropy aims to help and influence.”

“We shall be using a rigorous research design, based on the model created by the James Lind Alliance for prioritizing research topics in medicine,” she explains, “This method is new to the charity and philanthropy worlds, but has become well established over more than a decade in medicine.”—Ruth McCambridge