Sub-theme 11. Advances in Frameworks and Theory
Exploring the Philanthropy Commons
In this panel, we focus on an emerging area of commons research: philanthropy. Philanthropy is the act of freely giving time or money. In the philanthropy-as-commons perspective, the resource is subtractable; one dollar or hour of time given to charity cannot be given or used elsewhere. We explore a continuum of exclusion as related to appropriation and provision problems. Appropriation problems such as the wide array of largely uncoordinated requests for donations–in-person, mail, phone, email, social media, etc.–and it is up to the individual how to respond. Because it is difficult to exclude oneself from “asks,” one tragedy of the commons occurs when donor fatigue reduces or ends giving. There are also provision problems, such as when a volunteer has a negative experience at a particular charity and stops volunteering altogether; in this case, the host organization did not steward the volunteer resource so that it would regenerate “volunteer energy” (Brudney, Meijs, and Overbeeke, 2019). In this panel, we explore multiple potential social dilemmas for both provision and appropriation of philanthropic resources (Blomquist and Shaker, 2022). Our panel focuses analytical light on how differing arrays of institutions can serve to either encourage, or conversely discourage, the provision of the commons and also positive externalities related to social capital, prosocial behavior, and trust-building.
1. Using the Institutional Grammar to Compare Philanthropic Institutional Arrangements
1University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA, 2Syracuse University, USA
Philanthropic institutions — defined as strategies, norms, and rules (Ostrom, 2005) – that ask for donations of money and time create pools of donors who can choose to give or not give. We conceptualize a philanthropic common as the combined pool of donated money or time, with the understanding that there are multiple polycentric commons and nested levels of commons.
There are a multiplicity of philanthropic institutional arrangements from giving circles, in which a small group of people combines their giving and self-organize the rules for deciding which charities will receive donations (Eikenberry, 2006), to the other extreme of donor-advised funds (DAFs), where the donors invest with a DAF through a host agency and the host agency makes the donations (and often determines the selection of charities) for the client (Heist, 2022). The variation across the different philanthropic institutional arrangements requires a comparison of the rules, norms, and strategies governing the arrangement.
The Institutional Grammar (IG) is a theoretically-informed approach to support institutional analysis; however, it is underutilized in philanthropy research with only two publications thus far (Bushouse et al., 2021; Siddiki and Lupton, 2016). The IG allows the researcher to systematically wade through rich text and (transcribed) spoken language to identify and dissect institutional statements into finer syntactical segments of interest to the researcher. It is a versatile method that can generate data for small- or large-N research projects and can be integrated with mixed-method research designs (Frantz and Sidikki, 2022). In this paper, we demonstrate the utility of the IG coding syntax for philanthropy commons research.
2. Sector Affiliation and Resource Allocation for Nonprofit and For-Profit Executives
1University of Missouri- Kansas City, USA, 2Children’s Mercy Hospital, USA
In the public administration literature generally, and the nonprofit studies literature more specifically, there continues to be a robust debate as to the effects of professional socialization on public service motivation (PSM). In particular, do executives in different sectors approach egoism and altruism differently? Through the use of an allocation game, we test the effects of sector socialization on altruistic behavior.
Our study builds on the foundation established by early social entrepreneurship (Dees, 1998; Mair & Marti, 2006; Helm & Andersson, 2010; Morris, Webb & Franklin, 2011) decision making theory in entrepreneurship (Forlani and Mullins, 2000) and behavioral economics scholars (Ostrom, Gardner, and Walker, 1994; Ostrom and Walker, 2003; Ostrom and Ahn, 2009) to advance our understanding of the way social entrepreneurs make strategic choices. More specifically, we are interested in the types of opportunities most appealing to social entrepreneurs, and the factors influencing those decisions.
Based on this empirical goal, we designed an experiment for nonprofit managers to assess the question: How does risk and uncertainty influence nonprofit entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs when considering new ventures? The level of entrepreneurship will be determined using an entrepreneurial orientation scale. The use of EO scales is growing in the nonprofit literature (Helm and Andersson, 2011). However, scholars have not yet used orientation to assess differences in decision making by executives.
Results indicate that nonprofit executives are significantly likely to act as egoists, undercooperating as compared to for-profit executives, implying a zero-sum nature to how voluntary sector executives approach resource allocation.
3. Governing the Philanthropic Commons
1University of Missouri- Kansas City, USA, 2University of Massachusetts- Amherst, USA, 3Brigham Young University, USA
Patterns of American philanthropic giving have substantially changed in the past decade; quantitatively, giving has increased substantially for wealthy older donors, while donations from middle- and working-class individuals have either remained flat or decreased. Qualitatively, individuals are giving in substantially different ways: crowdfunding, add-ons to purchases at retail outlets, and micro-donations through social media campaigns. Traditionally, philanthropic studies have modeled giving as a transaction of a private good between donor and recipient. Here, we discuss the implications of considering aggregated philanthropy as a common pool resource, identifying the institutional arrangements that have served to accelerate and attenuate giving.
Philanthropic studies have long considered the seemingly non-rational behavior inherent in giving of either time or money. Our paper extends beyond the well-covered literatures on altruistic behavior to consider a series of social dilemmas, and then in turn, the institutional arrangements used to address or attenuate those dilemmas. Free riding, over-exclusion, and the tragedy of the commons are prevalent in the support of pro-social endeavors. At the same time, innovations such as charitable foundations, Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), crowdfunding, and microdonations all attempt to address the social dilemmas. Here, we consider the rules and norms that have been developed in each of these innovations to govern patterns of giving.
This paper is a single contribution in an edited volume authored by philanthropic studies and commons scholars with the intention of orienting new scholarship focused on social dilemmas as opposed to individual transactions.