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Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) Records

Identifier: MSS003

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the records of the following individuals involved in AVAS/ARNOVA: Delwyn A. Dyer, Thomasina Borkman, Kirsten Gronbjerg, Stephen Wernet, Ram Cnaan, Jon Van Til, and David Mason. These personal records, collected with varying intensity over an extended period of time, were combined to create one institutional archives for ARNOVA.

There are five series: Board Records, Administrative Records, Section Records, Annual Conference Records, and Publications.

Board of Directors Records, 1975-2008, contain the files of the decision-making body of the organization. These materials include minutes, reports, handbooks, strategic planning materials, president’s files, and correspondence. From 1974-1996 the board met once annually during the Annual Conference and on intermittent occasions as specific needs arose. Beginning in 1997 a d spring retreat was formally added to the board’s meeting schedule. Board meeting information in the collection begins in 1975 and continues through 2005. Meeting information includes minutes and attachments containing reports, financial data, proposals, and strategic planning materials. While some meeting minutes only exist in hand-written form, only minutes from the 1981 meeting are completely missing.

The second portion of this series includes files from the organization’s committees. With the exception of the membership committee, most of the committee records do not begin until the 1990s. The committee files include reports, correspondence, and minutes. Since most committees made regular reports to the board of directors, many committee reports prior to 1990 can be found in the board meeting attachments. Information about the publications committee from 1980-1983 is located in Jon Van Til’s editor files.

This series also contains the presidential files of Jon Van Til, AVAS president 1977/79, and Thomasina Borkman, ARNOVA president 1990/92. These files contain correspondence, meeting notes, reports, articles, and grant information. Borkman’s files include correspondence during the time of ARNOVA’s restructuring and correspondence regarding the creation of a health section during the 1970s. Van Til’s files cover a crucial time in the history of ARNOVA and include information regarding grant projects with the Alliance for Voluntarism. Also included in these files are board correspondence and other materials related to the strategic planning efforts of the late 1970s and the efforts to maintain the organization’s financial solvency.

While the strategic planning documents encompass much of the organization’s history, the bulk of the material covers the major strategic initiatives of the early 1990s including the two planning retreats held in Corpus Christi, Texas and David Mason’s ranch. The materials included are planning documents, correspondence, notes, and articles related to the development of ARNOVA’s strategic plan.

Administrative Records, 1970-2009 include files from the executive offices of ARNOVA. These materials consist of correspondence, the AVAS proposal, the articles of incorporation and by-laws, financial documents, grant information, and brochures.

Information related to the organization’s affiliation includes correspondence, reports, and paper abstracts. Because of ARNOVA’s support for international research, its involvement in the creation of the International Society for Third Sector Research is documented through correspondence, reports, and abstracts from the 1992 international conference.

The financial records in the collection include annual financial reports and Form 990 tax filings. Because there are gaps in the collection, researchers may want to consult the board minutes or Jon Van Til’s presidential files.

The grant files begin in 1994 and include grants related to funding strategic goals, operating expenses, and special projects. These files include proposals, grant reports, correspondence, evaluations, and financial reports. Information about Alliance for Voluntarism grants during the 1970s is found in Jon Van Til’s presidential files.

Membership information in the collection consists mainly of brochures, directories, and new member packets. Early directories were handwritten or types, while later ones were published. There are no directories for 1976-1983, 1985-1988, and 1995. During the 1970s and early 1980s, membership lists were also printed in the AVAS Newsletter.

Section Records, 1998-2009, include information about the creation, governance, and activities of ARNOVA Sections. The general information files include correspondence and reports related to the organization’s decision to create sections and the steps leading to the decision. Further information about the creation of sections can be found in the board minutes and attachments. Records from four of the ARNOVA sections (Community and Grassroots Associations; Teaching; Theories, Issues, and Boundaries; and Values, Religion, Altruism, and Drawbacks) are located online in the ARNOVA eArchives ( and include section proposals, minutes, bylaws, and reports.

Annual Conference Records, 1974-2007, contain brochures, policies, and publications related to the Annual ARNOVA Conference. Between 1974 and 1984 the conference materials consisted mainly of programs and agendas. Beginning in 1985 ARNOVA began publishing conference proceedings containing papers and abstracts from the conference. The collection contains all the proceedings through 2001 when ARNOVA ceased producing them in printed form. In 2002 ARNOVA made the information previously contained in the proceedings available online. Conference abstracts form 2002-2005 are available online in ARNOVA eArchives. Select conference papers were also published in an annual special issue of the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Further information about the conferences, including summaries and outcomes, can be found in the newsletters located in the publication records.

Publication Records, 1971-2010, consist of the publication of ARNOVA and the files of the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Publications include annual reports, abstracts, newsletters, a journal, and occasional papers.

ARNOVA Abstracts were published first as a supplement to the AVAS Newsletter and, beginning in 1974, as a separate publication entitled ARNOVA News was first published in 1973 and called the AVAS Newsletter. This publication highlighted news within the organization and items of interest to the nonprofit community. This is a good place for information about ARNOVA events, members, and the community of scholars. The collection contains an incomplete set of the newsletters from 1973-2005.

The Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, originally called the Journal of Voluntary Action, was published four times a year (occasionally in combined issues) until 2009 when its frequency changed to six times a year. Materials related to the journal include editor’s files, journal manuscript files, and the journal itself. Jon Van Til served as journal editor from 1979-1991. His files include correspondence, reports, and financial information. Because of his long involvement during the early history of the journal, these files are a good resource fro tracing the journal’s early history.

The manuscript files consist of three manuscript types: accepted, rejected, and revise and resubmit. Files from each of these include revisions of articles, decision correspondence, and peer review reports. The accepted manuscripts are arranged by issue. Rejected manuscripts are arranged alphabetically from 1979-1991 and by date between 1991 and 1995. Beginning in 1995 all manuscripts were assigned a number and rejected manuscripts from 1995-2007 are arranged by that numerical assignment. Revise and resubmit manuscripts were filed separately for a brief period of time (2000-2003) and are arranged by numerical assignments like the rejected manuscripts.


  • 1970 - 2010


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The bulk of the collection is open to the public without restriction. Records of the journal Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly are fully restricted for 10 years from the date of creation. After the expiration of the 10-year restriction, researchers must sign an agreement not to use the names of authors who submitted articles or reviews as a condition of access.

Search Committee and Award Nomination Files and other files marked "confidential" by the ARNOVA President or Executive Director will be closed to researchers for twenty years from date of creation unless researchers receive written permission to use them from ARNOVA.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

Biographical / Historical

The Association of Researchers on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) was founded to create an independent and impartial forum for researchers in the field of voluntary action and citizen participation. Originally named the Association for Voluntary Action Scholars (AVAS), the organization resulted from a planning conference held at Boston College in 1970. This conference, led by David Horton Smith, Burt Baldwin, and Richard Ready, attracted representatives from a variety of disciplines and focused on the creation of an interdisciplinary organization dedicated to voluntary action research. With start-up grant funding from the Center for a Voluntary Society, AVAS incorporated in 1971.

Between 1971 and 1976 AVAS operated informally, forming a membership base and laying groundwork for the future growth of the organization. While AVAS had an elected president, its administrative functions resided with Smith at Boston College. The development of a journal dedicated to scholarly research on voluntary action served as one of the primary goals early in the organization’s history. In 1972 this goal was realized with the publication of the Journal of Voluntary Action Research (JVAR). Two other important developments during this period included the first meeting of the Board of Directors and the first Annual Conference, both held in 1974. AVAS held parallel conferences with the Association for Volunteer Administration and the Association of Volunteer Bureaus until its first solo conference in 1982. As AVAS continued to grow, the need for a more formal structure surfaced. In 1976 Jon Van Til and Trudy Heller led a strategic planning retreat that resulted in a revised bylaws and administrative structure for the organization.

The revised bylaws enabled the organization to expand its leadership base to include a working board of directors, elected officers (president, four vice presidents, secretary, and treasurer), and a volunteer executive officer. In 1977 AVAS submitted a series of grant proposals to the Alliance of Voluntarism to enable the organization to create program offerings and help attract a larger membership base. These grants, focused mainly on collaboration and research, enabled AVAS to solidify pre-existing alliances and create new ones. In 1978 the executive office moved from its original home at Boston College to Pennsylvania State University. While these endeavors gave AVAS new momentum, a financial crisis toward the end of the decade left the organization nearly bankrupt and on the brink of dissolution. In 1979 AVAS president Jon Van Til called for a shift of attention from “organization survival to questions of program.”

AVAS entered the 1980s with few financial resources, but with a commitment to attract a wider membership. As the decade progressed, AVAS moved toward a shift in philosophy that broadened the organization’s focus from voluntary action to one that encompassed the entire nonprofit sector. In 1986 the executive offices moved to the Lincoln Filene Center at Tufts University and again in 1990 to Washington State University in affiliation with the Department of Adult and Youth Education. While the organization experienced some growth, its focus solely on voluntary action limited AVAS’ reach. Financial instability also continued to posed difficulties for AVAS. Membership dues and journal income helped offset the cost of its small operations, but did not allow room for expansion. In response to these issues the board of directors decided to reevaluate the goals of the organization and let AVAS through a long-term planning period between 1988 and 1993.

In 1991 the Board of Directors voted to change the organization’s name from the Association for Voluntary Action Scholars to the Association of Researchers on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) signifying the organization’s commitment to the broader field of nonprofit research. This led to two planning retreats, the first in 1991 and the second in 1993. During these pivotal retreats, board members decided the following strategic goals were essential to the continued growth of ARNOVA: upgrading the association’s services, enhancing its reputation, and reaching out to include a diverse, interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners interested in voluntary action ad nonprofit study. As a result of these meetings ARNOVA formalized its relationship with the Independent Sector, the Program on Non-Profit Organizations (PONPO) at Yale University, and other academic centers. Using the outcomes of the planning meeting, ARNOVA leadership prepared a formal case statement in an effort to generate the outside funding necessary to meet the goals state in the strategic plan.

In 1994 ARNOVA received grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Lilly Endowment. These grants helped fund special projects, improve the financial stability of the organization (allowing it to hire its first full-time executive director), and provide funding to move the executive office to the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy. During this period ARNOVA’s committees increased in activity, visibility, and responsibility. While the board remained key players in the expansion of ARNOVA’s efforts, an active committee membership provided assistance crucial to the organization’s success. ARNOVA also instituted several awards to encourage new scholarship and enhance ARNOVA’s reputation as a force for research and education. As ARNOVA worked to meet the goals set forth in the strategic plan, the board revised its meeting schedule. Historically, ARNOVA’s board met once a year during the Annual Conference. In order to maintain continuity between meetings, manage new initiatives, and stay abreast of developments in the organization and the field, the boarded added an annual retreat in 1997 to its meeting schedule.

Throughout the 1990s and beyond, ARNOVA embarked in a new strategic direction aimed at strengthening the organization’s future in the field. The creation of a website and listserv in the early 1990s generated news ways of communication and scholarly exchange for members of the organization. In 1998 ARNOVA approved a policy for the establishment and governance of sections within the organization’s membership. The creation of sections allowed members with similar interests to coordinate presentations, meetings, and ideas on a formal basis. Grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, UPS, Atlantic Philanthropies, Ford, and many others through the first decade of the 21st century allowed ARNOVA to meet strategic goals, maintain financial solvency, and upgrade services. Today ARNOVA leads an interdisciplinary community of people dedicated to fostering--through research and education—the creation, application, and dissemination of knowledge on nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, civil society, and voluntary action.


51.4 Cubic Feet (49 record cartons, 1 document box, 5 pamphlet boxes, 3 flat boxes, and 1 cassette box)


The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) was founded in 1971 by David Horton Smith and Bill Ready as the Association for Voluntary Action Scholars (AVAS). Their vision was to create an independent and impartial forum for researchers in the fledgling field of voluntary action and citizen participation. Major activities have included an annual conference and the publication of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ), formerly the Journal of Voluntary Action Research (JVAR); Citizen Participation and Voluntary Action Abstracts (CPVAA); and a newsletter. The organization’s name change in 1991 signified diversification of the original mission, which now includes expanded outreach to researchers on nonprofit organizations and from previously neglected academic disciplines.

The records consist of board and committee materials, correspondence, financial and administrative records, journals and newsletters, journal manuscript submissions, conference programs and proceedings, and grant proposals.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by ARNOVA, Indianapolis, IN, February 1997. A1997-005, A1997/98-005, A1999/00-020, A2001/02-004, A2007/08-004, A1998/99-019, A2008/09-036, A2008/09-038, A2009/10-019.


  • ARNOVA website:
  • "By-laws," 1979, 1991, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action Records, 1970-2010, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
  • Smith, David Horton, "A History of ARNOVA," Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (September 2003). 458-472.


Rights Statement: The text of this webpage is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts).


Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) Records, 1970-2010
Processed by Kirsten Meisenheimer.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Philanthropic Studies Archives Repository

IUPUI University Library
755 W. Michigan St.
Room 0133
Indianapolis IN 46202 USA