Skip to main content

Independent Sector Records

Identifier: MSS046

Scope and Contents

The Independent Sector Records are divided into eleven series: Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations (CONVO), National Council on Philanthropy (NCOP), Board of Directors, Presidential Papers (Brian O’Connell) and Presidential Papers (Sara Meléndez), Annual Membership Meeting and Assembly, Program Areas, Subjects, Publications, Photographs, and Audio-Visual Materials. The first two series, CONVO and NCOP, are the predecessor organizations to the Independent Sector. The remaining series are post-1980 after the merger of the two organizations into the Independent Sector.

Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations (CONVO) Records, 1977-1980, consist of meeting files, legislation, and memos to members. These records document CONVO just prior to its merger with the National Council on Philanthropy (NCOP) to create the Independent Sector and are related to merger efforts. More complete information about the merger is located with IS Board of Directors Organizing Committee files.

National Council on Philanthropy (NCOP) Records, 1954-1979, consist of minutes, audits, correspondence, and publications. These records deal mainly with the organization just prior to its merger with CONVO, but do contain some in depth information about how it operated before the merger.

Board of Directors Files, 1970-2003, contain board minutes, reports, correspondence, and papers from the organizing committee of the merger. The main portion of this series includes a complete run of board minutes between 1980 and 1994 and the organizing committee files that provide a broad overview of the development of the organization. The organizing committee files document extensively the steps taken during and immediately after the merger in 1980 to make Independent Sector operate effectively. This series also contains financial information and program proposals usually within the board minutes. It also documents the strategic planning efforts of IS board members, with particular detail from 1999-2000.

Presidential Papers (Brian O’Connell), 1961-1995, consist of records of Brian O'Connell, the first president of the Independent Sector. These papers include an extensive collection of his speeches covering almost the entirety of his tenure as president. This series also contains his correspondence documenting the activities of his office. Another significant portion of this series is his Memo to Members, a publication providing information about the major political and social issues facing nonprofit agencies and O'Connell's thoughts concerning them, and status reports of IS activities.

Presidential Papers (Sara Melendez), 1994-2002, documents the Independent Sector presidency of Sara Meléndez. It includes her memos to member organizations, as well as drafts and presentation text of her speeches.

Annual Membership Meeting and Assembly Files, 1980-2007, consist of meeting summaries, correspondence, memoranda, minutes and agendas of voting member meetings, minutes of conferences, conference packets and brochures, program plans, and financial reports. The series contains a complete set of the programs and proceedings of the annual meetings. Audio cassettes for several of the meetings are also available in the Audio-Visual Materials series.

Program Area Files, 1971-2007, contains the records from the five major program committees of the IS: Effective Sector Leadership Committee (ESLM), Government Relations Committee, Membership Committee, Public Information and Education Committee (PIE), and Research Committee. This is the largest and most detailed series in the collection. It is divided and arranged alphabetically by the committee name.

The Effective Sector Leadership Management Committee, 1980-1997, promotes effective leadership in the nonprofit sector and establishes professional criteria for its managers. The records in this group include committee meeting minutes and correspondence, grant requests for programs, specific program information from campaigns like Daring Goals for a Caring Society and Measurable Growth, survey findings, brochures from executive recruitment firms, correspondence, and two newsletters: Quarterly and Leadership IS. Program files include subjects such as board development, ethics and standards, and management. These subjects are used to educate and train those in leadership roles in various organizations.

The Leadership Committee, 1992-2002, took over much of the work of the Effective Sector Leadership Committee when Independent Sector reorganized its committees. This series includes leadership studies, awards, and reports, as well as discussion of international ethics and standards.

The Government Relations Committee, 1971-2007, represents nonprofit interests in government policy issues. Records include transcripts of Congressional testimony, Roll Call tally sheets, drafts of position papers, drafts of bills, correspondence, and hearings briefings. The committee also published two newsletters: Government Relations Info and Action and State Tax Trends. This series includes extensive coverage of the Charitable Contributions Legislation hearings, interaction with the United States Office of Management and Budget, and efforts to raise awareness on current political issues through lobbying. It also includes records of the Electronic Data Initiative for Nonprofits (EDIN) and the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector.

The Membership Committee, 1979-2002, was formed to encourage growth in membership, foster good relations with current members, and coordinate campaign efforts. The files include committee minutes, memoranda, correspondence, prospect lists, prospect meeting packets, member profiles, flyers, brochures, progress reports, meeting attendance lists, membership lists, and the newsletter, Corporate Philanthropy. The minutes for the committee are complete through 1992 and document thoroughly its activities and agendas.

The Public Information and Education Committee, 1979-2007, handles publicity for IS programs and creates a public awareness of projects in the nonprofit sector. Records include news releases, correspondence, and award nominations and invitations for the annual John Gardner Award presentation, scripts of the film "To Care," and news print copy and PSA electronic media spots for the "Daring Goals," "Give Five," and "Lend a Hand" campaigns. These campaigns are documented extensively in this series and include information on the development and promotion to the public. The newsletter, Corporate Philanthropy, and the semi-complete set of minutes and packets serve as valuable tools for understanding the operations of the committee.

The Public Affairs Committee, 1997-2007, which includes the Public Policy Committee, continued the work of the Public Information and Education Committee and the Government Relations Committee. This series contains meeting minutes and agendas for the public policy committee, public policy reports, and documented efforts towards public outreach.

The Research Committee, 1978-2006, advances academic research in the nonprofit sector through its publication of yearly academic forum research findings in a compendium. It also conducts research and surveys in the nonprofit sector. These files consist of research publication compendiums from the annual Spring Research Forum, surveys, survey results, and documentation of the Hodgkinson Research Prize. Further information about the research committee includes audio cassettes of Spring Research Forums and interviews on philanthropy conducted by Richard Magat (available in the Audio-Visual Materials series).

Subject Files, 1957-2005, includes articles and publications published elsewhere and collected by Independent Sector for use in their work.

Publication Files, 1979-2007, contain general publications of IS and include annual reports, brochures, program plans, reports and pamphlets, occasional papers, and two newsletters: What IS Happening and Update. These records provide a broad overview of the finances and activities of the organization through annual reports and activity reports. The newsletters, program plans, and Overview of Major Activities offer condensed information about what the organization does. The annual reports provide not only program information, but financial statistics as well.

Photographs and Slides, 1970s-1995, contain photographs from Independent Sector events and campaigns. Included are photographs of former president of IS, Brian O'Connell, images from the Give Five volunteerism campaign, board and committee members, and publicity photographs.

Audio-Visual Materials, 1978-2003, contain audio and video documentation of the activities of the Independent Sector. The main portion of the audio cassettes is from the Annual Conference on Philanthropy and the Research Committee. The conference tapes cover a wide range, but only three of the conferences are documented extensively: 1980, 1987, and 1988. Other years include highlights or an important speech given. The Research Committee cassettes include Spring Research Forums and the interviews Richard Magat conducted while doing research for his paper, Prospective Views of Research on Philanthropy and the Voluntary Sector. All are good sources for historic trends and viewpoints from those active in the sector.

The videos in the collection include press coverage and a publicity video for the membership drive. The collection also contains a film of the charter meeting of the Independent Sector.


  • 1954 - 2007
  • Majority of material found within 1980 - 2007


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public without restriction.

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

Independent Sector (IS) was founded in 1980 as a coalition of corporate, foundation and voluntary organizations for the purpose of encouraging charitable giving, volunteering and nonprofit activities in the United States. By 1994 the organization maintained a membership of approximately 800 of the nation's leading nonprofit agencies and funders of nonprofit work.

In the early 1970s two groups convened in the interest of foundations and philanthropy: the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs and the Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy. Both groups indicated a need for a government commission on the nonprofit sector to strengthen foundations and help increase giving. The proposals ventured by these two groups provided further insight into the larger need of the sector for a body that could bring its goals under one organization. According to Brian O'Connell, four critical needs emerged: greater influence in legislation, research backing the sector's priorities, a way to spread the message, and a meeting ground for those involved in the nonprofit sector.

A growing concern in the late 1970s for the effectiveness and future of the nonprofit sector in the United States provided the incentive for the creation of the Independent Sector. In the summer of 1978, the Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations (CONVO) and the National Council on Philanthropy (NCOP) convened a meeting to commission a study on ways of improving the efficiency of nonprofit organizations and their effectiveness in promoting charitable impulses in American society. On November 29, 1987, CONVO and NCOP formally announced the staff for a new venture. The chairman of the organizing committee, John W. Gardner, formerly worked in the Johnson Administration as the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. He also served as the Chairman of Common Cause. Former National Executive Director of the Mental Health Association, Brian O'Connell, joined Gardner as the Staff Director of the committee and the Chief Executive Officer of the new organization. By 1980 the new organization, Independent Sector, was created from the merger of CONVO and NCOP, and began operations in Washington, D.C.

The objectives of Independent Sector are: to foster good relations between nonprofit organizations and governmental bodies, to focus the collective conscience of the American people on charitable activities by vigorous educational programs, to promote research in the fields of philanthropy and public policy, and to improve the quality of executive leadership in the nonprofit sector.

The Five Original Committees

To attain these goals, Independent Sector established five separate departments during the first few years of its existence: Government Relations, Public Information and Education (PIE), Research, Leadership and Management, and Membership. By the early 1990s Independent Sector included such organizations as the American Heart Association, Pew Charitable Trust, Lilly Endowment, Sierra Club, American Council on Education, and Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.

Independent Sector organized a number of lobbying campaigns in support of nonprofit interests, directed by its Government Relations Committee. The most prominent campaigns were in support of a Charitable Contributions Law in Congress (1984) which allowed tax deductions for charitable contributions by non-itemizers; in opposition to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-122, the attempt of the OMB to revoke federal funding of nonprofits engaged in political activities (1983-1986); in opposition to the Internal Revenue Service's attempt to revoke tax exempt status for nonprofits engaged in political activities (1986-1990); and in support of tax code reforms concerning donations of appreciated tangible property pensions (1983-1986).

The Public Information and Education (PIE) Committee of the Independent Sector promoted publicity for Independent Sector programs and disseminates knowledge about the sector and charitable giving to the public. In a collaborative effort with the Ad Council, PIE developed a series of public service announcement ad campaigns promoting charitable giving and volunteering. Lend a Hand was created to foster voluntarism, Daring Goals promoted charitable giving in the mid-1980s, and Give Five promoted the concept that the American public should contribute five percent of its income and five hours a week to charitable concerns. Also in the early 1980s, PIE collaborated with Francis Thompson, an Academy Award winning independent film producer, to create a mini-feature film promoting voluntarism and giving entitled To Care. PIE also handled news releases and press conferences.

The Research Committee of the Independent Sector advanced academic research through its publication of research papers from the annual Spring Research Forum, research of past and present trends and policies affecting the sector, and through conducting surveys. The Spring Research Forum brought together scholars in the fields of philanthropy and public policy from around the world to present papers in their areas of research, usually focusing on a seminar topic specific to fields in philanthropy. The committee also conducted research and sponsored surveys in the fields of fund raising, voluntarism, and charitable giving.

The Leadership and Management Committee fostered the development of effective leadership in the nonprofit sector primarily through workshops of continuing education for managers. Because corporate sponsorship is vital to the success of these programs, the committee also secured grant funding from foundations and corporations.

The Membership Committee encouraged growth in membership, fostered good relations with current members, and coordinated widespread efforts in both legislative and promotional components in the success of its diverse campaigns.


After Brian O’Connell retired and Sara Meléndez took over as President of the Independent Sector in 1994, the nonprofit began to reorganize some of its committees and operations. By 2002, Independent Sector had consolidated to focus on four major program areas: 1) research, intended to help understand and gather statistics on the nonprofit sector through the Giving and Volunteering surveys, work with the federal government to improve data reporting, and conduct research for the other committees; 2) public affairs, which centered around the Public Policy program and worked with the government while simultaneously publicly advocating for philanthropy and voluntary action; 3) communications, which provides resources and publications to the media and member organizations, as well as educating the general public; and 4) membership, designed to recruit qualifying members and involve current members in programs.


58.8 Cubic Feet (53 cartons, 6 cassette boxes) : Includes various audio formats (audio cassettes, dictabelt, 33 rpm records, open reel audiotapes) and video formats (U-matic, VHS, betamax, Super 8, film)


Independent Sector (IS) was founded in 1980 as a coalition of corporate, foundation and voluntary organizations for the purpose of encouraging charitable giving, volunteering and nonprofit activities in the United States. Its mission is to promote, strengthen, and advance the nonprofit and philanthropic community to foster private initiative for the public good. By 2004, the organization maintained a membership of approximately 500 of the nation's leading nonprofit agencies and funders of nonprofit work.

The collection consists of board minutes, committee reports, correspondence, publications, lobbying efforts, and conference materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by the Independent Sector, 1993-2010. A93-37, M69, A1997/98-019, A2005/06-005, A2006/07-033, A2008/09-011, A2008/09-031, A2008/09-042, A2010/11-026

Related Materials

The Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy Records, 1949-1970, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, IUPUI University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs, 1964-1980, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, IUPUI University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Gardner, John. 1990. Interview by Naomi Litchenberg, September 13, Indiana University Oral History Research Center. Personal Communication.

O'Connell, Brian. 1991. Interview by Naomi Litchenberg, May 2, Indiana University Oral History Research Center. Personal Communication.


  • Independent Sector Home Page
  • O'Connell, Brian. Powered by Coalition: The Story of Independent Sector. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
  • O’Connell, Brian. Our organization. New York: Walker and Company, 1987.


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).

Processing Information

The processor removed a number of books related to the collection but already held at IUPUI within the IUCAT system. These books are:

Americanizing the American orchestra: Report of the National Task force for The American orchestra: An initiative for change. (June 1993). Washington, DC: American Symphony Orchestra.

Drucker, P. F. (1993). The five most important questions you will ever ask about your nonprofit organization: Participant’s workbook. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gardner, J. W. (1990). On leadership. New York: The Free Press.

Gray, S. T. (1998). Evaluation with power: A new approach to organizational effectiveness, empowerment, and excellence. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Hodgkinson, V. A., Lyman, R.W., & Associates. (1989). The future of the nonprofit sector: Challenges, changes, and policy considerations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Kandil, A. (1995). Civil society in the Arab world. Washington, DC: Civicus.

Knauft, E. B., Berger, R. A., & Gray, S. T. (1991). Profiles of excellence: Achieving success in the nonprofit sector. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

O’Connell, B. (1978). Finding values that work: The search for fulfillment. New York: Walker and Company.

O’Connell, B. (1981). Effective leadership in voluntary organizations: How to make the greatest use of citizen service and influence. New York: Walker and Company.

O’Connell, B. (1983). America’s voluntary spirit: A book of readings. New York: The Foundation Center.

O’Connell, B. (1987). Our organization. New York: Walker and Company.

O’Connell, B. (1987). Philanthropy in action. New York: The Foundation Center.

O’Connell, B. & O’Connell, B. (1989). Volunteers in action. New York: The Foundation Center.

O’Connell, B. (1993). The board member’s book: Making a difference in voluntary organizations. 2nd ed. New York: The Foundation Center.

O’Connell, B. (1994). People power: Service, advocacy, empowerment: Selected writings of Brian O’Connell. Limited first edition. New York: The Foundation Center.

O’Connell, B. (1996). Board overboard: Laughs and lessons for all but the perfect nonprofit. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

O’Connell, B. (1997). Powered by coalition: The story of Independent Sector. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

O’Connell, B. (1999). Voices from the heart: In celebration of America’s volunteers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Rutledge, J. M. (1994). Building board diversity. Washington, DC: National Center for Nonprofit Boards.

Schervish, P. G., Hodgkinson, V. A., Gates, M., & Associates. (1995). Care and community in modern society: Passing on the tradition of service to future generations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Smucker, B. (1991). The nonprofit lobbying guide: Advocating your Cause and getting results. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Young, D. R., Hollister, R. M., Hodgkinson, V. A., & Associates. (1993). Governing, leading, and managing nonprofit organizations: New insights from research and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.


Independent Sector Records, 1971-1996
Processed by Debra Brookhart.
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