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Independent Sector Records

Identifier: MSS046
The Independent Sector Records are divided into nine series: Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations (CONVO), National Council on Philanthropy (NCOP), Board of Directors, Presidential Papers, Annual Membership Meeting and Assembly, Program Areas, 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, 1980-1994, 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 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.

Presidential Papers, 1979-1995, consist of records of the president of IS. This series contains the files 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.

Annual Membership Meeting and Assembly Files, 1980-1994, 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.

Program Area Files, 1979-1998, 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 Government Relations Committee, 1976-1998, 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.

The Membership Committee, 1980-1992, 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, 1979-1997, 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 Research Committee, 1979-1995, 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, and survey results. Further information about the research committee includes audio cassettes of three Spring Research Forums and interviews on philanthropy conducted by Richard Magat.

Publication Files, 1979-1998, 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-1989, 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, 1978-1992, 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 three 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.


  • 1971 - 1996


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.


43.0 Cubic Feet (39 cartons, 6 cassette boxes, 13 films, 4 videos)


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.

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. 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 has 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 promotes 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. ALend a Hand@ was created to foster voluntarism, ADaring Goals@ promoted charitable giving in the mid-1980s, and AGive 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 ATo Care.@ PIE also handles news releases and press conferences.

The Research Committee of the Independent Sector advances 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 the conduction of surveys. The Spring Research Forum brings 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 conducts research and sponsors surveys in the fields of fund raising, voluntarism, and charitable giving.

The Leadership and Management Committee fosters 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 secures grant funding from foundations and corporations.

The Membership Committee encourages growth in membership, fosters good relations with current members, and coordinates widespread efforts in both legislative and promotional component in the success of its diverse campaigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by the Independent Sector, 1993-1998. A93-37, M69, A1997/98-019.

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.

  • O'Connell, Brian. Powered by Coalition: The Story of Independent Sector. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
  • Independent Sector Home Page http://w


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

Part of the Philanthropic Studies Archives Repository

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