As of January 1, 2013, I am appointed as an extraordinary professor Social aspects of prosocial behavior at Faculty of Social Sciences at VU University Amsterdam. The chair is supported by a grant from the Van der Gaag Foundation of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) for a period of five years. In my research I will focus on the explanation of philanthropic behavior. Why do people volunteer and why do they donate money to charitable causes? Who gives the highest amounts and is most likely to volunteer? In which circumstances do people become more generous? How does giving behavior change over time?
The economic crisis as well as cutbacks in government subsidies have recently made these questions more relevant. But the significance of philanthropy increases not only in policy and the media. Also in academia the study of philanthropy is becoming more popular. The number of studies on philanthropy has increased strongly. The new chair strengthens the international position of VU University. Since 1995 VU University conducts the biennial Giving in the Netherlands Survey, which yields macro-economic estimates of giving and volunteering in the Netherlands. I have contributed to this research since 2000, focusing on methodological quality and explanations of philanthropic behavior. In the past decades an increasing number of studies has been published on philanthropy in a variety of scientific disciplines that are often out of touch with each other. In my research, I try to connect explanations for prosocial behavior from psychology, sociology, and economics, using a variety of methods including surveys and experiments.
After I completed my PhD dissertation at Utrecht University and a five year follow-up research taking an in depth look at the relationship between education and prosocial behavior, financed by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), I moved to VU University Amsterdam in 2010. As an extraordinary professor I will conduct research on social determinants of prosocial behavior, particularly of philanthropy. To what extent is giving behavior contagious, and transmitted through social influence? How will cutbacks in government funding affect giving behavior? Will citizens compensate declining subsidies with increasing donations to charitable causes and more volunteering? How does increasing ethnic diversity affect philanthropy? In answering these questions, the methodological quality of the new research will be of key importance. In my inaugural lecture at VU University Amsterdam on April 25, 2013, I will present this research agenda.