Category Archives: charitable organizations

Global Giving: Open Grant Proposal

Here’s an unusual thing for you to read: I am posting a brief description of a grant proposal that I will submit for the ‘vici’-competition of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research 2019 later this year. You can download the “pre-proposal” here. It is called “Global Giving”. With the study I aim to describe and explain philanthropy in a large number of countries across the world. I invite you to review the “pre-proposal” and suggest improvements; please use the comments box below, or write to me directly.

You may have heard the story that university researchers these days spend a lot of their time writing grant proposals for funding competitions. Also you may have heard the story that chances of success in such competitions are getting smaller and smaller. These stories are all true. But the story you seldom hear is how such competitions actually work: they are a source of stress, frustration, burnouts and depression, and a complete waste of the precious time of the smartest people in the world. Recently, Gross and Bergstrom found that “the effort researchers waste in writing proposals may be comparable to the total scientific value of the research that the funding supports”.

Remember the last time you saw the announcement of prize winners in a research grant competition? I have not heard a single voice in the choir of the many near-winners speak up: “Hey, I did not get a grant!” It is almost as if everybody wins all the time. It is not common in academia to be open about failures to win. How many vitaes you have seen recently contain a list of failures? This is a grave distortion of reality. Less than one in ten applications is succesful. This means that for each winning proposal there are at least nine proposals that did not get funding. I want you to know how much time is wasted by this procedure. So here I will be sharing my experiences with the upcoming ‘vici’-competition.

single-shot-santa

First let me tell you about the funny name of the competition. The name ‘vici’ derives from roman emperor Caesar’s famous phrase in Latin: ‘veni, vidi, vici’, which he allegedly used to describe a swift victory. The translation is: “I came, I saw, I conquered”. The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (‘Nederlandse organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek’, NWO) thought it fitting to use these names as titles of their personal grant schemes. The so-called ‘talent schemes’ are very much about the personal qualities of the applicant. The scheme heralds heroes. The fascination with talent goes against the very nature of science, where the value of an idea, method or result is not measured by the personality of the author, but by its validity and reliability. That is why peer review is often double blind and evaluators do not know who wrote the research report or proposal.

plt132

Yet in the talent scheme, the personality of the applicant is very important. The fascination with talent creates Matthew effects, first described in 1968 by Robert K. Merton. The name ‘Matthew effect’ derives from the biblical phrase “For to him who has will more be given” (Mark 4:25). Simply stated: success breeds success. Recently, this effect has been documented in the talent scheme by Thijs Bol, Matthijs de Vaan and Arnout van de Rijt. When two applicants are equally good but one – by mere chance – receives a grant and the other does not, the ‘winner’ is ascribed with talent and the ‘loser’ is not. The ‘winner’ then gets a tremendously higher chance of receiving future grants.

As a member of committees for the ‘veni’ competition I have seen how this works in practice. Applicants received scores for the quality of their proposal from expert reviewers before we interviewed them. When we had minimal differences between the expert reviewer scores of candidates – differing only in the second decimal – personal characteristics of the researchers such as their self-confidence and manner of speaking during the interview often made the difference between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Ultimately, such minute differences add up to dramatically higher chances to be a full professor 10 years later, as the analysis in Figure 4 of the Bol, De Vaan & Van de Rijt paper shows.

matthew

My career is in this graph. In 2005, I won a ‘veni’-grant, the early career grant that the Figure above is about. The grant gave me a lot of freedom for research and I enjoyed it tremendously. I am pretty certain that the freedom that the grant gave me paved the way for the full professorship that I was recently awarded, thirteen years later. But back then, the size of the grant did not feel right. I felt sorry for those who did not make it. I knew I was privileged, and the research money I obtained was more than I needed. It would be much better to reduce the size of grants, so that a larger number of researchers can be funded. Yet the scheme is there, and it is a rare opportunity for researchers in the Netherlands to get funding for their own ideas.

This is my third and final application for a vici-grant. The rules for submission of proposals in this competition limit the number of attempts to three. Why am I going public with this final attempt?

The Open Science Revolution

You will have heard about open science. Most likely you will associate it with the struggle to publish research articles without paywalls, the exploitation of government funded scientists by commercial publishers, and perhaps even with Plan S. You may also associate open science with the struggle to get researchers to publish the data and the code they used to get to their results. Perhaps you have heard about open peer review of research publications. But most likely you will not have heard about open grant review. This is because it rarely happens. I am not the first to publish my proposal; the Open Grants repository currently contains 160 grant proposals. These proposals were shared after the competitions had run. The RIO Journal published 52 grant proposals. This is only a fraction of all grant proposals being created, submitted and reviewed. The many advantages of open science are not limited to funded research, they also apply to research ideas and proposals. By publishing my grant proposal before the competition, the expert reviews, the recommendations of the committee, my responses and experiences with the review process, I am opening up the procedure of grant review as much as possible.

Stages in the NWO Talent Scheme Grant Review Procedure

Each round of this competition takes almost a year, and proceeds in eight stages:

  1. Pre-application – March 26, 2019 <– this is where we are now
  2. Non-binding advice from committee: submit full proposal, or not – Summer 2019
  3. Full proposal – end of August 2019
  4. Expert reviews – October 2019
  5. Rebuttal to criticism in expert reviews – end of October 2019
  6. Selection for interview – November 2019
  7. Interview – January or February 2020
  8. Grant, or not – March 2020

If you’re curious to learn how this application procedure works in practice,
check back in a few weeks. Your comments and suggestions on the ideas above and the pre-proposal are most welcome!

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Hoe rijker, hoe minder vrijgevig?

Economen spreken van een basisgoed als de consumptie ervan relatief gesproken afneemt met het inkomen. Dit geldt heel duidelijk voor geven aan goede doelen. Hogere inkomens en vermogens doen in euro’s meer aan filantropie, maar als deel van hun inkomen en vermogen juist minder. In de jubileumeditie van Geven in Nederland (GIN) publiceerden Arjen de Wit, Pamala Wiepking en ik een special, waarin waarin we alle gegevens over giften uit de jaren 2001-2015 hebben gecombineerd en de inkomens in decielen (groepen van 10%) hebben ingedeeld. De invloed van uitschieters hebben we verminderd door de 1% hoogste waarnemingen te winsoriseren, dat wil zeggen ze te behandelen alsof ze net iets lager zijn. Met uitschieters is het plaatje overigens niet veel anders, de lijn loopt nog steeds naar beneden, maar minder recht.

Fig24

Het percentage van het inkomen dat huishoudens doneren aan goededoelenorganisaties neemt stelselmatig af met de hoogte van het inkomen. De 10% huishoudens die de laagste inkomens in Nederland verdienen, geven 1,16% van het inkomen aan goede doelen. Onder de hoogste 10% van de inkomens is dat 0,44%.

Vivienne van Leuken vroeg me per e-mail hoe dit komt.

Er zijn grofweg drie groepen verklaringen voor deze bevinding.

  1. Het ligt aan de gevers:
    • (a) rijkdom maakt mensen hebberig;
    • (b) hebberige mensen worden rijker.
  2. Het ligt aan de vragers:
    • (a) goededoelenorganisaties spreken de taal niet waarin ze de rijken kunnen overtuigen,
    • (b) goededoelenorganisaties hebben niet de juiste netwerken en
    • (c) goededoelenorganisaties doen niet de juiste proposities.
  3. Het ligt aan de samenleving:
    • (a) dat je moet geven is de norm, maar niet dat je meer moet geven naarmate je inkomen stijgt;
    • (b) voor verschillende soorten giften is er een geefstandaard, een bedrag dat normaal is om te geven. Die geefstandaard is een specifiek bedrag en niet relatief naar inkomen en vermogen;
    • (c) De vrijgevigheidsnorm dat je een deel van je inkomen zou moeten geven is in de loop van de geschiedenis verdwenen. Bovendien houdt met de ontkerkelijking een steeds kleiner deel van de bevolking zich aan zulke normen.

In elk van deze verklaringen zit wel een kern van waarheid, maar er is nog geen goed onderzoek dat aantoont in welke mate deze drie soorten verklaringen verantwoordelijk zijn voor de afname van de vrijgevigheid met inkomen en vermogen.

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Uncertain Future for Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey

By Barbara Gouwenberg and René Bekkers

At the Center for Philanthropic Studies we have been working hard to secure funding for three rounds of funding for the Giving in the Netherlands Study, including the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey for the years 2020-2026. During the previous round of the research, the ministry of Justice and Security has said that it would no longer fund the study on its own, because the research is important not only for the government but also for the philanthropic sector. The national government no longer sees itself as the sole funder of the research.

The ministry does think the research is important and is prepared to commit funding for the research in the form of a 1:1 matching subsidy to contributions received by VU Amsterdam from other funders. To strengthen the societal relevance and commitment for the Giving in the Netherlands study the Center has engaged in a dialogue with relevant stakeholders, including the council of foundations, the association of fundraising organizations, and several endowed foundations and fundraising charities in the Netherlands. The goal of these talks was to get science and practice closer together. From these talks we have gained three important general insights:

  • The Giving in the Netherlands study contributes to the visibility of philanthropy in the Netherlands. This is important for the legitimacy of an autonomous and growing sector.
  • It is important to engage in a conversation with relevant stakeholders before the fieldwork for a next round starts, in order to align the research more strongly with practice.
  • After the analyses have been completed, communication with relevant stakeholders about the results should be improved. Stakeholders desire more conversations about the application of insights from the research in practice.

The center includes these issues in the plans for the upcoming three editions. VU Amsterdam has been engaged in conversations with branch organizations and individual foundations in the philanthropic sector for a long time, in order to build a sustainable financial model for the future of the research. However, at the moment we do not have the funds together to continue the research. That is why we did not collect data for the 2018 wave of the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey. As a result, we will not publish estimates for the size and composition of philanthropy in the Netherlands in spring 2019. We do hope that after this gap year we can restart the research next year, with a publication of new estimates in 2020.

Your ideas and support are very welcome at r.bekkers@vu.nl.

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Onderzoek Geven in Nederland in gevaar

Door Barbara Gouwenberg – uit de nieuwsbrief van de werkgroep Filantropische Studies aan de VU (december 2018)

Het Centrum voor Filantropische Studies werkt momenteel met man en macht om de financiering voor het onderzoek Geven in Nederland voor de komende 6 jaar (3 edities) veilig te stellen. Het Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid (J&V) heeft bij de opzet van Geven in Nederland 2017 medio 2015 te kennen gegeven dat het onderzoek niet langer alleen door de overheid zal worden gefinancierd, met als belangrijkste argumentatie dat het onderzoek van belang is voor overheid én sector filantropie. De overheid ziet zichzelf niet langer als enige verantwoordelijke voor de financiering van het onderzoek.

Het Ministerie van J&V wil zich wel voor een langere tijd structureel verbinden aan Geven in Nederland en geeft 1:1 matching voor financiële bijdragen die de VU vanuit de sector ontvangt.

Om de maatschappelijke relevantie van – en commitment voor – het onderzoek Geven in Nederland te versterken heeft de VU de afgelopen maanden de dialoog opgezocht met diverse relevante doelgroepen. Doel: wetenschap en praktijk dichter bij elkaar brengen.

Deze rondgang heeft ons – naast specifieke inzichten – drie belangrijke algemene inzichten opgeleverd; te weten:

  • ‘Geven in Nederland’ draagt bij aan de zichtbaarheid van maatschappelijk initiatief in Nederland. Belangrijk ter legitimatie van een zelfstandige en snel groeiende sector.
  • Communicatie met relevante doelgroepen vóór de start van het onderzoek dient verbeterd te worden met als doel om inhoudelijk beter aansluiting te vinden bij praktijk en beleid.
  • Communicatie over onderzoeksresultaten naar relevante doelgroepen dient verbeterd te worden. Het gaat dan om de praktische toepasbaarheid van het onderzoek, de vertaling van de onderzoeksresultaten naar de praktijk.

De onderzoekers nemen deze verbeterpunten mee in hun plan van aanpak voor de komende drie edities. De VU is al enige tijd in gesprek met de brancheorganisaties en individuele fondsen om tot een duurzaam financieringsmodel voor de toekomst te komen. Op dit moment is de continuering van het onderzoek echter nog niet gegarandeerd. Dat betekent dat er helaas geen Geven in Nederland 2019 komt en dus ook geen presentatie van de nieuwe onderzoeksresultaten zoals u van ons gewend bent op de Dag van de Filantropie. We spreken echter onze hoop uit dat we zeer binnenkort met een Geven in Nederland 2020 kunnen starten!

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Four misunderstandings about research on philanthropy

“What do people misunderstand about your research?” A great question that allows me to correct a few popular ideas about our research on philanthropy.

1. Who pays you? The first misunderstanding is that charities pay for our research on philanthropy. We understand that you would think that, because for charitable organizations it is useful to know what makes people give. After all, they are in the business of fundraising. On the other hand, you would not assume that second hand car dealers or diamond traders fund research on trust or that ski resort owners would fund climate change research. We are talking to foundations and fundraising organizations about the insights from our work that may help them in their business, but the work itself is funded primarily by the Ministry of Justice and Security of the government of the Netherlands and by the DG Research & Innovation of the European Commission.

2. What is the best charity? The second misunderstanding is that we vet charities and foundations, like we are some sort of philanthropy police. We don’t rate effective charities or give prizes for the best foundations, nor do we keep lists of bad apples in the philanthropy sector. We don’t track the activities that charities spend their funds on, or how much is ‘actually going to the cause’. If you need this kind of information, check the annual reports of organizations. We do warn the public that raising money costs money and that organizations saying they have no overhead costs are probably doing something wrong.

3. What is altruism? The third misunderstanding is that altruism is a gift that entails a sacrifice. You can hear this when people give each other compliments like: “That is very altruistic of you!” When people give to others despite the fact that they have little themselves and giving is costly, we tend to think this gift is worth more than a relatively small gift by a wealthy person. The term you are looking for here is generosity, not altruism. Altruism is a gift motivated by a concern for the well-being of the recipient. How much of the giving we see is altruism is one of the key questions on philanthropy. Which conditions make people give out of altruism, and what kind of people are more likely to do so, is a very difficult question to answer, because it is so difficult to isolate altruism from egoistic motivations for giving.

4. Crowding-in. The fourth misunderstanding is that less government implies more philanthropy. You can hear this in statements like “Americans give so much because the government there does so little”. The desire to have a small government is a political goal in itself, not an effective way to increase philanthropy. As government spending increases, citizens do not give less, and conversely, as government spending decreases, citizens do not give more. In the past decades, giving in the USA as a proportion of GDP is essentially a flat line with some fluctuation around 2%, even though government spending has increased enormously in this period. Also countries in which government spending as a proportion of GDP is higher are not necessarily countries in which people give more. In Europe, we even see a negative relationship: as citizens pay more taxes, a higher proportion of the population gives to charity. Learn more about this by reading my lecture ‘Values of Philanthropy’ at the 13th ISTR Conference we organized at VU Amsterdam.

 

PS – It was the tweet below (link here) that prompted this post:

misunderstanding

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Position available: Professor societal significance of charity lotteries

The Department of Sociology of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is looking for a professor in the area of charity lotteries. The professor is expected to conduct research on the relations between charity lotteries, nonprofit organizations, and the government. The chair is embedded in the Department of Sociology of the VU and is closely connected to the center of expertise in teaching and research on philanthropy, the Center for Philanthropic Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The Dutch Postcode Lottery (Nationale Postcode Loterij) is financing the chair.

Through scientific research, the chair will contribute to the production of knowledge on the societal significance of charity lotteries. By doing so, the chair will also contribute to the development of new scientific insights in philanthropy. The chair will disseminate results of research through publications, lectures and workshops to both  academic audiences and applied audiences (professionals as well as the general public).

Job description
The chair has three objectives:
(1) the expansion of knowledge about the societal significance of charity lotteries, in a direct relationship with the philanthropic sector;
(2) the dissemination of this knowledge;
(3) the expansion of collaboration with researchers both within the VU and beyond who study charity lotteries and philanthropic behavior.

A more elaborate description of the envisioned activities of the chair is available upon request.

Requirements
The chair holder meets the following requirements:
• PhD degree in the social sciences, preferably for a study on philanthropy;
• knowledge of recent developments in the philanthropic sector;
• has published in national and international journals;
• is interested in international developments in lotteries and philanthropy;
• has demonstrable skills as a research leader;
• is a skilled educator with experience teaching in academic programs;
• ability to inspire and lead a team of academic researchers;
• experience supervising PhD candidates;
• proven ability to attract external funding for research and is able to attract funding from other sources for dissertation research in the field of the chair.

Further particulars
We would like our department to reflect our diverse student population and therefore especially encourage international, female and ethnic minority candidates to apply.

The chair is a part-time appointment of 0.2 fte, initially for a duration of 5 years.

You can find information about our excellent fringe benefits of employment via https://www.vu.nl/en/employment/ like:
• remuneration of 8,3% end-of-year bonus and 8% holiday allowance;
• a minimum of 29 holidays in case of full-time employment;
• discounts on collective insurances (healthcare- and car insurance).

The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel, and depending on experience, range from a minimum of € 5,440.00 gross per month up to a maximum of € 7,921.00 gross per month (salary scale H2) based on a fulltime employment.

Information
For additional information please contact Professor René Bekkers via e-mail: r.bekkers@vu.nl.

Application
Applications should be sent in pdf by e-mail before 1 September 2018 to Secretariaat.SOC.FSW@vu.nl, to the attention of prof. dr. Rene Bekkers, mentioning “application: Professor Societal significance of charity lotteries”.

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Philanthropy: from Charity to Prosocial Investment

Contribution to the March 2016 edition of the European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP) newsletter. PDF version here.

Philanthropy can take many forms. It ranges from the student who showed up at my doorstep with a collection tin to raise small contributions for legal assistance to the poor to the recent announcement by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan of the establishment of a $42 billion charitable foundation. The media focused on the question why Zuckerberg and Chan would put 99% of their wealth in a foundation. The legal form of the foundation allowed Zuckerberg to keep control over the shares without having to pay taxes. Leaving aside the difficult question what motivation the legal form confesses for the moment, my point is that a change is taking place in the face that philanthropy takes.

Entrepreneurial forms of philanthropy, manifesting a strategic investment orientation, become more visible. We see them in social impact bonds, in social enterprises, in venture philanthropy and in the investments of foundations in the development of new drugs and treatments. A reliable count of the prevalence of such prosocial investments is not available, but 2015 was certainly a memorable year: the first Ebola vaccine was produced in a lab funded by the Wellcome Trust and polio was eradicated from Africa through coordinated efforts supported by a coalition of the WHO, Unicef, the Rotary International Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Of course there are limitations to philanthropy. Some problems are just too big to handle, even for the wealthiest foundations on earth, using the most innovative forms of investments. The refugee crisis continues to challenge the resilience of Europe. NGOs are delivering relief aid in the most difficult circumstances. But these efforts are band aids, as long as political leaders are struggling to gather the will power to solve it together.

The Zuckerberg/Chan announcement revived previous critiques of philanthrocapitalism. Isn’t it dangerous to have so much money in so few hands? Can we rely on wealthy foundations to invest in socially responsible ways? Foundations are the freest institutions on earth and can take risks that governments cannot afford. But the track records of the corporations that gave rise to the current foundation fortunes are not immaculate, monopolizing markets and evading taxes. Wealthy foundations can have a significant impact on society and influence public policy, limiting the influence of governments. It is political will that enables the existence and facilitates the fortune of wealthy foundations. Ultimately, the realization that the interests of the people should not be harmed enables the activities of foundations. Hence the talk about the importance of giving back to society.

The sociologist Alvin Gouldner is famous for his 1960 article ‘The Norm of Reciprocity’, which describes how reciprocity works. He also wrote a second classic, much less known: ‘The Importance of Something for Nothing.’ In this follow-up (1973), he stresses the norm of beneficence: “This norm requires men to give others such help as they need. Rather than making help contingent upon past benefits received or future benefits expected, the norm of beneficence calls upon men to aid others without thought of what they have done or what they can do for them, and solely in terms of a need imputed to the potential recipient.” In a series of studies I co-authored with Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, an economist from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, we call this norm ‘the principle of care’.

With this quote I return to the question about motivation. The letter to their daughter in which Zuckerberg and Chan announced their foundation reveals noble concerns for the future of mankind. It is not their child’s need that motivated them, but the needs of the world in which she is born. This is the genesis of true philanthropy. Pretty much like the awareness of need that the law student demonstrated at my doorstep.

References

Bekkers, R. & Ottoni-Wilhelm, M. (2016). Principle of Care and Giving to Help People in Need. European Journal of Personality.  

Gouldner, A.W. (1960). The Norm of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Statement. American Sociological Review, 25 (2): 161-178. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2092623

Gouldner, A.W. (1973). The Importance of Something for Nothing. In: Gouldner, A.W. (Ed.). For Sociology, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Wilhelm, M.O., & Bekkers, R. (2010). Helping Behavior, Dispositional Empathic Concern, and the Principle of Care. Social Psychology Quarterly, 73 (1): 11-32.

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