De werkgroep Filantropische Studies van de Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen aan de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is het expertisecentrum op het gebied van onderzoek naar filantropie in Nederland. De werkgroep houdt zich bezig met vragen zoals: Waarom geven mensen vrijwillig geld aan goede doelen? Waarom verrichten mensen vrijwilligerswerk? Hoeveel geld gaat er om in de filantropische sector? Voor het onderzoek Geven in Nederland heeft de werkgroep een student-assistent gevonden: Florian van Heijningen. Welkom!
Category Archives: philanthropy
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Pre-application – March 26, 2019 <– this is where we are now
- Non-binding advice from committee: submit full proposal, or not – Summer 2019
- Full proposal – end of August 2019
- Expert reviews – October 2019
- Rebuttal to criticism in expert reviews – end of October 2019
- Selection for interview – November 2019
- Interview – January or February 2020
- 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!
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 email@example.com.
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!
By René Bekkers & Pamala Wiepking
In decisions on academic careers, the societal impact that researchers have with their research is gaining importance. This is an addition to incentives for academic impact. Relevant indicators for academic impact are how often the researcher has been cited (the so-called H-index) and the impact factor (IF) of the journals in which the researcher has published.
What the Journal Impact Factor is not
It is widely believed that it is more difficult to get published in journals with a higher IF because they are more attractive and can afford to desk reject a larger proportion of the submissions. However, journals with higher IFs do not necessarily publish research of higher quality. Because scientists in some countries can quickly advance their careers and even receive monetary bonuses by publishing in high IF journals, they also attract a lot of low-quality research. Once in a while, a piece of garbage slips through because the peer review process is not perfect.
Also publishing an article in a high IF journal does not necessarily imply that the article will be more widely read or receive a higher number of citations. The overwhelming majority of articles in high IF journals receive low numbers of citations, but a few articles that are highly cited determine the IF.
Article impact: citations
The highest impact paper we have published is a literature review of empirical studies on philanthropy. It was originally written as a background paper for a request for proposals of the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), and later published in three separate, standalone articles: one in Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ) and two in Voluntary Sector Review (VSR). As a self-archived working paper, the JTF paper already attracted some attention, but the NVSQ article quickly received large numbers of citations, and continues to do so. The journals in which we published the papers were not the highest IF journals in which we published throughout our careers. In fact, papers we published in higher IF journals have attracted way fewer citations.
From what we have heard from readers the paper is useful to many people because it provides a map of the landscape of research on philanthropy. Our review pointed them to studies that are relevant to their specific research questions. Studies that they would otherwise not have found. Often this impact is invisible because researchers do not cite our review, but instead cite the papers we reviewed. So the impact we have with the paper is visible not so much in its number of citations, but in the number of readers. There is no way to track whether people actually read it, but paper has been downloaded thousands of times.
Did we achieve the objectives of the paper?
The number of downloads is a quantifiable, generic indicator of impact. But a high number of downloads is not why we wrote this paper. If you see research as an intervention, its impact should be evaluated relative to intention: did it achieve the intended goals?
We wrote the paper to provide “a reference resource for classical intuitions” (p.925) for researchers who have an idea for a study, but do not know what previous research has found. We hoped that our review would reduce “the lack of awareness of research in distant times and disciplines” (p.945). We wanted to acquaint researchers in different fields with each other’s work. Two goals that we did not explicitly state in the paper because they seemed overly ambitious were to integrate these relatively isolated bodies of research and ultimately to establish a common knowledge base for research on philanthropy.
It is very difficult to determine to what extent we have been successful with this paper. Perhaps in a decade or two it may become clear how useful our contribution has been in establishing a common knowledge base for research on philanthropy. Also it would be difficult to quantify whether our review actually integrated different fields. One could count the number of citations to research in other disciplines before and after our review was published, and in studies that cite our review and those that do not. According to our own standards, however, those numbers would still not prove impact.
Yet we do believe we have made a difference. Many academics who were new to the topic of philanthropy have told us that our review was helpful in finding their way in the literature. We also know that our readers are more aware of research in other disciplines than the citations demonstrate. Word limits for journal articles lead researchers to omit relevant references, and they focus on work published in the same journal and discipline.
Did we change the practice of fundraising?
What about the societal impact? As we wrote in our paper (p. 926), we hoped that our review would not only be useful for an academic audience but also for practitioners. What impact did we have on the practice of fundraising? We could count the number of talks and seminars we were invited to give and actually gave and the number of attendees at these events. But this is not measuring impact, and not why we wrote the paper. We hoped that fundraisers would take advantage of the insights gained in the studies we reviewed to increase fundraising effectiveness (p. 926). We learned from conversations with fundraisers and other philanthropy professionals who read our paper or attended our talks that insights from our literature review indeed have influenced the way they look at donors and fundraising. The insights from academia may have helped them to better understand why their donors choose to donate to their organization, and how they can use this information to build better and stronger relationships with those donors. We feel happy to have contributed to this, but also believe the effectiveness of fundraising, especially in relation to donor satisfaction, can always be improved further. We look forward to keep providing academic insights to support fundraisers and other philanthropy professionals in this challenge!
Public debates on philanthropy link charitable giving to wealth. In the media we hear a lot about the giving behavior of billionaires – about the giving pledge, the charitable foundations of the wealthy, how the causes they support align their business interests, and how they relate to government programs. Yes – the billions of tech giants go a long way. Imagine a world without support from foundations created by wealthy. But we hear a lot less about the everyday philanthropy of people like you and me. The media rarely report on everyday acts of generosity. The force of philanthropy is not only in its focus and mass, but also in its breadth and popularity.
It is one of the common remarks I hear when family, friends and colleagues return from holidays in ‘developing countries’ like Moldova, Myanmar or Morocco: “the people there have nothing, but they are so kind and generous!” The kindness and generosity that we witness as tourists are manifestations of prosociality, the very same spirit that is the ultimate foundation of everyday philanthropy. And also within our own nations, we find that most people give to charity. Why are people in Europe so strongly engaged in philanthropy?
The answer is trust
In Europe we are much more likely to think that most people can be trusted than in other parts of the world. It is this faith in humanity that is crucial for philanthropy. We can see this in a comparison of countries within Europe. The figure combines data from the World Giving Index reports of CAF from 2010-2017 on the proportion of the population giving to charity with data from the Global Trust Research Consortium on generalized social trust. The figure shows that citizens of more trusting countries in Europe are much more likely to give to charities (you can get the data here, and the code is here). The correlation is .52, which is strong.
Egalité et fraternité
One of the reasons why citizens in more trusting countries are more likely to give to charity is that trust is lower in more unequal countries. Combining the data on trust with data from the OECD on income inequality (GINI) reveals a substantial negative correlation of -.37. The larger the differences in income and wealth in a country become, the lower the level of trust that people have in each other. As the wealth of the rich increases, the poor get increasingly envious, and the rich feel an increasing urge to protect their wealth. In such a context, conspiracy theories thrive and institutions that should be impartial and fair to all are trusted less. The criticism that wealthy donors face also stems from this foundation: those concerned with equality and fairness fear the elite power of philanthropy. Et voila: here is the case why it is in the best interest of foundations to reduce inequality.
Social influences on prosocial behaviors and their consequences
While self-interest and prosocial behavior are often pitted against each other, it is clear that much charitable giving and volunteering for good causes is motivated by non-altruistic concerns (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). Helping others by giving and volunteering feels good (Dunn, Aknin & Norton, 2008). What is the contribution of such helping behaviors on happiness?
The effect of helping behavior on happiness is easily overestimated using cross-sectional data (Aknin et al., 2013). Experiments provide the best way to eradicate selection bias in causal estimates. Monozygotic twins provide a nice natural experiment to investigate unique environmental influences on prosocial behavior and its consequences for happiness, health, and trust. Any differences within twin pairs cannot be due to additive genetic effects or shared environmental effects. Previous research has investigated environmental influences of the level of education and religion on giving and volunteering (Bekkers, Posthuma and Van Lange, 2017), but no study has investigated the effects of helping behavior on important outcomes such as trust, health, and happiness.
The Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) and the German Twinlife surveys provide rich datasets including measures of health, life satisfaction, and social integration, in addition to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and measures of helping behavior through nonprofit organizations (giving and volunteering) and in informal social relationships (providing financial and practical assistance to friends and family).
In the absence of natural experiments, longitudinal panel data are required to ascertain the chronology in acts of giving and their correlates. The same holds for the alleged effects of volunteering on trust (Van Ingen & Bekkers, 2015) and health (De Wit, Bekkers, Karamat Ali, & Verkaik, 2015). Since the mid-1990s, a growing number of panel studies have collected data on volunteering and charitable giving and their alleged consequences, such as the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP), the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) / Understanding Society, the Swiss Household Panel (SHP), the Household, Income, Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (HILDA), the General Social Survey (GSS) in the US, and in the Netherlands the Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social sciences (LISS) and the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey (GINPS).
Under my supervision, students can write a paper on social influences of education, religion and/or helping behavior in the form of volunteering, giving, and informal financial and social support on outcomes such as health, life satisfaction, and trust, using either longitudinal panel survey data or data on twins. Students who are interested in writing such a paper are invited to present their research questions and research design via e-mail to .
René Bekkers, Center for Philanthropic Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Burns, J., Biswas-Diener, R., … Norton, M. I. (2013). Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 635–652.
De Wit, A., Bekkers, R., Karamat Ali, D., & Verkaik, D. (2015). Welfare impacts of participation. Deliverable 3.3 of the project: “Impact of the Third Sector as Social Innovation” (ITSSOIN), European Commission – 7th Framework Programme, Brussels: European Commission, DG Research.