Current Projects

Reel Philanthropy: Philanthropic Identity Development through Filmmaking

Higher education has long sought to provide students with transformative learning experiences through the use of innovative pedagogies; and, in recent years, experiential philanthropy (EP) has emerged as one such innovative pedagogy that allows students to learn about, engage in, and practice their own philanthropy. Although research on EP has provided evidence of its efficacy as a pedagogic strategy to support student learning and enhance students’ prosocial values and interest in civic engagement, long-term evidence is inconclusive about whether the pedagogy has lasting impacts on students beyond the immediate course experience. It is, therefore, uncertain whether and to what extent EP actually transforms students through their, in many instances, newly acquired role identities as philanthropists.


In this project, we provide students with an opportunity to not only practice their philanthropy through participation in a course utilizing experiential philanthropy but we also provide them with an opportunity to document their experience of doing so through film. In this way, students will not only be able to visually see themselves as philanthropists, but film production we expect will also allow them an opportunity to consciously, and continuously, reflect on their philanthropic journey—which could ultimately reinforce their philanthropic identity and sustain their interest in, and commitment to, philanthropic works.


Funded by: Rutgers Newark Chancellor's Impact Seed Grant.

Strengthening Formal Philanthropy in Tanzania: A Pedagogic Approach

The health of civil society can directly impact the well-being of citizens. A robust and well-funded civil society can be critical in whether a country has the necessary safety nets in place to protect and care for its most vulnerable citizens. Although civil society's health can be assessed in numerous ways, local philanthropy is generally considered to be an essential place-based component. Local philanthropy represents a society’s collective civic commitment to, and responsibility for, addressing important social issues.

Strengthening local philanthropy, however, is rarely easy. Indeed, one of the challenges to strengthening local philanthropy is that giving is strongly influenced by historical, cultural, and religious trends; and, while most societies are home to long-established practices of charity and mutual aid, these practices can take many forms.

This is a particularly relevant consideration in Tanzania (TZ) where the vast majority of CSOs are funded by international NGOs; and, in the face of declining international development aid, there is an urgent need to strengthen locally-based formal philanthropic giving in the country. The question, then, is how can a culture of formal philanthropy develop in Tanzania (and, in turn, how can Tanzanian civil society be strengthened)?

In many parts of the world, service-learning has often been used to strengthen formal philanthropy; and, as a form of SL, experiential philanthropy (EP) has emerged as an innovative way to provide students with greater exposure to formal philanthropy by allowing them to experience what it feels like to engage in meaningful acts of giving. Thus, in partnership with St. Margaret’s Academy in Arusha, TZ the purpose of this project is to explore whether participation in EP among Tanzanian youth is associated with positive changes in their philanthropic identities, and in turn, long-term changes in their attitudes and behaviors toward formal philanthropic participation.


Funded by: UMD Do Good Institute & ARNOVA Global Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Award and Learning by Giving Foundation

No Longer Invisible: A Profile of America's Black Women's Associations

In 1989, Anne Firor Scott (then, William K. Boyd Professor of History at Duke University) delivered the presidential address at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Historical Conference. The title of Ms. Scott’s address was “Most Invisible of All: Black Women's Voluntary Associations” (Scott, 1990). In that address, Ms. Scott noted the striking absence of Black women’s associations, which had long been influential in many communities, from much of our historical narratives. However, Ms. Scott suggested that “When the long history of black [sic] women's associations is understood, the history of women's activity in the civil rights movement and many other things will appear in a new light.”


Now, more than three decades since Ms. Scott’s address, we know little more about Black women’s associations and associational membership than we did at that time. In fact, the Black women’s club movement, which began in the early nineteenth century, has received scant scholarly attention. A search of the research literature on voluntary and membership associations reveals that from 1989–2021, only a handful of articles have been published specifically on the topic of Black women’s associations and/or their associational membership.


At the same time, however, Black women have made substantial economic and social gains since Ms. Scott’s address. Indeed, a 2014 study found that in relation to their counterparts in other racial-gender groups, Black women are among the most educated subpopulation in the United States (Katz, 2020). Black women have also experienced significant gains in employment (Buckman, Choi, Daly, & Seitelman, 2022).


Despite these gains, we know nothing about the role that Black women's associations have played in achieving them. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to provide the first descriptive account of the scale, scope, and influence of Black women's associations. Such an account should provide the foundation for future studies which can increase the visibility of what Ms. Scott referred to as “the most invisible of all.”


Project Collaborators: Madinah F. Hamidullah, Associate Professor, Rutgers SPAA; Oatile Ramsay, PhD Student, Rutgers SPAA