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I recently had the opportunity to reflect on the current state of the nonprofit management journal literature because of an invitation to participate in a panel presentation at the annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) in Washington, D.C. For the occasion, I looked through a couple of file drawers containing the most recently received manuscripts here at Nonprofit Management and Leadership (NML) and attempted to categorize and generalize about what has come in. Specifically, I did a tabulation of the most recent 110 manuscripts received at our editorial offices.
Let me emphasize at the outset that the numbers reported here in no sense constitute a detailed editorial template or design. And they are not intended to convey to anyone any message, subtle or otherwise, that only manuscripts that fall within these mentioned categories are acceptable. Soundness of evidence and quality of presentation are still our principal editorial concerns and will remain so. These findings are merely meant as a reflection of our understandings of the current state of the art as it is reflected in what comes in for review at NML. If suddenly we were to receive twenty-five manuscripts on fundraising, for example, or publicrelations or arts management, these numbers would look very different, but the overall editorial profile of NML would remain unchanged.
First, NML is clearly an international journal and reflects the growth of international scholarly and practitioner interest in the third sector. Twenty-one of the 110 manuscripts (19.1 percent) were from authors outside the United States. Canada, Britain, and Australia are probably the three largest contributors, with others coming in small numbers from Italy, Vietnam, India, Germany, Ireland, and numerous other countries. Much less evident are manuscripts from Latin America and Asia. Clearly, the intent of the founding editors that NML assume a universal approach to the subject matter of nonprofit management and leadership has been realized to an important degree. It is my clear hope that international authors will continue to see this as an attractive venue.
Second, this is also clearly an interdisciplinary journal, although the interdisciplinary mix will be familiar primarily to readers with a management orientation, and less so to those with a more conventional social science disciplinary view. Nineteen manuscripts (17.3 percent) came in from authors with clear ties to business schools (including such disciplines as management, marketing, and accounting). Sixteen manuscripts (14.5 percent) came in from authors with identifiable social work or human services identities, and 14 manuscripts (12.7 percent) came from those with public administration and public affairs ties.
I must emphasize that the mix, not the rank ordering, is the important point. At any given time, one might find a few more or less from each of these three constituencies. What is important here is that these three disciplinary clusters-whether we call them business administration, social administration, and public administration or management, human services management, and public management-and their accompanying organizations and conferences probably form the backbone of the nonprofit management, leadership, and policy research enterprise at the moment. However, the submitted manuscripts also point to a wide, diverse, and interesting periphery as well, even as these three broad clusters define the core.
Nearly 70 percent of all manuscripts received are accounted for by four fairly broad categories: international, business management, social work and human services, and public administration and public affairs. Among the remainder, we have received recent submissions from economics, nonprofit management programs, communications, and law in roughly equal numbers and from at least nine other disciplines.
Finally, there were about 10 percent of manuscripts for which no immediately disciplinary identification was possible. Many of these came from practitioners working in the field and were truly, as our heading suggests, from the field. I have been told repeatedly by readers that one of the editorial attractions of NML over the years has been its ability to attract manuscripts from practitioners. At the same time, those associated with other journals frequently comment on how difficult it can be to get practitioners to write about their experiences. Thus, we are grateful for what we have received and welcome more such contributions.
Experienced authors know that submission of a manuscript to a journal is often a next logical step in a process that began with a conference presentation. NML submissions seem to reflect publications histories including prior presentations originally made to a variety of disciplinary and professional societies. Prominent among these have been the nonprofit sectors of the Academy of Management and the NASPAA, as well as the human services sections of American Society for Public Administration, the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration, the Independent Sector Research Forum, and the research forum of the National Society for Fundraising Executives (NSFRE), which recently changed its name to the Association of Fund-raising Professionals. Another sizable number were presented at recent conferences of the International Society for Third Sector Research. The largest single group of manuscripts with a clear presentation history came to us by way of the annual conference of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.
I originally had planned to classify these submissions topically as well, but quickly abandoned this idea after I developed four single-spaced pages of keywords from the titles alone and could find no simple way to classify, categorize, or otherwise reduce such an unwieldy list. Only a couple of themes stood out from this effort. One is the importance of scholarly interest in boards and board-related questions overall. Roughly fifteen percent (15 percent) of the manuscripts included in this census were on board-related topics. However, this figure may be somewhat inflated because a special issue on boards is in preparation. Even so, boards continue to be a major concern of nonprofit management and leadership authors throughout the history of this publication. Among manuscripts received, another roughly 5 percent each dealt with fundraising topics and evaluation and accountability questions. Everything else reflected the increasing diversity of the current study of nonprofit management, leadership, and policy with no more than two or three manuscripts on any particular topic and at least fifty distinguishable topics identifiable. Yet within this diversity, it was also possible to note several interesting gaps.
One noteworthy shortfall among recent submissions is any extensive or sustained attention to issues of leadership. Given our title, it is always surprising that the overwhelming majority of the manuscripts received (well above 90 percent) are concerned with the first of those terms (management) and only a smattering with the second (leadership). If nonprofit scholars and practitioners are currently writing about leadership, their work is not ending up at our doorstep. Also evident is the notable absence of manuscripts on civil society topics. Writers on nonprofit management, leadership, and policy topics who submit to this journal appear to depart significantly from the seemingly overwhelming interest in writing about civil society, social capital, and the decline of civic participation found elsewhere in nonprofit conferences and journals. Perhaps the issue is the difficulty of linking the topic of civil society, with its obvious sociological and political overtones, to the largely organizational-level concerns of management and institutional leadership. The same gap is evident with regard to a similar dearth of manuscripts on management and social capital, although the ties between that social capital and financial and human capital in third-sector settings, for example, would seem to open up many interesting lines of possible inquiry.
Another notable absence among the manuscripts received is any significant concern for research methodology issues or concerns or major reviews of literature. Although we have a regular Research Reports section, there have been no research note-type discussions of scales or research instruments, applicable new research methodologies, or similar discussions received since I became editor. For a young research field only coming into its own methodologically, this is unfortunate. The implications of revisions of the SIC codes for nonprofits, the general adequacy of national data sets, and other similar questions are just two of many such questions worthy of investigation. Moreover, only a very small number of research reviews, critical analyses of the literature, reviews of important multi-investigator research threads, and the like have been seen by our editors. Also, given the historical importance of case studies in teaching nonprofit (or general) management, we receive surprisingly few case study manuscripts as well. In this instance, we actively welcome contributions for our Research Reports section.
As someone who has been involved with the third sector in one form or another for more than three decades, I continue to be amazed at the richness and diversity of the literature as it has evolved in the past few years. I am particularly impressed with the willingness of nonprofit scholars to take on the tough questions.
At the same time, I remain highly skeptical of the value of editorial or other predictions of what topics "ought" to be further studied. Who knew, to cite but one example among many, when Howard Tuckman and Cyril Chang published their first article on fiscal distress that it was going to lead to such an important (and growing) body of interdisciplinary work by them, Janet Greenlee, John Trussel, and other economists and accountants (including the chapter by Trussel that appears in this issue)? For those of us with a longstanding interest in nonprofit financial questions, the importance of this research thread is immeasurable, and there would have been no meaningful way to anticipate it. Each of the chapters in this issue constitutes a similar potential opening of new and rich veins of research inquiry. We look forward to the fruits they will bear. Roger A. Lohmann Editor
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