Thursday, December 15, 2011

CFP: Upcoming Special Issue of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly on Membership and Mutual Benefit Associations

CFP: Upcoming Special Issue of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly on Membership and Mutual Benefit Associations
Guest editors:
Mary Tschirhart, Professor of Public Administration and Director, Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education and Engagement, North Carolina State University, 919-513-7031 (phone),
Beth Gazley, Associate Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University-Bloomington, 812-855-1464 (phone),

Sponsor:   ASAE: Center for Association Leadership, Washington, DC

Membership associations, many of which are mutual benefit organizations, serve social, political, cultural, sports, religious, occupational and professional groups.  Little research attention has yet been paid to their special characteristics and dynamics, particularly in international contexts (Schofer, E. & Fourcade-Gourinchas, M., 2001). David Knoke wrote in 1986, “Put bluntly, association research remains a largely unintegrated set of disparate findings, in dire need of a compelling theory…..[Without it], students of associations and interest groups seem destined to leave their subject in scientific immaturity.”  And two decades later, Tschirhart (2006, 535-6) concluded that “these earlier assessments still hold today…. [W]e need more theories and empirical work” about the role of associations in civic life.  

This special issue will focus scholarly attention on this distinct organizational form and help build theories and a research agenda that are directly applicable to nonprofits operating as mutual benefit associations with membership bases.  Eight to nine manuscripts will be selected through a formal peer review process. All manuscripts should include brief commentary on the practical application of the knowledge generated.

We invite research articles and conceptual papers on any of the following topics:

Behavior in and structure of membership and mutual benefit associations.  Are assumptions about voluntary behavior derived from research on charities applicable to associations where the incentives to volunteer may be different?  What do we know about the social- and career-related motivations and the intrinsic and extrinsic incentives for participating in associations? What structural, political, and other influences explain the structure of these organizations, or the interactions among association staff, members, and boards?  What should we understand about the behavior or structure of new forms of associational activity, such as “electronic” or “virtual” membership organizations? 

Comparative and international research on associational activity.  How do associational activity and levels of citizen involvement in membership organizations vary among nations?  How can sociological, political, economic and other theories of the state be applied to associational activity?  What models and empirical findings exist to build an understanding of the form and function of associations in different societies?
New forms of research for understanding associations.  New forms of research lend themselves in exciting ways to an understanding of associational behavior, including social network analysis, geo-spatial analysis, micro-research on neighborhoods, and other methods.  We invite either reviews that analyze methodological approaches or submissions demonstrating the use of new or under-utilized methods.

Inputs and outcomes of associational activity.  Who joins and who is served by membership associations?  What are the social, political, technical and economic outcomes? To what extent are membership associations producing public and mutual benefits?  Whose voices are being heard and served through these associations? What impact do they have on their various stakeholders? 

Association management and effectiveness.  What models of strategic planning, management, business enterprise, and evaluation are used in the association field? What financial models are in play and how does their use affect financial and other outcomes?  How are innovations diffused through association members? How do membership associations identify and manage competing interests? How do lobbying strategies and outcomes vary across associations and compare with those of other types of nonprofit organizations that do not have membership bases? How, if at all, do associations prepare members for civic engagement or otherwise seve as schools of democracy?

Symposium Conference

The NCSU Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education and Engagement (INPREE) is planning a small research conference on membership associations in Spring 2012 at North Carolina State University.  The special issue will rely on an open submission process, where attendance at this conference is not required.  However, for some authors, the conference will offer a means for strengthening paper drafts before final submission.  If you are interested in learning more about the conference, please contact Mary at  

Manuscript Submission Instructions

Please submit final manuscripts by Friday, May 25, 2012.  Manuscripts should be no more than 8,000 words (including text, references, tables, footnotes and appendices).  Articles will be accepted consistent with NVSQ’s publishing standards.  The NVSQ editors reserve the right of final approval on all submissions. 

All manuscripts should include some commentary on the practical application of their findings or ideas. All manuscripts should follow NVSQ guidelines respecting format, length, and organization: .  A full blind peer review process will be followed, with preliminary decisions prospectively by September 2012, and final decisions early 2013.

Submit manuscripts directly to  After beginning a new submission, click “manuscript type” and select “Special Issue Manuscripts.”  Also be sure to indicate in your cover letter that the manuscript is intended for the special issue on associations.

Knoke, D.  (1986). Associations and interest groups.  Annual Review of Sociology, 12: 1-21.

Schofer, E. and Fourcade-Gourinchas, M. (2001). The structural contexts of civic engagement: Voluntary association membership in comparative perspective. American Sociological Review, 66(6): 806-828.

Tschirhart, M. (2006). Nonprofit Membership Associations. In The nonprofit sector: A research handbook, 2nd ed., Edited by W.W. Powell and R. Steinberg, 523-41. New Haven: Yale University Press.