PROJECTExploring the Social Sector Infrastructure

About the Project

What are the supports and services for the US social sector? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this infrastructure? How is it changing and how might it need to change in the years to come? The Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, in partnership with George Mason University’s Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise, launched a research project to better understand the infrastructure that provides the social sector these critical supports and services.

For this project, we will develop an expansive definition that captures the full breadth of the social sector and its infrastructure. We will then assess that infrastructure and identify ways it might need to evolve to address future challenges.

This project is committed to incorporating new voices in the social sector, emphasizing groups that have historically been marginalized and excluded, addressing racial inequities, and integrating the perspectives of diverse social sector infrastructure stakeholders.

Add Your Voice

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the social sector infrastructure? How can its services and supports improve to meet the needs and aspirations of the entire social sector? Help us answer these questions and inform our assessment of the infrastructure by taking our field survey by Wednesday, May 25.

Contact the project team at with questions about the project or ideas for how it can add value to your work.

About Our Advisors

Two groups of advisors are helping us refine our research questions, advising on research methodologies, connecting us with stakeholders in the social sector, and providing feedback on the project deliverables: an Urban/GMU advisory committee and an infrastructure research collaborative advisory group. 

The advisory committee complements our team’s knowledge and experience and helps us reach new networks. It will join us in coauthoring an action guide to strengthen the sector's infrastructure. Its members are:

  • Ana Marie Argilagos, Hispanics in Philanthropy
  • Vanessa Daniel
  • James D. Gibbons, Forward Impact Enterprises LLC
  • Rahsaan Harris, Citizens Committee for New York City
  • Deth Im, Faith in Action
  • Sarah Kastelic, National Indian Child Welfare Association
  • Kathy Ko Chin, Jasper Inclusion Advisors
  • Hanh Le, if, A Foundation for Radical Possibility
  • Larry McGill, Ambit 360 Consulting
  • Jon Pratt, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
  • Chera Reid, Center for Evaluation Innovation
  • Pier Rogers, ARNOVA and Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, North Park University
  • Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

The infrastructure research collaborative, hosted by the New Venture Fund, is a coordinated effort of funders and practitioners that supports our efforts to better understand the country's social sector infrastructure. Its members are:

  • Melanie Audette, Mission Investors Exchange
  • Greg Baldwin, VolunteerMatch
  • Chris Cardona, Ford Foundation
  • Nick Deychakiwsky, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • Edward Jones, ABFE
  • Monisha Kapila, ProInspire
  • Frances Kunreuther, Building Movement Project
  • Donna Murray-Brown, National Council of Nonprofits (incoming)
  • Urvashi Vaid, the Vaid Group
  • Victoria Vrana, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

About the Team

The Urban/GMU project team brings experience as social sector infrastructure providers, infrastructure users, researchers, and funders who have observed, studied, and participated in the infrastructure’s expansion and transformation over more than four decades.

Project leads: Laura Tomasko and Faith Mitchell at Urban; Alan Abramson at GMU

Senior advisors: Benjamin Soskis, Elizabeth Boris, and Jesse Lecy at Urban; Stefan Toepler at GMU

Research support: Hannah MartinQiaozhen Liu, Nora Hakizimana, Azhar Gulaid, and Claire Boyd at Urban; Kristen Kinneberg at GMU

Project management: Rochisha Shukla and Annie Heinrichs at Urban

Intern support: Ren MacLean, Adam Goudjil, and Tanvi Punja at Urban

About the Funders

We are grateful to the New Venture Fund for its support of this project, made possible by nine donors: the Barr Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Fidelity Charitable Trustees' Initiative, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Lodestar Foundation, and the Raikes Foundation.

Research Areas Nonprofits and philanthropy
Tags Infrastructure
Policy Centers Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy