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Nonprofit Social Capital as an Indicator of a Healthy Nonprofit Sector


  • Bixler R. Patrick


  • Springer David W.

    (RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs, Austin, TX, USA)


Nonprofit social capital refers to the trust, norms, and networks that can improve organizational performance to fulfill a mission. Research on social capital within organizations, and specifically with nonprofits, is relatively widespread; however, the notion that we can quantify, measure, and incentivize its growth across a sector is novel. Nonprofits actively work to solve some of society’s most complex challenges in diverse areas, such as public health, education, social inequality, and environment. Few would argue against the need for a robust and healthy nonprofit sector. Yet, there is little debate and even less agreement on the definition of “a healthy nonprofit sector” or how to measure it. We offer a policy brief on this topic in the form of an exploratory think piece, rather than a definitive empirical methodology or research paper, that connects nonprofit social capital to a framework of sector health. Solving many of the challenges facing society today will require trust, working together, and networks of resources and reciprocity. Because of this, nonprofit social capital – both cognitive and structural – is an important benchmark of nonprofit sector health and could supplement other metrics of an index offering a signal as to changes occurring in the sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Bixler R. Patrick & Springer David W., 2018. "Nonprofit Social Capital as an Indicator of a Healthy Nonprofit Sector," Nonprofit Policy Forum, De Gruyter, vol. 9(3), pages 1-8, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:nonpfo:v:9:y:2018:i:3:p:8:n:4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Productivity Commission, 2003. "Social capital: reviewing the concept and its policy implications," Public Economics 0307001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    3. Grootaert Grootaert & Deepa Narayan & Veronica Nyhan Jones & Michael Woolcock, 2004. "Measuring Social Capital : An Integrated Questionnaire," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15033, 06-2020.
    4. Castillo Elizabeth A., 2018. "Qualities before Quantities: A Framework to Develop Dynamic Assessment of the Nonprofit Sector," Nonprofit Policy Forum, De Gruyter, vol. 9(3), pages 1-14, October.
    5. Chong, Samuel & Heng, Michael S.H. Heng & Liu, Kencheng, 2001. "The social consequences of using agent-based systems," Serie Research Memoranda 0001, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
    6. -, 2001. "Conferencia Regional sobre Capital Social y Pobreza," Sede de la CEPAL en Santiago (Estudios e Investigaciones) 33039, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
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