I am naturally an analytic thinker.  Plus, I have an undergraduate education in sociology.  So, it should be no suprise that I take a particular interest in academic literature.  I leverage research to inform my practice in the nonprofit sector.

There are some key benefits in applying research to practice:

  1. Empirical evidence provides insight into social issues beyond the capacity of anecdotal stories.
  2. Research projects are contextualized within others’ research – building upon prior understanding.
  3. Thorough understanding of a problem is necessary for effective solutions, and research strives to uncover all hidden relationships.

I encourage other nonprofit professionals to seek out academic literature in many situations:

  • When confronting a problem – a social concern or an organizational issue
  • When entering an unknown area of practice or management
  • When desiring greater understanding and improved effectiveness

To find relevant research, I suggest The Foundation Center’s Catalog of Nonprofit Literature. If you want to browse a particular journal, I recommend the Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Action.

Then, apply the existing literature to your circumstances.  Consider the following questions:

  • What is the primary research question?
  • What methodologies are used to address this inquiry?
  • What solutions are offered?
  • What are the limitations of this research?
  • How are these findings relevant?

What other questions should be considered when applying research to practice?  Please leave a comment with your idea!

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