FEDERATED ORGANIZATIONSMarion Fremont-Smith,
Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy; Senior Research Fellow
Peter Dobkin Hall,
Senior Research Fellow
In April 2006 Marion Fremont-Smith and Peter Dobkin Hall embarked on a major collaboration to study federated organizations, a component of the nonprofit sector that has not heretofore been the focus of scholarly research, despite the fact that so many nonprofits central to civil society are federated entities. Among the most familiar are religious denominations, political parties, professional and trade associations, labor unions, advocacy groups, anti-poverty agencies, disaster relief organizations, service clubs, fraternal and sororal orders, environmental groups, veterans and patriotic organizations, and health charities. These entities take an amazing variety of forms, with some being tightly coupled and hierarchical and others loosely-coupled. Their financial arrangements also vary. By and large they are loosely regulated by the states and the Internal Revenue Service.
> Listen to Professor Peter Dobkin Hall discuss federated organizations
Among the questions the study plans to address are the following: What is known about federated organizations? What is their role and function, looked at from economic, political, social and cultural viewpoints, both domestically and internationally. How are federated organizations structured? How are they financed? Are they particularly prone to tensions, crises and scandals? What is the role of federateds in the emerging global economy, polity and society, and what is the impact of legal, regulatory and political forces on their structure and function?
Fremont-Smith and Hall’s initial research is concentrated on a literature search and a number of case studies of particular organizations that exemplify the major types comprising the field. Among those being considered for in-depth examination are the American Automobile Association, Nature Conservancy, United Way of America, YMCA, a health organization and a fraternal order. Although the American Red Cross is one of the most well-known federated organizations, and possibly the least studied, it has a unique role as an “instrumentality of the federal government,” that warrants separate consideration, possibly as the study progresses.
Using their expertise in the legal aspects of nonprofit associations and their governance, and in the analysis of organizations’ development, Fremont-Smith and Hall expect the case studies to raise questions that can be addressed not only by them but by other scholars. To encourage this undertaking, they plan to convene scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, professions and industries to project future directions for research and to consider whether new regulatory models are needed to assure their legitimacy. Accordingly, they hope that this current research project will be the precursor and inspiration for a major evaluation of this component of the nonprofit sector, its role in society, and how its potential can be best realized.