Wu Receives Award for ‘Philanthropic Gap’ Research

Viviana Chiu Sik Wu, assistant professor at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy, has received an award in support of her research on the “philanthropic gap” in the U.S.

Viviana Chiu Sik Wu
Viviana Chiu Sik Wu

Wu and colleagues Ji Ma, of the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Chao Guo, of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, have received the RGK-ARNOVA President’s Award, presented by the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at UT Austin and the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.

The award is for their research project “The Matthew Effect in American Generosity? Examining Inequality in Philanthropic Capacity Across Place and Time," which references a sociological term describing the concept that advantage leads to further advantage, increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots. The term comes from a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

The study examines the inequality in philanthropic capacity across American communities in the past decade, particularly the extent to which local nonprofit sectors serving disadvantaged communities might “lock in” the path of “philanthropic desert” over time. The researchers will consider the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and aim to shed light on a potential self-reinforcing process — the “Matthew Effect” — that might further reproduce disparities across communities.

Wu is lead author and principal investigator of the study. “I am incredibly grateful and honored to receive this award,” she said. “It is, perhaps, more than anything, a testimony to the pressing issue we face in studying the philanthropy field: As the pandemic effects lay bare the deeply rooted disparities in the country, understanding the unequal longitudinal trajectories of philanthropic giving is fundamental to building a sustainable, healthy nonprofit sector that serves local communities for decades to come.”

Wu, Ma and Guo will be honored alongside other award recipients in November at ARNOVA’s 50th anniversary celebration, to be held in Atlanta and via a virtual conference platform.