About Us

Since its inception in 2000, The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy has emphasized research and analysis as a means to deepening the understanding of complex issues in philanthropy and to ensuring important topics are addressed by the field. By conducting groundbreaking studies and widely sharing the findings, the Center provides in-depth knowledge of philanthropy’s changing landscape as well as strategies for action. This empowers philanthropic decision-makers, policymakers, and civic leaders with the information and insights needed to create meaningful change, both independently and collectively.

Learn more about The Center.

Board of Advisors

The Board of Advisors play a critical role in guiding the Center’s work by providing diverse perspectives on emerging issues confronting philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, linking the Center to other key leaders from the field and across sectors, and assisting in fund development efforts.

Fred J. Ali, Chair

President and Chief Executive Officer
Weingart Foundation

Fred Blackwell

Chief Executive Officer
The San Francisco Foundation

Ken Brecher

Library Foundation of Los Angeles

Dannielle Campos

Senior Vice President and ESG Program Director
Bank of America Charitable Foundation

David DiCristofaro


James M. Ferris, Director

Emery Evans Olson Chair in Nonprofit
Entrepreneurship and Public Policy
Sol Price School of Public Policy
University of Southern California

Wendy Garen

President and Chief Executive Officer
The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation

Dana Goldman

Interim Dean and Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Pharmacy, and Economics
Sol Price School of Public Policy
University of Southern California

Cathleen Collins Hession

Executive Director and President
The Carol and James Collins Foundation

Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman & Associates, Global CSR and Philanthropy

John E. Kobara

Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
California Community Foundation

Leslie Lassiter

Chair, Board of Directors
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Joe Lumarda

Senior Vice President/Investment Counselor
Capital Group Private Client Services

Douglas M. Mancino

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Antonio Manning

President and CEO
Affordable Living for the Aging

Margo Leonetti O’Connell

Leonetti/O’Connell Family Foundation

Lisa Fredricks Parker

President and Executive Director
Lawrence Welk Family Foundation

Jane G. Pisano

The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation

Michael M. Ruane

Executive Vice President
National Community Renaissance

Marvin Schotland

President and CEO
Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles

Jack Shakely

President Emeritus
California Community Foundation

Trent Stamp

The Eisner Foundation

Esther Wachtell

Managing Director
Wachtell Family Partnership, LLC

Wendy Wachtell

Joseph Drown Foundation

Eugene R. Wilson

Senior Vice President (Retired)
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation


Center Fellows

The Center’s Fellows are drawn from the Sol Price School of Public Policy, from across USC, and beyond. They represent the various disciplines that are critical to understanding philanthropy and nonprofit organizations, such as economics, sociology, political science, and public policy, and include distinguished practitioners from the field.

Eleanor Brown

James Irvine Professor of Economics
Pomona College

Nicole E. Esparza

Associate Professor
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

Nicolas J. Duquette

Associate Professor
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

James M. Ferris

Professor and Emery Evans Olson Chair in Nonprofit Entrepreneurship and Public Policy
Director, Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

Elizabeth A. Graddy

Professor and Jeffrey J. Miller Chair in Government, Business, and the Economy
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

Executive Vice Provost
University of Southern California

Alexandra Graddy-Reed

Assistant Professor
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

Shui-Yan Tang

USC Sol Price School of Public Policy



The Center thanks the following organizations and individuals for providing financial support for the Center’s core operations and activities, research, and projects in the past two years:

The Ahmanson Foundation
Amgen Foundation
Annenberg Foundation
Ballmer Group
Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc.
Blue Shield of California Foundation
John and Louise Bryson
California Community Foundation
The California Endowment
The California Wellness Foundation
Capital Group
The Carol and James Collins Foundation
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
The David and Lucille Packard Foundation
Dwight Stuart Youth Fund
The Eisner Foundation
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Ford Foundation
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
The Herb Alpert Foundation
Irene Hirano Inouye
The James Irvine Foundation
The James J. and Sue Femino Foundation
Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles
The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation*
Johnny Carson Foundation
Joseph Drown Foundation
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation
The Kresge Foundation
LA84 Foundation

The Lawrence Welk Family Foundation
Leonetti/O’Connel Family Foundation
The Louis L. Borick Foundation
Douglas M. Mancino
Vince Mancuso
Moss Adams, LLP
MUFG Union Bank Foundation
National Community Renaissance
The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation
The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
The Rose Hills Foundation
The San Francisco Foundation
The Seaver Institute
The Sobrato Family Foundation
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Debra and Kevin Taweel
Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation
Esther and Tom Wachtell
Weingart Foundation
Wells Fargo
William E. Simon Foundation
W.M. Keck Foundation

For information on how to support The Center as a Philanthropic Partner, please contact:

The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy
Lewis Hall, Room 210
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626
Tel: (213) 740-9492
Fax: (213) 821-4126


Center Staff

James M. Ferris, Ph.D.
(213) 740-9492

Gregg Millward
Senior Director of Development & External Relations
(213) 740-1776

Lisa Soares
Administrative Coordinator
(213) 740-9492

Tatiana Overly
Development Officer 
(213) 821-1262


Frequently Asked Questions

The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy is an academic research center in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. The Center’s mission is to promote effective philanthropy and strengthen the nonprofit sector through research and communication activities that inform philanthropic decision making and encourage public problem solving.

The Center conducts research and analysis on philanthropy, volunteerism, and the role of the nonprofit sector. The Center also shares its findings with the philanthropic, nonprofit and policy communities and works to engage these sectors in an exploration of key issues through forums, roundtable discussions, lectures and seminars.

Based at the Price School of Public Policy at USC, the Center also offers a West Coast perspective on key developments in philanthropy and benefits from the multicultural urban “laboratory” of Los Angeles and the global and demographic significance of California and the West.

The Center is working to foster a better understanding of philanthropy and develop strategies for philanthropy to work more effectively with their partners in the nonprofit, government and business sectors to solve public problems.

The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy enjoys the unique advantage of focusing on the intersection of philanthropy and public policy. The Center not only conducts and publishes research, but also actively seeks to share its findings and to engage key constituencies in activities that strengthen philanthropy and the nonprofit sector and to advance public problem solving.

The Director of the Center is James M. Ferris, the Emery Evans Olson Chair in Nonprofit Entrepreneurship and Public Policy at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC. The Center is guided by a board of advisors comprised of senior leaders in philanthropy, the nonprofit sector and business.

The work of the Center is funded with a combination of endowment, research and project grants, sponsorships, and grants and contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals which are used for the Center’s core operations and activities.

No, the Center does not offer grants to nonprofit organizations. The Center itself is a nonprofit, with tax-exempt status under the University of Southern California.

The Center invites financial support at all levels. More information on our giving opportunities can be found here. We recognizes organizations that give at the $10,000 level or more and individuals who give at the $5,000 level or more as “Philanthropic Partners” of the Center. Sponsorship opportunities for Center events like the annual Distinguished Speakers Series are also available.

No. The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy itself does not offer a degree program. However, the Center is housed in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, which offers master’s level degrees in Public Administration (MPA), Public Policy (MPP), and Planning (MPL), as well as a Ph.D. degree in Policy, Planning and Development. The Price School also offers a university-wide graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management and Policy, as well as an undergraduate minor in Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Volunteerism. For further information on programs and how to apply, please contact the the Price Office of Student Affairs at (213) 740-6842 or visit the website.

Please fill out the mailing list form on our website to receive communications from the Center.

The Center typically employs two to four graduate students at a time, both as research assistants and administrative program assistants. We also utilize student volunteers during our Distinguished Speakers Series events and periodically invite students to meet with Distinguished Speakers and/or to attend research seminars. The Center sends email announcements to the Price School student listservs as opportunities arise.

Eleanor Brown


Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy

For Eleanor Brown, understanding what drives a person’s charitable giving has real world implications for the sector. Her research into how family dynamics impact the ways in which American households approach philanthropy offers critical insight with the potential to alter the entire philanthropic landscape. “The charitable activity of married couples is affected by who is involved in decision making, which itself depends upon – among other things – sources of economic power such as education and earnings,” Brown says. “In addition, women tend to spread their giving more widely than men.”

Eleanor Brown is The James Irvine Professor of Economics at Pomona College, where she earned her bachelor of arts. Brown received her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in economics from Princeton University. She has been affiliated with USC’s Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy for over a decade.

Nicole E. Esparza


In business, the value of networks and collaborative partnerships has long been clear. Today, research being conducted by Nicole Esparza is demonstrating the wisdom of extending those partnerships into the philanthropic realm. “As a nonprofit, who you’re networked with can boost your success in getting grants or other outside support,” Esparza says. It’s a crucial point for both grantseekers and grantmakers alike. “If you’re a nonprofit and you choose to collaborate with another charitable organization that is more established and has a good reputation, you’re in a better position to secure funding,” Esparza notes. By the same token, funders looking to maximize their impact benefit from fostering relationships between diverse grantees. “Foundations and government entities are learning that encouraging grantees to hold joint meetings and share board members can make them more effective in the long term,” she says.

Esparza is Associate Professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, where she teaches courses on public policy and management and program evaluation. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University.


Nicolas J. Duquette

Nic Duquette

Duquette’s research uses the tools of economics, politics and history to trace the development and behavior of nonprofit organizations, and he teaches courses in nonprofit management and social innovation informed by an interdisciplinary perspective. He is currently researching the adaptations of charities to changes in government grants and tax subsidies, with particular focus on the changes brought by the Johnson-era War on Poverty.

Duquette is an Assistant Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.  He graduated with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan.


James M. Ferris

Ferris, James M. Headshot

Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy

James Ferris is passionate about leveraging philanthropy to solve public problems. By engaging with government, he says, philanthropic organizations and individuals can influence policy to strengthen the fabric of a community and promote the welfare of its members. “As a result of shared learning from the broad array of philanthropic strategies,” Ferris observes, “we expand our understanding of what is possible in terms of how philanthropy can create meaningful policy and systems change.” His groundbreaking work sheds light on foundation strategies for leveraging their assets, knowledge and networks to influence public policy.  This work is being extended to examine new efforts to develop strategic partnerships that bring philanthropists and government together in pursuit of the common good.

Ferris is the founding director of the Center and a professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. He also holds the Emery Evans Olson Chair in Nonprofit Entrepreneurship and Public Policy. He, along with Eleanor Brown, won the 2008 Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Action Award for Outstanding Article in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly for their article: “Social Capital and Philanthropy: An Analysis of the Impact of Social Capital on Giving and Volunteering.” In addition to his research, his experience as a member of the editorial board of key journals and an advisor to various national nonprofit groups and international agencies such as the World Bank, Ferris has developed international renown for his expertise in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his B.A. from the University of Florida.


Elizabeth Graddy


Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy

As a researcher investigating the private sector’s role in public services and functions, Elizabeth Graddy has developed a highly sought-after expertise: how to structure relationships among diverse organizations to make them effective in addressing societal problems. One way public and private organizations can collaborate is through community foundations, which Graddy says can serve as a catalyst for social change – but only if they are able to sustain the charitable support of their communities. “Per capita gifts to community foundations increase with the level of social trust in that community,” Graddy says. This finding, and others resulting from Graddy’s work, offers guidance to community foundations on the importance of building trust to foster social solidarity and inspire collective action. Graddy’s pioneering research also includes a focus on emerging community foundations in East Asia.

Graddy, affiliated with the Center since its inception, holds the Jeffrey J. Miller Chair in Business, Government and the Economy and serves as Vice Dean of USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. She received her Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University.

Alexandra Graddy-Reed

2015.01.29 Graddy-Reed, Alexandra

Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy

Alexandra Graddy-Reed is an Assistant Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Graddy-Reed’s research is focused on the evolving strategies of grantmakers to be more outcome and impact minded. Grounded in theories of public economics, institutional change, and innovation production, her current research involves evaluating the effect of competition between grantmakers on outcomes to assess if it promotes or deters innovation. Graddy-Reed teaches courses on the theories and policies of nonprofits and social innovation.

Jack Knott


Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy

How do programs run by nonprofit foundations impact local communities? What role do foundations play in advancing public policy? Are they bold innovators leading the charge toward meaningful social change – or are they cautious investors following broader societal trends? Through his leadership and research, Jack Knott continues to answer these and other pressing questions, shedding light on critical issues that help shape the field of philanthropy. “The lessons I’ve learned in my work have impact in terms of how foundations strategically approach public policy and evaluate their programs,” Knott says. “It’s gratifying to know I am contributing to a dialogue that can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Over the course of a highly distinguished career, Knott has achieved national renown for his policy expertise. He is Professor and the C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper Dean of USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. After receiving his B.A. in history from Calvin College, Knott received a master’s degree in economics and comparative politics from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Shui-Yan Tang


Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy

Around the globe, nonprofits work to improve people’s lives and to strengthen civil society. Yet, says Shui-Yan Tang, when it comes to how they go about it, geography is often destiny. His research into the development of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China reveals an unexpected link between organizational effectiveness and connectedness to government systems. “In the United States, most nonprofits would be reluctant to criticize the government if they have long-term government contracts,” Tang says. “But in China, it’s just the opposite: those with stronger personal and professional ties to the party tend to be more vocal because they are less fearful of being labeled as anti-government.” As Tang puts it, forging a close relationship with the reigning political authority can dramatically impact the effectiveness of Chinese NGOs in areas ranging from environmental protection to HIV care to poverty alleviation.

At USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, Tang is the Frances R. and John J. Duggan Distinguished Professor in Public Administration. He graduated with a Ph.D. in public policy from Indiana University.