Rebecca Nesbit receives AmeriCorps Grant Award


Rebecca Nesbit receives AmeriCorps Grant Award

Dr. Rebecca Nesbit, Associate Professor, Nonprofit Management

OIBR Affiliate Rebecca Nesbit, PhD was recently awarded a grant from AmeriCorps for her research project entitled, “Examining the Influence of Civic Infrastructure on Rural/Urban Volunteering and Civic Engagement.”

Community leaders depend upon civic engagement to address local issues, yet local capacity for civic engagement differs significantly across place. At the same time, ongoing shifts in the socio-demographic characteristics of communities and the drivers of civic engagement may be changing how Americans engage in their communities, particularly in rural communities where these shifts are creating greater barriers to participation.

“Unfortunately, we know little about the effect of the civic infrastructure on civic engagement,” said Nesbit, associate professor of nonprofit management in the department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia. “Furthermore, many contemporary studies of the place-based determinants of volunteerism and civic engagement are based upon data from metropolitan respondents, leaving significant gaps in our understanding of civic engagement in rural places.”

So, the question remains: How does a community’s institutional civic infrastructure (e.g. nonprofits, voluntary associations, philanthropic foundations) influence volunteering and other civic behaviors across rural and urban communities?

This research project explores the institutional, place-based determinants of differences in volunteering and civic engagement behaviors between rural and urban respondents using the confidential Current Population Survey (CPS) Volunteering Supplement, merged with county-level administrative records describing the local civic infrastructure (e.g. number of nonprofits, presence of community foundations).

Along with Co-PI, Dr. Laurie E. Paarlberg at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, the team will analyze this unique dataset in a secure Census Bureau Research Data Center (RDC) using multi-level modeling.

The goals of this research are to understand which community institutions (e.g. churches, schools, other nonprofits) have the biggest influence on volunteering in rural and urban places.  Dr. Nesbit wants to understand whether different community institutions have a different effect on volunteering for rural residents compared to urban residents. They hope make a significant contribution to the scholarship of volunteerism and civic engagement and professional discussions about building engaged communities by exploring the institutional community-level drivers and inhibitors of volunteering and civic engagement.

Dr. Nesbit had a prior AmeriCorps grant from 2017-2021 for a project titled “Examining the Community-Level Determinants of the Rural-Urban Volunteering Divide” which showed that community context matters for volunteering.  The current study expands on that research to look more specifically at the influence of community institutions on volunteering.

The total grant award amount is $191,670. for a period of one year and they already have forward funding for year 2. Dr. Nesbit expects to have three years of funding by the end of the project, assuming that the sponsor gets the funds they are planning on.


Written by: Andrea Horsman
For more info. contact: Rebecca Nesbit