Grants & Scholarships

Supporting Academic Research, Public Scholarship, and Practical Training

In the emerging field of faith and philanthropy

Lake Institute helps to promote the emerging field of faith and philanthropy through multiple fellowship opportunities. We support graduate students through Graduate Assistantships at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy as well as an annual dissertation scholarship. We promote the work of young and established scholars through research collaborations and workshops on issues in the field. We continue to strive to make our Professional Development affordable to as many leaders as possible through raising scholarship support.

Past recipients

Chris Taylor
Boston University, Anthropology

Islamic Charity in India: Revival and Re-Invention of Ritual Almsgiving

Dissertation Title: Islamic Charity in India: Ethical Entrepreneurism & the Ritual, Revival, and Reform of Zakat Among a Muslim Minority

New Islamic charities and madrasas in Lucknow, India are promoting Islam as a means of development, through revival and reinterpretation of Islamic almsgiving (zakat) and ethical teachings on money and community. Since the partition of India in 1947, Muslims have struggled as a beleaguered minority, the largest in India’s diverse democracy. The relative socioeconomic status of Muslims in India is in decline, nearly on par with dalits (historically oppressed castes). Critics claim that “Muslim backwardness” originates in outmoded commitments to madrasas and illiberal Islamic law (sharī’a). The public views Muslim underdevelopment with alarm, as holding India back from being a leader in the global economy. 

This dissertation examines the rise and transformation of zakat in contemporary India. As historical institutions of Muslim welfare and endowments (waqf) decline, a new zakat economy is supplanting them. Yet zakat is a distinctly different social form of welfare. The contemporary practice of zakat reveals contradictions that invite reconsideration of our ideas about philanthropy, civic engagement, and Islam. Voluntary donations of zakat are a ritual obligation for all Muslims, and people in Lucknow often speak of the spiritual merit that accrues to almsgivers. I explore the paradox of zakat as “obligated voluntarism” that is at once selfless and self-interested and analyze the cultural implications of such ethics. While the Qur'an encourages giving in modest secrecy, new forms of zakat are not secret but publicly institutionalized and visible. These shifts even alter the practice of piety by incorporating a more individually accountable, calculative dimension to Muslims’ faith. 

Morality is often imagined to be at odds with capitalism and its focus on profit accumulation. The compatibility of capitalism and Islam, in particular, has been in question since Max Weber’s famous inquiry into religions, economy, and ethics. Yet new Islamic charities re-orient Lucknow’s Muslims towards perceived requirements of capitalist markets. This “ethical entrepreneurism” is rooted in Islamic rituals and morality rather than dispelling both in pursuit of modernity; zakat entrepreneurs promote development as simultaneously economic and moral. Through ethnography, surveys, and close readings of Islamic texts, this study makes key contributions to economic anthropology and study of ethics.

Moshe Kornfeld
University of Michigan, Anthropology

The Chosen Universalists: Jewish Philanthropy and Youth Activism in Post-Katrina New Orleans

The Chosen Universalists contributes to our understanding of the sociocultural consequences of growing income inequality. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research on American Jewish philanthropy, service, and activism in post-Katrina New Orleans, my dissertation presents Jewish philanthropy as a crucial discursive field within which American Jewish identity and community are constructed and contested.

I develop a series of interlocking arguments about contemporary Jewish social justice activism and its relationship to Jewish philanthropy. Anthropological theories of the gift illuminate the ways in which an awareness of Jewish identity as social privilege can sometimes motivate progressive activism. This emergent sense of Jewish privilege must be understood in relation to initiatives funded by extremely wealthy philanthropists to promote Jewish continuity in the face of concerns about the biosocial reproduction of Jews and Jewish institutions.

The Chosen Universalists analyzes how this continuity agenda intersects with intra-Jewish debates related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I argue that while Jewish social justice agencies are de-centered or post-diasporic, the American Jewish Zionist mainstream and Jewish anti-Zionists can be understood as inverted and opposite formulations of a diasporic Jewish identity centered on the State of Israel. Through these investigations, The Chosen Universalists traces the processes whereby religious groups and ideologies are continually reformulated and illustrates the impact of a donor class eager to use wealth to achieve large-scale social projects.

My work thus highlights the ways in which class dynamics and growing socioeconomic inequality are shaping and reshaping contemporary American religion. Research completed in support of this dissertation included archival research on the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans as well as interviews with current lay leaders and professionals working for the organization. I also interviewed a number of philanthropists active in New Orleans as well as professional staff working for family foundations. My research of Jewish youth culture included the ethnographic study of a yearlong service corps, an informal Jewish youth activist community, and six service tours to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Allison Schnable
Princeton University, Sociology

Voluntrepreneurs: The Growth of American Grassroots Development Organizations

David King
Emory University, Religion

Seeking a Global Vision: The Evolution of World Vision, Evangelical Missions, and American Evangelicalism

The past and present suggest two distinct pictures of World Vision. The organization began in 1950 as an American evangelical missionary support organization. Today, it is the world’s largest privately funded Christian relief and development organization. While it has remained decidedly Christian, World Vision has earned the reputation as an elite international non-governmental organization (INGO) managed efficiently by professional experts fluent in the language of both marketing and development. World Vision’s transformation is not simply another example of secularization, the story of a small, narrow organization encountering modernity, subduing its religious identity, and succumbing to secular methods in order to succeed. Instead, it is precisely the tensions and re-articulation of its religious identity that has helped to define the organization through its engagement with mainstream media, technology, and professional management, as well as in partnership with secular INGOs and in cooperation with the global church.

Through historical and ethnographic methodologies, I trace World Vision’s history as a lens through which to explore both shifts within post-World War II American evangelicalism as well as the nature of religious identity within philanthropic organizations. Attending to the evolution and interplay of World Vision’s practices, theology, rhetoric, and organizational structure help explain how it came to rearticulate and retain its Christian identity even as it expanded beyond a strict American evangelical subculture, how the ethos of evangelical missions more generally has shifted from evangelism to humanitarianism, as well as how exposure to global influences catalyzed the reflection and transformation of many American evangelicals’ identities at home. The tensions and evolutions within faith based organizations’ specific religious identities demonstrate a pivotal place for examining the evolving history and development of religious philanthropy.

Jared Peifer
Cornell University, Sociology

Socially Responsible Investing: Morality, Religion and the Market From A Sociological Perspective

This study explores the intersection of religion and the economy by focusing on the case of socially responsible investing (SRI) mutual funds that are also religiously affiliated. Mutual fund managers and investors understandably want competitive return performance from their investments. Yet religious fund actors are also oriented toward avoiding ownership in “sin stocks” and/or trying to change the behavior of corporations that are held in investment portfolios. Meeting both monetary and moral objectives can be a challenge. In this study, I address two broad research questions.

1) How do social actors balance their moral commitments against their monetary interest?

Through 29 semi-formal phone interviews with fund producers (or the employees) of Catholic, Muslim and Protestant religious mutual funds, I analyze their embedding and differentiating cultural work as they make sense of their involvement in the economic and religious spheres (Chapter 1). In a separate analysis, I conduct and analyze 41 phone interviews with investors of one religious fund family, Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA) Praxis mutual funds. In particular, I compare the moral meaning respondents articulate for their charitable giving and their SR investing (Chapter 4).

2) Does the moral orientation of investors impact their financial market behavior?

Using data from the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) from 1991 to 2007, I partition mutual funds into religious SRI, religious non-SRI and secular SRI and look for differences in levels of fund asset stability. This stability refers to fund flow volatility and the extent to which investors hold on to their fund shares with little regard to past return performance. Religious SRI assets are found to be the most stable fund category and I adjudicate whether the structural characteristics of religious groups or the moral orientation of religious investors best explains this empirical finding (Chapter 2). In a separate analysis, I analyze original phone survey data of MMA Praxis investors. This article’s theoretical orientation focuses on moral and monetary “interest,” defined as an individual level driving force. I find empirical evidence that moral interest induces fund commitment to SRI mutual funds, demonstrating that morality impacts behavior even in the financial market, a realm where monetary interest supposedly reigns. At the same time, I also find some evidence that monetary interest decreases fund commitment (Chapter 3).

Sarah Hammond
Yale University, American Religious History

“God’s Business Men”: Entrepreneurial Evangelicals in Depression and War

November 30, 2011—It is with much sadness and shock that we inform you of the passing of our 2009 Lake Dissertation Fellow, Sarah Hammond. Those of us who had the chance to meet Sarah and listen to her discuss the dissertation which we helped fund will recall her enthusiasm, depth of knowledge, and vast curiosity in the research fields the Lake Institute hopes to expand. We regret that this young scholar will not be with us to carry on the work, but we are grateful for our brief contact with her and for what she has already contributed to the understanding of faith and giving.

For decades, historians of the 20th-century United States have treated evangelicals as politically apathetic and culturally marginal between the 1925 Scopes Trial and the Reagan revolution. To the contrary, evangelical businessmen during the Depression and World War II opposed the New Deal on theological and economic grounds, and claimed a place alongside other conservatives in the public sphere. Like previous generations of devout laymen, they self-consciously merged their religious and business lives, financing and organizing evangelical causes with the same visionary pragmatism they practiced in the boardroom.

For example, industrialist R.G. LeTourneau and executive Herbert J. Taylor countered government centralization in the 1930s and 1940s with philanthropies that invested in a Protestant, capitalist, and democratic world. Meanwhile, the Christian Business Men’s Committee International, the Business Men’s Evangelistic Clubs, and the Gideons infused spiritual fellowship with the elitism of advertising culture. They were confident that they could steer the masses to Christ and free enterprise from the top down. Indeed, for a few exhilarating years, World War II seemed to give America and its missionaries dominion over the globe. Piety, patriotism, and power drew LeTourneau, Taylor, and the new National Association of Evangelicals to the center of it all, Washington, D.C. The marriage of religious and economic conservatism since the 1970s, which surprised many historians, reflects historical continuity rather than evangelical retreat.

Bradley Koch
Indiana University, Sociology

The Prosperity Gospel and Economic Prosperity: Race, Class, Giving, and Voting

The Prosperity Gospel is the doctrine that God wants people to be prosperous, especially financially. Adherents to the Prosperity Gospel believe that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and the poor are poor because of a lack of faith.

In this dissertation, I conduct a study of the Prosperity Gospel through logit analysis of data collected through telephone survey (N=1003) by SRBI for Time magazine. I report findings in four main areas: (1) there are multiple Gospels of Prosperity, and the Prosperity Gospel is transdenominational; (2) while income has no effect on adherence to the Prosperity Gospel, blacks, the “born-again” or “evangelical,” and those who are less educated are more likely to seek out Prosperity messages; (3) Prosperity adherence does not affect how much people give financially to either their churches and other religious causes or to nonreligious causes; (4) Prosperity adherents vote in about the same proportions as the rest of the population, and those with a Prosperity orientation tend to have voted for Bush in the year 2004 and identify as Republican.

This project is an example of how future research in the sociology of religion should acknowledge and take seriously the two dominant theoretical perspectives (i.e. neo-Marxianism and Weberianism) on which the subfield stands. Overall, the Prosperity Gospel is a fairly flexible theology that is well-suited to be adapted to varying social locations, particularly in a society like the United States that is radically individualistic.

Lake Institute Network of Emerging Scholars (LINES)

LINES 2015 cohort

Since its inception, Lake Institute has funded a doctoral dissertation fellowship and an Endowed Lake Scholar to help identify and support the work of emerging and established scholars in this evolving field. As a continuation of our work, the inaugural LINES conference was held April 12–13, 2015.

The LINES gathering served as an important medium to continue to create, foster, and sustain an interdisciplinary field of scholarly research focusing on the broad relationship between religion and philanthropy. In addition to the time set aside to engage each participant’s project proposal or research summary, there were several vibrant conversations about the state of research in this field, intentional opportunities for peer conversations, and the importance of collaboration.

A $36,000 competitive research award pool for 2015 LINES participants was introduced during the convening. Each scholar had the opportunity to apply for a grant of $3,000 to support their research.

Scott Alexander
Associate Professor of Islamic Studies
Director of Catholic-Muslim Studies Program
Catholic Theological Union

David Daniels
Henry Winters Luce Professor of World Christianity
McCormick Theological Seminary

Jim Hudnut-Beumler
Anne Potter Wilson Distinguished Professor of American Religious History
Vanderbilt Divinity School

Fred Kniss
Eastern Mennonite University

Elizabeth Lynn
Director of the Institute for Leadership and Service
Director of the Center for Civic Reflection
Valparaiso University

Brian Steensland
Professor of Sociology
Director of Social Science Research at the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture
Indiana University

Carolyn Warner
Professor of Political Science
Arizona State University

Heath Carter
Assistant Professor of History
Valparaiso University

Katie Corcoran
Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Studies of Religion
Baylor University

Heather Curtis
Associate Professor, Department of Religion
Tufts University

Hilary Davidson
Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology
University of Notre Dame

David Eagle
Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology
Duke University

Patricia Herzog
Assistant Professor, Sociology/Criminal Justice
Faculty Fellow, Community & Family Institute
University of Arkansas

Moshe Kornfeld
Visiting Lecturer, Program in Jewish Studies (cross-listed in Anthropology & Religion)
University of Colorado Boulder

Jared Peifer
Assistant Professor, Department of Management
Baruch College, CUNY

Amy Reynolds
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Wheaton College

Thomas Rzeznik
Associate Professor Department of History
Seton Hall University

Anelise Shrout
Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Studies
Davidson College

Brandon Vaidyanathan
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Sociology
Rice University

Our next LINES gathering has not yet been scheduled. If you are interested in participating in a future gathering please provide the requested information and we will share updates with you as we move forward.

Subscribe to the LINES mailing list