Lehn Benjamin

Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies; Affiliate Faculty, Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Academic Programs
Lehn Benjamin
University Hall, Suite 3000
301 University Boulevard
Indianapolis, IN


  • Ph.D., Cornell University; City and Regional Planning
  • M.R.P., Cornell University, City and Regional Planning
  • B.A., University of Minnesota, Summa Cum Laude, Speech Communication


I have spent the past 25 years working to address issues of inequity. I worked in South Africa during the democratic transition, on the Senate Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Committee as a Congressional Fellow, and for the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Prior to joining the faculty at the school, I spent 10 years on the faculty at George Mason University where I taught courses on nonprofit management, public management, and evaluation.

I am broadly interested in how practices, programs, and policies address and/or further exacerbate inequity and why. Most of my work examines these issues in nonprofit organizations where I pursue questions about impact and accountability. For example, I have examined how performance and accountability requirements of funders shape the work of nonprofits: Do these requirements spur nonprofits to better respond to the needs and experiences of people they serve? Or do these requirements constrain such work?

My recent research takes a closer look at daily work of frontline staff and the experience of the people that seek services from nonprofits to develop a fuller picture of nonprofit impact than is typically captured in program evaluation models. Here I am interested in how participating in these nonprofits affects the health and political efficacy of citizen-clients. Although most of my current research focuses on human service organizations, as an urban planner who has worked in both governmental and grassroots organizations as well as at a policy level, I am also interested in broader community development and governance questions.

Courses Taught

  • PHST 521 Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector
  • PHST 530 Politics of Helping
  • PHST 530 The Equity and Effectiveness of Philanthropy
  • PHST 602 Qualitative Methods
  • PHST 665 Nonprofits and Philanthropy


Client-Citizens in Nonprofit Organizations

  • Benjamin, L. M. (2020). Bringing beneficiaries more centrally into nonprofit education and research. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
  • Benjamin, L. M. (2018). Client authority in nonprofit human service organizations. In Handbook of community movements and local organizations in the 21st century (pp. 141–154). Springer.
  • Benjamin, L. M., & Brudney, J. L. (2018). What do voluntary sector studies offer research on co-production? In T. Brandsen, B. Verschuere, & T. Steen (Eds.), Co-production and co-creation (pp. 49–60). Routledge.
  • Karriem, A., & Benjamin, L. M. (2016). How civil society organizations foster insurgent citizenship: Lessons from the Brazilian landless movement. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 27(1), 19–36.
    *Best Article, 2018, International Society for Third Sector Research
  • Benjamin, L., Rubin, J. S., & Zielenbach, S. (2004). Community development financial institutions: Current issues and future prospects. Journal of Urban Affairs, 26(2), 177–195.

Evaluation and Impact

  • Benjamin, L. M. (Forthcoming 2021). If not the program then what? Evaluating social change in nonprofit and voluntary organizations. In P. Dahler-Larsen (Ed.), A research agenda for evaluation: Inspirational themes. Edward Elgar.
  • Benjamin, L. M., & Campbell, D. A. (2020). Evaluation and performance measurement. In H. K. Anheier & S. Toepler (Eds.), Routledge companion to nonprofit management. Routledge.​
  • Benjamin, L. M., & Campbell, D. C. (2015). Nonprofit performance: Accounting for the agency of clients. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 44(5), 988–1006.
    *Best article, 2016, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action
  • Benjamin, L. M. (2012). Nonprofit organizations and outcome measurement: From tracking program activities to focusing on frontline work. American Journal of Evaluation, 33(3), 431–447.

Accountability and Governance

  • Benjamin, L. M., & Posner, P. L. (2018). Tax Expenditures and Accountability: The case of the ambivalent principals. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 28(4), 569–582.
  • Benjamin, L. M., Voida, A., & Bopp, C. (2018). Policy fields, data systems, and the performance of nonprofit human service organizations. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 42(2), 185–204.
  • Benjamin, L. M. (2008). Account space: How accountability requirements shape nonprofit practice. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 37(2), 201–223.
    *Best Article, 2009, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action
  • Benjamin, L. M. (2008). Bearing more risk for results: Performance accountability and nonprofit relational work. Administration & Society, 39(8), 959–983.