Gregory Witkowski

Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies

Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy: Greg Witkowski
University Hall, Suite 3000
301 University Boulevard
Indianapolis, IN


  • University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Ph.D. in History
  • College of the Holy Cross, B.A. in History


Gregory R. Witkowski is the Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies. He received his Ph.D. in history from SUNY Buffalo and held posts in history for eight years until joining the Center on Philanthropy in 2011. His main research interests are the relationships between philanthropic aid, civil society, and democracy. He focuses his study on Germany, concentrating especially on the unique attributes of giving in former Communist East Germany. His work shows how Germans used international philanthropic aid to create an identity of themselves distinct from their past. He has been supported by the Fulbright Commission, the Social Science Research Council, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and other agencies. He has published broadly in academic journals and books and is a contributing editor to the listserv H-German. Greg was chosen by the American Swiss Foundation as a Young Leader in 2010.

Courses Taught

  • Learning by Giving-Grantmaking (Undergraduate)
  • Philanthropy and Public Policy in Germany (Undergraduate and Graduate)
  • History of Philanthropy (Undergraduate and Graduate)
  • Internship (Graduate)
  • Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Philanthropy (Ph.D. Students)


  • “Donors in a Dictatorship: Giving, Civil Society and Democratic Action in Communist East Germany,” Voluntas.
  • “Between Fighters and Beggars: Socialist Philanthropy and the Imagery of Solidarity in East Germany” in Comrades in Color.
  • “Philanthropic Disruptions: Changing Nonprofit Education for an Engaged Society,” co-authored with Peter Weber, Journal of Public Affairs Education.
  • ’Unser Tisch ist besser gedeckt:’ Ostdeutsche Philanthropie und Wohltätigkeit von 1959 bis 1989,” in Stifter, Sepnder und Mäzene: USA und Deutschland im historischen Vergleich.
  •  “Going to the Source: Reevaluating State Power and Everyday Life in the East German Dictatorship,” in The Many Faces of Clio: Cross-cultural Approaches to Historiography.
  • “The German Democratic Republic: State Power and Everyday Life in the East German Dictatorship,” History Compass
  •  “On the Campaign Trail: Communist Campaigns, State Planning and Eigen-Sinn in the Transformation of the East German Countryside,” Central European History
  • “Collectivization at the Grass Roots Level: State Planning and Popular Reactions in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and the GDR” in Collectivization in Comparative Perspective.
  • “Industriearbeiter aufs Land: Eine Fallstudie zur Staatsplanung, Eigensinn und Modernisierungsversuchen,” Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft.
  • “Peasants’ Revolt?  Reevaluating the 17 June Uprising in East Germany,” German History.

Research Interests

Greg’s research focuses on philanthropy, civic engagement and civil society. He develops this interest through projects focusing on German and on American societies and is currently pursuing five research projects.

Donors in a Dictatorship focuses on the former German Democratic Republic to show how East German networks of philanthropic giving paved the way for opposition networks to develop in the 1980s. This work builds on his recently completed study of communist use of campaigns his project, together with Arnd Bauerkaemper, on German philanthropy in the 20th century in transatlantic perspective.

Learning by Giving is a study of experiential philanthropy courses nationally to measure the effect of giving money on civil discourse and civic engagement. This project focuses on how students learn to communicate with one another and to engage with their community by granting money to a nonprofit. This project is being researched together with Julie Hatcher.

Hoosier Philanthropy examines the role of private action and civic engagement in the history of Indiana. Launched in recognition of Indiana’s bicentennial in 2016, this project seeks to connect historical development to contemporary trends, applying the research skills of a historian to modern developments.

Finally, Greg is developing a project on nonprofit response to the 9/11 attacks. Answering the Call analyzes the September 11th Fund, created by the United Way and New York Community Foundation, to see how it built capacity, defined the disaster, and provided aid. This project shows the importance of philanthropic action in the face of disaster to unite people outside of government action.

Current Projects

  • Learning by Giving: Teaching Civic Engagement through Experiential Philanthropy
  • German Philanthropy in Transatlantic Perspective
  • Hoosier Philanthropy: Understanding the Past, Planning the Future
  • Donors in a Dictatorship: Philanthropy and the Fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Answering the Call: Nonprofits after the 9/11 Attacks

Honors & Awards

  • Young Leader, American Swiss Foundation
  • Fulbright Scholar

Grants & Funding

  • New Frontiers Grant, Donors in a Dictatorship, 2015-16.
  • IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, Hoosier Philanthropy, 2015-16.
  • Learning by Giving Foundation, Learning by Giving, 2011-15.
  • New York Public Library, Answering the Call: Nonprofits after the 9/11 Attacks, Short Term Research Grant, 2015.
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, German Philanthropy in Transatlantic Perspective, 2010-2014.
  • Benjamin Cohen Research Fellowship, Donors in a Dictatorship, 2010.

Other Activities

  • Learning by Giving Foundation Academic Advisory Board Member
  • Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, Fellow
  • Nonprofit and Leadership Council, Murray State University, Board Member
  • Peace and Conflict Studies, Ball State University, Board Member