Famed NPO Researcher Lester Salamon Dies

Lester M. Salamon, a pioneer in the study of nonprofits and a prolific author about civil society and philanthropy, died on Friday at his home in Arnold, Md. He was 78. The cause of death was not announced.

Salamon was Professor Emeritus at the Johns Hopkins University and was director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies (CCSS). “While Dr. Salamon’s passing catches many of us off guard, true-to-form, he was actively working until the very last possible moment. His dedication, energy, and passion will be hard to match,” the center officials said via a statement issued today.

The statement continued: “Our collective loss will resonate across the field of nonprofit and third sector research in the United States and throughout the world. Dr. Salamon pioneered the empirical study of the nonprofit sector in the United States and then globally in partnership with extended network of colleagues.”

Salamon also held an appointment as senior research professor at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Bologna Center and served as scientific director of the International Laboratory for Nonprofit Sector Studies at National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He previously served as deputy associate director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President Jimmy Carter. He was director of both the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Governance and Management Research at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

Salamon is the author of more than 20 books, including America’s Nonprofit Sector: A Primer, Third Edition, the standard text used in college-level courses on the nonprofit sector, according to the Center for Civil Society Studies. He won the 1996 ARNOVA Award for Distinguished Book in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research for his book, Partners in Public Service: Government and the Nonprofit Sector in the Modern Welfare State. Produced in collaboration with an international team of colleagues, Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector won the Virginia Hodgkinson Award for best publication in the nonprofit field in 2001. He was awarded the Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award from the American Political Science Association in 2012. Salamon was recognized in The NonProfit Times‘ annual Power & Influence Top 50 for 10 consecutive years (1998-2007).

His most recent book is Explaining Civil Society Development: A Social Origins Approach, published in 2017. It addresses analytical questions of what “accounts for cross-national variations in the size and contours of the civil society sector around the world.”

Salamon received his bachelor’s degree in economics and policy studies from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in government from Harvard University. He is Chairman Emeritus and member of the Board of the Community Foundation of the Chesapeake and serves on editorial boards of journals, including Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly and the Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics.

Salamon is survived by his wife, Lynda (nee Brown); children, Noah Benjamin and Eugenia Salamon and Matthew William and Nicole Salamon; siblings, Myron and Sonya Salamon and Renee Green, and six grandchildren, Vanessa, Zoe, Zev, Cas, Benjamin and Dominick Salamon. He was predeceased by his parents, Victor and Helen Salamon.

Funeral services are private and the family asks that flowers are omitted. Contributions in his memory may be directed to:

The family has invited colleagues and friends to attend a virtual service at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. To join via Zoom, use meeting ID 864 5383 4497 and passcode 213765.