Dennis Young

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Dennis R. Young, one of the pioneers of third sector studies, was born Feb. 11, 1943 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is an Emeritus Professor, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University; and an Emeritus Professor, of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University. He is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of two important third sector journals: Nonprofit Policy Forum (2000-2021) and Nonprofit Management and Leadership (1989-2000).

He is the older of two sons of Nathan Young, a teacher and administrator in the New York City School system and Belle (Wolman) Young, a part-time) office worker employed in schools and private firms. Both parents were born in London and came to the US as teenagers. His father earned an Ed.D late in life from Yeshiva University; he was valedictorian of his class in Morris High School in the Bronx. A scholarship fund in his honor provides an annual stipend to a graduating student from the present-day Morris Academy in the South Bronx. Dennis Young has one brother, Stephen Young, retired who holds a law degree from U. Penn and had a varied career as tv anchorman in various cities, as a health insurance executive, and earlier positions in the federal court and City of Philadelphia. Young is married to Linda Serra, mother of two sons from a prior marriage and grandmother of two. He has four children from his first marriage to Rosalie Kind (deceased). Seth is a college professor and aviation consultant; Barry is a data scientist; Cheryl is a VP for HR at NBC; and Mark is an executive in the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America. Seth, Cheryl and Mark are married and altogether have four granddaughters and a grandson. Professor Young graduated from Bronx High School of Science; received a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from City College of New York where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and was named the Outstanding EE student in 1964. He earned an MS in EE and Ph.D. in Engineering-Economic Systems from Stanford University.


In 1966, Young was a student intern at the National Bureau of Standards, where he worked on the Northeast Corridor Transportation project and formulated his doctoral thesis on transportation scheduling. His first post-Ph.D. job was at the Urban Institute, Washington DC where he was in the Public Finance Group. He was awarded an NSF grant to study alternative economic arrangements for public services, which led to his interest in nonprofits. In 1972, he joined the faculty of Urban and Policy Sciences at what later became the Harriman College at Stony Brook University in New York, as an assistant professor. He rose to full professor by 1981,

In 1988 Professor Young was recruited by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where he was named to the Mandel Chair in Nonprofit Management and led the new Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations as its director for 8 years, and where he served as a faculty member for 17 years. In 2005 he was recruited to join the faculty of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies of Georgia State University in Atlanta as Ramsey Chair in Private Enterprise and head of its Nonprofit Studies Program. In 2015 he retired from this position and was appointed emeritus professor. He returned to Cleveland where he joined the Levin College of Cleveland State University for two two-years as an Executive in Residence. Since 2017 he has been a visiting professor again at Case Western Reserve University, where he also holds emeritus status.


Over the course of his research career, Prof. Young has sought to find new ways to think about issues on the frontiers of knowledge about nonprofit organizations – specifically the economics and management of nonprofit organizations and the public policy context in which nonprofits operate. In his early book, If Not for Profit, For What?, he was first to explore the critical role of nonprofit entrepreneurship and how it helped explain the nature of supply of services provided by nonprofit organizations; this research was complementary to prevailing “demand-side” theories of the nonprofit sector. (Later, the notion of nonprofit entrepreneurship was rediscovered and popularized as “social” entrepreneurship.) In the Urban Institute’s volume, Nonprofits & Government, Prof. Young also developed the Supplementary, Complementary, Adversarial framework, which has been extensively used by researchers to study the complex character of relationships between nonprofit organizations and government in the U.S. and worldwide.

In his book (with Elizabeth Searing and Cass Brewer) The Social Enterprise Zoo, Prof. Young recognized the essential diversity of social enterprise and the inappropriateness of imposing a uniform definition or particular legal form. In nonprofit finance, Prof. Young offered a new “benefits theory” to explain the widely diverse income portfolios of nonprofit organizations based on the public/private nature of goods and services provided in various combinations by these organizations. Benefits theory, described in his book Financing of Nonprofits and Other Social Enterprises, has been successfully applied in the literature to understand the various ways in which nonprofits as well as other forms of social purpose enterprise depend on different combinations of philanthropy, earned revenue and governmental support. Prof. Young has also promoted the teaching of economics to nonprofit managers and leaders, as reflected in the second edition of Economics for Nonprofit Managers and Social Entrepreneurs, co-authored with Richard Steinberg, Rosemarie Emanuele and Walter O. Simmons (originally Economics for Nonprofit Managers by Young and Steinberg. Most recently, Prof. Young is rethinking the efficiency-based paradigm of nonprofit management by refocusing on the concept of organizational resilience in the context of the crisis-ridden environments in which nonprofits now operate. His book on this subject, written with Elizabeth Searing, is forthcoming (2022).