SmithBucklin, the country’s largest association management firm, has announced the leadership council members and the research director for its William E. Smith Institute for Association Research, as well as the first research topics that the institute will tackle. SmithBucklin created the institute earlier this year to underwrite original, practice-based research aimed at advancing the growth of all types of associations.

The leadership council, which selects the institute’s research topics and helps to shape and develop the research, is made up of eight industry leaders: Thomas C. Dolan, PhD, FACHE, president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives; Robert J. Dolibois, CAE, executive vice president of the American Nursery & Landscape Association; Henry S. Givray, president and CEO of SmithBucklin; Barbara Byrd Keenan, CAE, executive vice president of the Institute of Food Technologists; Gary A. LaBranche, CAE, president and CEO of the Association Forum of Chicagoland; Michael S. Olson, CAE, executive vice president of SmithBucklin and former president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives; Leslie G. Sarasin, CAE, president and CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute; and William E. Smith (honorary chairman), SmithBucklin founder.

Katherine M. Finley, CAE, CFRE, CMP, executive director of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, is research director for the institute. She will also serve as an ex-officio member of the leadership council. Finley is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the institute’s research projects.

The two potential research topics that the council has selected are: 1) Identifying, recruiting, and selecting willing and able association board leaders; 2)Meeting the current and emerging demands, biases, and expectations of five distinct generations of members and staff.

In June, the institute issued its first request for proposals to research professionals and members of the academic community. In October, the institute will award at least one research grant of up to $50,000 for an applied, field-based research project that addresses one of the two topics selected by the leadership council. If more than one grant is made, each will examine one of the topics. Research is expected to take about 12 months once it is commissioned. Methodologies can include surveys, case studies, literature scans, interviews, and focus groups.

The institute will initiate at least one research study per year, with all studies being conducted by independent sources, such as academic institutions and research centers that possess expertise in the field of association/nonprofit management. All research produced by the institute will be offered to the association community free of charge, according to SmithBucklin’s Givray. For more information, visit SmithBucklin’s Web site at