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In the special issue of VOLUNTAS, the academic journal of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR), contributors focus on the theme of the ERNOP Conference in 2019: ‘Philanthropy in the Spotlight: Achievements, limitations, opportunities and risks entailed in the research and practice of contemporary philanthropy’.

As a result of the accelerated change and global visibility of philanthropic practices, their sources for legitimacy, financial accountability, political influence and (expectations for) public benefit outcomes have become, more than ever before, under the spotlight of public opinion. Despite difficulties in reaching conceptualisations that provide an inclusive understanding of philanthropy and lack of data, contending societal expectations on the meaning and implications of philanthropy should accordingly inform and be embraced by the research agenda on the topic.

It was precisely in this context that the special issue was initiated by members of the European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP), the European network that aims to advance, coordinate and promote excellence in philanthropic research. While ERNOP understands philanthropy as private, mainly voluntary contributions to public causes, it also acknowledges that philanthropy has very different meanings around the world and even across Europe, because of large variations in historical, social and legal backgrounds of philanthropy. This special issue aims at contributing to institutionalization of the emerging field of scholarly inquiry on philanthropy based on the two criteria that have guided the work of the network: interdisciplinarity and responsible research.

ERNOP would like to thank the Editors of this Special Issue, Georg von Schnurbein from the Center for Philanthropy Studies (CEPS) at the University in Basel, Marta Rey-Garcia from the Department of Business at the University of A Coruña and Michaela Neumayr from the Department of Management at WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business for putting this special issue together, the Editorial Board of Voluntas for their willingness in making this special issue possible and all authors that have contributed their work to this issue.

The special issue can be found here.