Bridging Philanthropic Practice and Research

Heather O’Connor, Ph.D., CFRM, CAP®, is a Senior Research Fellow in Philanthropy at the American College of Financial Services. A nonprofit executive turned academic researcher, O’Connor has worked in the nonprofit sector for 20 years, fundraising for health, education, and social service organizations.

O’Connor’s research focuses on understanding how social contexts influence behavior and decision-making by donors, fundraisers, and philanthropic advisors. Her recent projects have involved research on women’s charitable giving and the intersection of their social identities and philanthropic behavior, nonprofit message framing, philanthropic education, and the professions of fundraising and philanthropic advising.

Her work has been published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ), International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Sector Marketing, Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership (JNEL), and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. In addition, she has authored chapters in three textbooks, Teaching Philanthropy (2020), Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (5th edition, 2022), and Nonprofit Public Relations: A Critical Approach (2022), as well as chapters in two editions of Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Her co-authored research has been featured in Forbes and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In addition to her research activity, O’Connor has taught undergraduate, graduate, and professional development courses in philanthropy and fundraising since 2013. Currently, she teaches for the Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration program at Louisiana State University Shreveport and The Fund Raising School at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She was recognized with a teaching award from The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in 2019.

O’Connor is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR), Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), and the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), where was presented with an Emerging Scholar Award in 2019.

She holds a Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, an M.S. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, and a B.S. in Communications from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She earned her Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation in 2008 and her Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) designation in 2020. In addition, O’Connor holds graduate certificates in college teaching and fundraising management from Indiana University.