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Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Social Work


What types of resources are involved when members of a voluntary association combine their efforts in pursuit of joint goals or common goods? This paper examines the question from the vantage point of a rational choice theory termed endowment theory. Endowment theory is concerned with the rational allocation of productive surpluses to associations and other voluntary groups in pursuit of identified common goods. At least three distinct types of resource dowries can be identified in the current world of nonprofit associations. Treasuries are endowments of money and market-priced resources. Two other categories of "priceless" resource endowments are also evident among groups rendering common goods. Collections are sets of meaningful objects, superficially similar to inventories but lacking in market value, which have taken on special meaning in the context of association purposes. Repertories are dowries of "know how"--practical, sometimes tacit, knowledge and information of techniques and procedures appropriate to the association and its purposes. Understanding the resource position of associations requires taking repertories and collections into account along with treasuries.