René Bekkers

Professor | Director Center for Philanthropic Studies | Research coordinator | +31 (0)20 598 6493

Prof. dr. René H.F.P. Bekkers is the director of the Center for Philanthropic Studies and full Professor of Philanthropy at the Department of Sociology at VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Bekkers leads the “Giving in the Netherlands” project at the Center for Philanthropic Studies. His research on prosocial behavior takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying philanthropy, volunteering, blood donation and helping behavior. Bekkers is an internationally renowned expert in the sociology and psychology of altruism and survey design and has published internationally in scientific journals from a variety of social science disciplines. His current research focuses on determinants and consequences of charitable giving and volunteering.

Pamala Wiepking


Prof. dr. Pamala Wiepking is Professor of Societal Significance of Charity Lotteries as well as Stead Family Chair in International Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis. She studies cross-national and interdisciplinary explanations of philanthropy. More information about her research can be found at

Arjen de Wit

Assistant Professor

Dr. Arjen de Wit is a researcher and teacher at the Department of Sociology at VU University, Amsterdam. Within the Center for Philanthropic Studies he studies philanthropy, grantmaking, volunteering, social productivity, social innovation, and nonprofit effectiveness. He partners with students, researchers and societal stakeholders to create impactful research.

Marlou Ramaekers

Researcher | Data Manager

Marlou Ramaekers is a researcher and data manager of the project ‘Giving in the Netherlands’ at the Center for Philanthropic Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She conducts research on giving behavior among households. Her research is particularly focused on informal forms of giving: giving one another money or goods or some form of assistance or help without the involvement of organizations. She investigates how the social context (the giver, the recipient, and the giver’s close ones) shapes this behavior. As Giving in the Netherlands‘ data manager, she ensures questionnaires (and other data sources) are transformed into usable information. She also manages the data of the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Study.

Caroline Graf

PhD Candidate

 Caroline Graf is a PhD candidate at the Center for Philanthropic Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She investigates how culture, in particular social norms, shapes our motivations and behavior. Her research combines psychological theory with economic modeling, lab and field experiments, and cross-cultural observational studies. She is particularly interested in using insights from cultural evolution research to devise more effective strategies for promoting real-world prosocial behaviors, such as blood donation.

Joseph Van Matre 

PhD Candidate

Joseph Van Matre, M.A. is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology at VU University, Amsterdam. His research focuses on higher education policy, student development in higher education, and the social development of sexual minority adolescents and young adults. Prior to his work at VU, he has held staff research positions at the University of California’s Office of the President; Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education; and WestEd.

Petra van Aken

PhD Candidate

 Petra is an external PhD candidate. She conducts research into the collaborative behavior of Dutch endowed foundations. Her research focuses on the role organizational identiy plays in their decision-making about collaboration with government, societal organizations and corporations. She combines this research with her work as Head of Communications for VSBfonds, a major Dutch endowed foundation.

Theo Schuyt


Prof. Dr. Theo Schuyt is the founder of the research project ‘Giving in the Netherlands’ and obtained a Chair in ‘Philanthropic Studies’ at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2001, the first chair in this field in the Netherlands and Europe. From 2014 to 2018, he also served as a professor by special appointment in ‘Philanthropy and Social Innovation’ at Maastricht University. In addition to his research, he worked as an advisor to local community foundations and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Netherlands Gambling Authority. His research focuses on philanthropy, the welfare state, social policy, community foundations, and Corporate Social Responsibility.


Eva-Maria Merz


Eva-Maria Merz is professor in Donor Behavior and group leader at Sanquin Research. She combines her theoretical and applied expertise within the topic of (blood) donor behavior in order to study donor life-courses and the influence of personal and social network characteristics on donor behavior. More information about her research can be found at

Stephanie Koolen-Maas

Researcher | Project Coordinator +31 20 59 84365

Dr. Stephanie Koolen-Maas is a researcher and coordinator for the “Giving in the Netherlands” project at the Center for Philanthropic Studies, VU University Amsterdam. She conducts research on corporate giving, (corporate) foundations, volunteering and volunteer management, and bequests. Generally, her research focuses upon understanding various forms of private and corporate giving. She examines the causes, consequences, and management of (corporate) philanthropic contributions in money, time, or goods. As project coordinator she is the main point of contact for stakeholders, is in charge of project planning, and ensures that “Giving in the Netherlands” is completed successfully. 

Joris Schröder

PhD Candidate

Joris M. Schröder is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Sociology at VU Amsterdam. His PhD research focuses on how social relations affect blood and plasma donation behaviour, for example through communication, social contagion, or group-membership. In addition, Joris works on the relationship between inequality and giving.

Olena van Horick

PhD Candidate

Alexandra Ciausescu

PhD Candidate

Alexandra is an external PhD candidate working on the Learning to Donate (LEARN-DO) project for Sanquin, the Dutch blood bank. She is examining inter/intragenerational transmission of blood donor behavior, develops and tests educational materials about donation for children and adolescents and creates interventions for blood donor recruitment.