About the Caster Center

The mission of the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research is to provide research, evaluation, and consulting services that build the leadership and strategic- and evaluative-thinking capacity of local nonprofits as well as to be the leading source of information, data, and research on the local nonprofit sector.


The Caster Center offers resources and products that are grounded in systematic research and have direct applicability to the field. It also serves as an important training facility that enables doctoral students to directly engage in a variety of Third Sector research projects. The Caster Center works in collaboration and under contract with nonprofit-service and charitable organizations on a wide range of projects.

Among its services, the Caster Family Center:

  • Offers access to and analysis of various types of nonprofit data
  • Conducts studies and research on the sector
  • Analyzes funding, public policy and environmental trends affecting the nonprofit sector
  • Provides program evaluation, needs assessments and research services to nonprofit organizations on a fee-for-service basis
  • Maintains databases on San Diego County’s 9,000+ public charities as well as private and community foundations

Additionally, the Caster Center convenes regular symposia with practitioners in order to discuss its findings and their practical applications within the context of the local, regional and national nonprofit sectors.

"The work that San Diego Grantmakers commissioned from the Caster Center has been extremely helpful in our goal to benchmark, grow and strengthen organized philanthropy in the region. We are fortunate to have the Caster Center as a resource for relevant applied research that supports the development of an informed and innovative San Diego nonprofit sector."
~Nancy Jamison, Executive Director, San Diego Grantmakers

Caster Center Team

Center Director

Laura Deitrick serves as the director for the Caster Center. She has been a nonprofit executive director, board member, management consultant and researcher on major nonprofit trends. Her research has led to important reports on nonprofit ethics, nonprofits and public education, nonprofit human resource practices, executive transition, the economics of San Diego’s nonprofit sector, nonprofit confidence and regional grantmaking. In her role as Director of the Caster Center, Laura oversees the work of six doctoral students and other affiliated faculty.

Currently the Caster Center’s work is focused on research and evaluation and understanding the economic landscape of San Diego’s nonprofit and philanthropic sector in relationship to the broader economy. Dr. Deitrick is a faculty member in SOLES' Nonprofit Leadership and Management master’s program where she teaches nonprofit research methods, program design and evaluation. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of California, San Diego where she teaches a graduate course in nonprofit management in the school of International Relations and Pacific Studies. Additionally, she has lead numerous training sessions on critical nonprofit issues for groups such as the San Diego Association of Nonprofits, the Association for Fundraising Professionals, the California Consortium of Education Foundations, the Rancho Santa Fe Community Foundation, the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, the North County Philanthropy Council, San Diego Grantmakers, The San Diego Foundation and Union Bank.

lauradeitrick@sandiego.edu | (619) 260-2903

Center Associate Director

Mary Jo Schumann is the associate director for the Caster Center.  She has more than 20 years of experience in qualitative and quantitative research for organizations in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.  She is particularly committed to designing research that is both rigorous and directly applicable to organizations and the stakeholders they serve.  Prior to joining the Caster Center, Mary Jo has held positions of consultant, vice president of research, director of market research and business development, study director and instructor. She has been actively involved with many local and national nonprofits, serving as consultant, event manager, board member, chairperson and volunteer.  Mary Jo earned her Ph.D. in social psychology and industrial/organizational psychology from Wayne State University.

mjschumann@sandiego.edu | (619) 260-7649

Center Research Team