Philanthropy emerging as focus of academic study

Academic scholarship and teaching on philanthropy are thin but emerging, with much of it geared to the business of raising money and giving it away, and with the potential to cause conflicts between its funders and those who study them, a British philanthropy scholar and practitioner says.

In Europe, university-based centers’ courses and training “are not keeping pace with the growth in the scale and prominence of philanthropy in recent years,” Charles Keidan, a philanthropy practice research fellow at the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at Cass Business School at City University in London, writes in an article in Times Higher Education.

Growth outpaces scholarship

Between 2006-08 and 2011-12, giving to universities in Britain grew to 693 million British pounds, or $1.2 billion, from 513 million British pounds, or $822 million, and is expected to grow to 2 billion British pounds, or $3.21 billion, by 2022, Keidan writes in “Why philanthropy merits scholarly study.”

Yet across European universities, the article says, there are only 20 individual courses on philanthropy or with philanthropy as a core component.

Gain in visibility

It also see signs that philanthropy and charitable foundations, which it characterizes as philanthropy’s “handmaiden,” are “finally achieving global academic visibility.”

It cites the world’s first school of philanthropy, which Indiana University opened in 2013, and the fact that Europe is now home to eight dedicated academic centers of philanthropy and two chairs, most of which were created after 2000.

Still, consensus among scholars is lacking “about what should be studied or taught,” the article says.

“As an interdisciplinary phenomenon, philanthropy inevitably lends itself to — but also requires — expertise from a range of disciplines,” it says.

That creates a “potentially rich and vast research agenda,” and multiple disciplines have the potential to provide “important empirical insights,” it says.


But that “diffusion” among multiple disciplines “also creates complexity.”

Those complex issues, which seem “equally unresolved in the U.S.,” the article says, include questions about how the field will develop from a fragmented base; whether there is sufficient “critical mass” of scholarship, peer-reviewed journals and student demand; and how the “seemingly endless variety of research questions, approaches and methods will “coalesce.”

The article also says its research indicates “university leaderships are lukewarm to the development of a knowledge base about philanthropy,” and it cites an “unresolved tension between the two distinct thrusts” of philanthropy education.

“Alongside the urge to reflect on the related normative and abstract questions, there is the issue of teaching the coming generations of philanthropists, foundation professionals and fundraisers about how to distribute or raise funds,” the article says.

“The lack of skills-based techniques and training is a cause of frustration among some donors and practitioners.”

Chasing philanthropic dollars

Research for the article “uncovered signs of a renewed openness to philanthropy education among research-focused foundations, and found the “appetite” for philanthropic income is “naturally piquing an interest in philanthropy among some university leaders.”

But such “instrumentalization” of philanthropy education presents some dangers, the article says.

It could “narrow the scope of scholarly inquiry, gearing it towards research on stimulating giving or towards master’s-type courses with a more vocational and craft-based bent,” it says, adding its research suggests that might be happening in Europe, where most current courses on philanthropy — 13 of 20 — are post-graduate courses.

And funding of university-based philanthropy education by philanthropists and foundations creates the potential for conflicts of interest “on both sides,” the article says,

“Philanthropic backing may be motivated by a desire to promote philanthropy as well as study it,” it says. “This could push funding towards disciplinary settings broadly sympathetic to philanthropy (such as business and management) and away from those asking more critical questions (such as ethics or political theory).”

Possible conflicts for universities

Universities also could “find themselves conflicted between, on the one hand, welcoming philanthropists and seeking philanthropic funds for a range of causes and, on the other, supporting rigorous academic scholarship about philanthropy,” the article says.

Universities “might become sensitive to scholarship that asks critical questions — especially of the particular philanthropists who support them.”

In the U.S., where philanthropic income represents an even bigger share of university budgets, it says, “it is not unknown for scholars whose research raises awkward questions about philanthropy to be cautioned against biting the hand that feeds them.”

Recommended solution

The ideal approach, the article says, is for funding for philanthropy studies to come mainly from “statutory research councils, channelled into existing disciplinary settings.”

Philanthropic support “should be cautiously welcomed, but background correspondence and funding agreements between donors, university leaderships and academics should be made public to reduce real or perceived conflicts,” it says.

“Philanthropy’s imprint on the fabric of university life is just emerging,” the article concludes. “As its profile rises, we should expect some celebration of its contribution to higher education — but we are also entitled to demand more rigorous and robust scholarship about its role in society.”

Todd Cohen

Indiana philanthropy center to become school

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is on track to become the world’s first school dedicated to the study and teaching of philanthropy.

Led by the Center, which was founded in 1987 at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, Indiana University was the first university in the world to offer degrees in philanthropic studies.

Those include a master of arts in 1993, a Ph.D. in 2003, and a bachelor of arts in 2010.

The board of trustees at Indiana University has approved formation of a School of Philanthropy, with the proposal now to be submitted for consideration by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

“Philanthropy and nonprofit organizations are fundamental to a healthy society, and they operate in a constantly-changing, ever-more-complex environment,” Gene Tempel, president of the Indiana Foundation, says in a statement.

Tempel has been named senior fellow at the Center and will play a key role in the university’s effort to establish the School of Philanthropy.

Philanthropy and the nonprofit sector represent roughly 10 percent of the U.S. labor force and about 5 percent of the annual gross domestic project.

The U.S. is home to over 1.4 million nonprofits that will need to hire another 640,000 executives by 2016, according to a study by The Bridgespan Grop.

“Philanthropy’s role and impact in the business and government sectors and around the globe, as well as in the nonprofit sector, are increasing dramatically,” Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, says in a statement.

The Center, which has mentored dozens of philanthropy-education programs at other universities in the U.S. and abroad, offers research for nonprofit professionals and donors, as well as research, training and service programs, including The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, and Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

Giving inches up; recovery from plunge slow

Charitable giving in the U.S. grew slightly in 2011, regaining some of its losses from the collapse of the economy in 2008 but posting a two-year pace that marks the second-slowest post-recession recovery since 1971, a new report says.

After adjusting for inflation, giving grew 0.9 percent to $298.42 billion from a revised estimate of $268.91 billion in 2010, says Giving USA, a report from the Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

In 2010 and 2011, giving grew by an average rate of 1.1 percent, compared to an average of 2.6 percent, after adjusted for inflation, in the two-year period after each recession over the past 40 years, the report says.

Individuals accounted for 88 percent of all giving, with living individuals accounting for 73 percent total giving, and bequests and family foundations accounting for 15 percent.

Giving by living individuals grew to $217.79 billion, an increase of 0.8 percent after adjusting for inflation.

Individual giving as a share of disposable personal income was flat at 1.9 percent in 2011, the same as 2009 and 2010, but far below the 2005 high of 2.4 percent.

Corporate giving totaled $14.55 billion, down 3.1 percent from 2010 after adjusting for inflation, and represented 5 percent of total giving.

Corporate pre-tax profits, traditionally a key factor in corporate donation levels, grew 4.2 percent, compared to 25 percent in 2010, the report says.

Between 1971 and 2011, giving by companies grew more slowly than the average inflation rate, with donations by U.S. companies growing 3.1 percent a year, on average, during the period, compared to inflation that averaged 4.4 percent a year for the period.

“Corporate generosity is real, and the nation’s charities would certainly feel its absence should the contributions go away,” Jim Yunker, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, says in a statement. “However, at a year-in, year-out 5 percent-sized slice of the giving pie, pragmatic nonprofits should consider additional potential funding sources when planning their appeals.”

The report calculates total giving by roughly 117 million households in the U.S., 12.4 million corporations that claim charitable donations, an estimated 99,000 estates, and about 76,000 foundations.

Those donations go to about 1.1million charities registered with the IRS, plus at least 222,000 religious organizations.

Gifts by bequests totaled an estimated $24.41 billion in 2011, up 8.8 percent from 2010 after adjusting for inflation, and represented 8 percent of total giving.

Giving by foundations totaled $41.67 billion, up 8.8 percent after adjusting for inflation, and represented 14 percent of total giving.

Religious groups received $95.88 million, down 4.7 percent when adjusted for inflation, and accounted for 32 percent of all giving, the most of any sector.

That represented the second straight year of lower giving to religious groups, the report says, citing declines in church membership and attendance, especially among mainline Protestant denominations, as well as the changing economic climate.

Those declines coincide with average population growth in the U.S. of 1 percent a year, on average, the report says.

“Any charity that is heavily dependent on its members for the majority of its annual budget needs to be cognizant of issues that could affect growth, commitment and donations,” Thomas W. Mesaros, chair of the Giving Institute, the group that formed the Giving USA Foundation, says in a statement.

Giving to human-services totaled $35.39 billion, down 0.6 percent after adjusting for inflation, and represented 12 percent of overall charitable donations.

Still, giving to human services was the third-highest ever, trailing only 2008 and 2010, the report says, adding that human-services giving typically is strong during times of perceived need.

“It is possible that pertinent messaging from these charities is still resonating with donors,” it says.

Giving to education totaled $38.87 billion, up 0.9 percent from 2010 after adjusting for inflation, and represented 13 percent of all charitable donations, while giving to health totaled $35.39 billion, down 0.4 percent after adjusting for inflation and representing 8 percent of overall giving.

Giving to foundations fell 8.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars to $25.83 billion and represented 9 percent of overall giving, while giving to “public-society-benefit” groups such as United Ways and the Combined Federal Campaign grew 0.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars to $21.37 billion and represented 7 percent of overall giving.

In comparison, the report says, the three largest donor-advised funds in the U.S. – Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Schwab Charitable Gift Fund, and Vanguard Charitable Gift Fund – realized average growth of 77 percent in contributions received between 2010 and 2012.

Giving to arts, culture and humanities grew 1 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars to $13.12 billion and represented 4 percent of all charitable giving, while giving to international affairs grew 4.4 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars and represented 8 percent of overall giving.

From 2001 to 2011, giving to international groups grew 167.1 percent when adjusted for inflation, representing the fastest growth of any sector for the period.

Since 1987, giving to international affairs grew at an annual average rate of 9.4 percent, compared to a 4.4 percent average annual rate of inflation.

Giving to environmental and animal groups grew 1.4 percent, adjusted for inflation, to $7.81 billion, or 3 percent of overall giving, with gifts of $1 million or more to support the ongoing cleanup from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico likely contributing to the increase.

And giving to individuals, mainly medications from operating foundations created by pharmaceutical makers, accounting for 1 percent of overall giving, and another $8.97 billion, or 3 percent, representing “unallocated” giving.

Corporate giving and focus grow

Most corporations throughout the world gave more in 2011 than in 2010, with corporate giving at companies headed toward its levels from before the economy collapsed in 2008, a new survey says.

Corporate giving also has grown more focused over the past three years, companies placed a high priority programs to match employee gifts and engage employees in civic engagement, and international giving grew, spurred by big revenue growth abroad, says the annual Corporate Giving Standard survey by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy in association with The Conference Board.

Median corporate giving totaled $24.4 million in 2011, compared to $24.6 million in 2010 and $22.6 million in 2009, says the survey, which uses inflation-adjusted data from 144 companies that provided information for three straight years and gave a total of $15.7 billion in cash and products in 2011.

Total giving since 2009 grew at 60 percent of companies, with 48 percent increasing their giving by over 10 percent.

Giving grew 25 percent each in the consumer-staples and health-care industries, which posted the biggest increases, with direct-cash giving growing a median 18 percent and marking the most widespread form of giving among companies that increased their giving fro 2009 to 2011.

“We are optimistic about the levels of commitment we see from companies,” Charles Moore, executive director of Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, says in a statement. “Not only are they continuing to give, but they also are doing so in more strategic and thoughtful ways in partnership with their employees and their communities.”

Companies surveyed generally focused their giving on a single program area, with many focused on education and on health and social services.

Only 4 percent targeted less than 20 percent of giving in any single program area, with over 31 percent of companies giving 50 percent of more of their giving to a single program area, and 81 percent of companies giving 20 percent or more to either education or to health and social services.

Companies in 2011 continued to target their giving to programs in sync with their business focus, with health-care firms continuing to give mainly to health and science, for example, information-technology companies continuing to give education from kindergarten through 12th grade, and financial companies continuing to give to community and economic development.

In those focused program areas, companies gave bigger grants to a smaller number of organizations than in 2009.

Companies increasingly got involved with causes outside their headquarter countries, mainly through employee-engagement programs and mainly in the for of employee volunteer awards.

And companies that increased their giving since 2009 were more focused on global giving than their counterparts.


High Point group serves Latinos

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Last fall, nine juniors and seniors from High Point Central High School and Andrews High School completed their resumes and college applications with the help of eight students from a Spanish class at High Point University who worked with them over five work sessions.

Fostering the collaborative effort was the Latino Family Center of Greater High Point, a nonprofit that was formed in July 2010 from a program spun off from Catholic Social Services.

Operating with an annual budget of $118,000 and a staff of four part-time employees and a volunteer part-time executive director, the organization serves about 800 people a year.

With a staff that is entirely bi-cultural and bilingual, the center provides mentoring programs for students in middle school and high school; offers parenting courses; provides translation and interpretation services for adults and helps them get access to community services; and serves as an advocate for the Latino community.

“Helping people achieve their potential and their ability to further contribute to society is the American way,” says Evelyn Morales, a second-generation Mexican-American who serves as the agency’s volunteer, part-time executive director. “That’s what made our country great.”

Last summer, the Latino Family Center sent a group of kids to a NASA camp in Ohio.

It also works to plug Latino youth into local enrichment opportunities, and has participated in research by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on attitudes and knowledge of Latino parents about helping their children move on to higher education.

And some older Latino youth volunteered last summer at a camp that was a joint project of the Latino Family Center and Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, with some of those volunteers having attended the camp themselves as youngsters.

The center is the only local agency dedicated solely to working with Latino families in a city of 100,000 people, including 8,500 Latinos, Morales says.

Now that it is a separate nonprofit, she says, the agency is working to boost its fundraising, and has worked with consultant Michelle Speas on its fundraising strategy.

That effort will include doubling its 12-member board, getting more board members involved in designing a signature fundraising event, and raising awareness of the organization in the community, particularly among larger donors.

It also is making greater use of volunteers, and now counts on a core of 20 active volunteers.

And it is collaborating with other organizations.

Through a grant from the High Point Arts Council, the Latino Family Center and the YWCA will offer a drama program to provide diversity training to Latino children to help them better understand discrimination and bias, and how to deal with it, Morales says.

“We really want to give our kids hope,” she says, “and help them believe in themselves and not be dismayed by the lack of external validation from society.”

Nonprofit lobbying fell with economy

Lobbying by nonprofits fell slightly with the economic downturn that began in September 2008, a new study says.

Total spending by 80 big nonprofits that reported lobbying activity in Washington this year in the fields of human services, arts and culture, health and the environmental, total spending fell 3.3 percent from 2007 to 2011, says the study by First Street.

Annual spending during period peaked in 2008, with many groups spending most of their lobbying budget before the economy collapsed.

Spending on lobbying grew at 35 of the groups, or 45 percent, and fell at 38 groups, or 48 percent.

The study excluded “lobby powerhouse” AARP because “its spending is so high that its year-to-year shifts can obscure underlying patterns,” First Street says, as well as nonprofits that were political advocates, religious organizations, trade groups, professional associations, colleges and health systems.