Center On Philanthropy At 20

November 1, 2007       Craig Causer      

In an undated photo, believed to be from the 10th anniversary celebration of The Center on Philanthropy, some of the founding leaders were gathered together. Back from left are: Warren Ilchman, Robert L. Payton, Eugene R. Tempel and Donald A. Campbell, Jr. In the front from left are: Arthur C. Frantzreb, Charles Johnson, Henry A. “Hank” Rosso, John W. Leslie and Raymond L. Handlan.

Imagine an existence where the World Wide Web, Pentium processors, DVDs and high definition televisions don’t exist. Oh, and there’s no Prozac to pop so that you can cope. Such was the case 20 years ago, where technology was more modest and the world of philanthropy had yet to build the academic resources necessary for future growth of the sector.

When The Center on Philanthropy (CoP) at Indiana University was established in 1987 the groundwork was laid to increase the understanding of philanthropy and improve its practice through both training and research. While the history of philanthropy was widely praised as a part of America’s fabric, gaining a foothold in academia proved to be a challenge.

“It’s not to be underestimated what it takes to build a whole new field,” explained Eugene R. Tempel, Ph.D., executive director at the CoP. “A lot of organizations like Independent Sector supported the notion that this should be done. But, it still takes colleges and universities putting some real shoulders to the wheel to make it happen. As you know, universities don’t take kindly to new things. You have to work hard within the university to build a good program, make sure it is not marginalized and get senior faculty on board.”

This month marks the center’s 20th anniversary.  An event on campus this month is part of 18 months of events across the country to lead discussions that look back on and forward at the biggest questions facing the field of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. More than 250 national and international nonprofit leaders were expected to attend a signature 20th anniversary celebration in Indianapolis, two full days of events.

One of the primary challenges at the program’s onset was to integrate the CoP into the university so that it would be embraced as a legitimate academic enterprise with a research program. The proper placement in a school leads to the proper academic respect and the administration’s support, said Timothy Seiler, Ph.D., director of public service at The Fundraising School at the CoP. Seiler began teaching at the university in 1986 and was a part of the advisory committee that discussed the CoP and its genesis.

“The idea was to bring the fundraising school here, put it inside the university and then make it bigger than it was,” Seiler said. “The Fundraising School was founded in 1974 and was really a training program. The founder’s (Hank Rosso) vision was that it would become part of the university and become involved with research regarding philanthropic practices, the history of philanthropy and the motivation of donors to give.

The idea was that if it was inside a university, the research program could enhance the teaching in The Fundraising School and form the basis for academic courses that would lead to graduate degrees.”

Establishing courses on philanthropy was quite the endeavor as faculty are not always receptive to new fields of study, recalled Dwight Burlingame, the CoP’s associate executive director and director of academic programs. Burlingame was hired 18 years ago by former Executive Director Robert Payton to run the academic program. He explained that the program’s development was made easier since Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) was an urban institution with the goal to be responsive to its communities. IUPUI was really just the “right place at the right time” and the challenge could have been much greater had the CoP been brought to a more traditional residential campus, he added.

In working with IUPUI, the CoP launched its first academic courses in Philanthropic Studies in 1988 and followed that by announcing a Master of Arts degree in Philanthropic Studies in 1993, an Executive Master of Arts degree in Philanthropic Studies in 1995, and its Ph.D. program in 2004.

“There was a recognition and readiness in the field when the center was being established, especially within the fundraising arena of the sector,” Burlingame recounted. “There was a need for places grounded in research and empirical knowledge that was essential for this profession of fundraising. People in the field were very supportive. There were a couple of people early on who wondered about the idea of the center — not on the M.A. status or Executive M.A. format, which were very well accepted by practitioners — but the Ph.D. implementation. Both practitioners and scholars asked the question of whether this subject warranted Ph.D.-level dedicated.”

The CoP admitted seven students into its first Ph.D. program in 2004.  To date, six have completed all of the work and are focusing on their dissertations. Burlingame expects that at least two will complete the program in time for commencement in spring 2008.

Critical thinking The center was an ambitious endeavor and it was not unexpected that it had some growing pains at the start, recalled Jon Van Til, professor of urban studies and community planning at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J. But each of its first three directors, Howard Schaller (1987-1988), Robert Payton (1988-1997) and Eugene Tempel (1997-present) all took the center in steps that expanded it, he added. “There was some hesitation from time to time and some missteps. But once it came under Gene’s leadership it developed an extraordinarily productive set of relations with senior staff. What they’ve been able to do is really as much as one can imagine with a center like this.”

Tempel doesn’t shy away from the early detractors. When he first arrived as executive director there were questions about the research that was both being sponsored and executed and whether it was a valid and necessary part of the university. One of Tempel’s initial acts was to establish a research committee for a peer review of research designed to build credibility internally and externally.

“The stance I take is that you listen to your critics, you see their viewpoints and then try to find what you can learn from them,” Tempel said. “If I find someone who doesn’t agree or understand some of our work, we try to get in touch with those people and find where the disagreement is coming from and see if we missed something. But when you’re doing a research process you have to be able to cite the process you went through, how a project vetted. Comments that were made, that’s a valuable part of it as well.”

After more than 10 years of building research, the center’s staff and academics realized that it was at a point where the sector began looking to it as a strong resource. Tempel believed that the center was falling short in getting its resources out to the public.

The CoP organized a public affairs plan that went beyond just putting out brochures and press releases, but showing how its work related to many of the issues at hand in the sector.

That work included launching the Philanthropic Giving Index in 1997, contracting starting in 2001 with the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy (now the Giving USA Foundation) to research and write Giving USA, and in that same year, produced the center on Philanthropy Panel Study that surveys giving and volunteering by the same households over time.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the CoP has been supported by the Lilly Endowment back to the days of a feasibility study to establish the center. The first grant was presented in 1987 and last year the CoP received a $40 million Lilly grant to endow a portion of its operating costs, thereby providing financial security. Lilly has given the center approximately $84 million during the past 20 years.

“The Lilly Endowment and the Lilly Corporation are basically the power center in Indiana,” Van Til explained. “You could, to some degree, call it (the CoP) Lilly University. Philanthropy there is riding high in the saddle. It’s not surprising the amount of money that Lilly is willing to put into philanthropic giving and the study of philanthropy. It’s also not surprising that the best and the brightest would gravitate to the center.”

Twenty years ago, the prevailing thought at the Lilly Endowment was that philanthropy was an emerging field of study. While there were pockets around the country with an eye on philanthropy, foundation leaders believed that the people at IUPUI had the vision and know-how to get a degree program going.

Gretchen Wolfram, communications director at the Lilly Endowment, was involved in media relations at IUPUI 20 years ago and recalled that the notion of a center on philanthropy was recognized as strange territory.

“People thought that philanthropy was something done only by the rich,” Wolfram explained. “The rules have changed a lot in 20 years. Now we know that anyone can be a philanthropist.  With all of the changes in society, nonprofits are running much of the service industry in the country. We think that centers like those at IUPUI provide guidance, disseminate best practices and talk about the big issues in the field. I believe that the center at IUPUI has become the leading institution of its kind in the country. It’s got a good solid base in the school of liberal arts out there.”

According to Tempel, “The endowment that we received from the Lilly Endowment essentially replaces the annual operating support that we used to get from them.”  The grant is supporting, but it’s “not like we have a whole new level of funding that’s come into the center,” said Tempel.

“We’re going into this year with the same amount of funding that we had last year. What it does for us is it assures the future because we know that the support will be there for us next year instead of having to write another proposal and wonder how much we might receive,” said Tempel.

Tempel added that the CoP has been fortunate in that it has been able to show its funders over time that it has generated university support and earned income. When the center started it was 100 percent Lilly Endowment funded. Today, Tempel estimated that Lilly funding is less than 20 percent of the center’s budget.

America’s next top Model When it comes to models, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Depending on with whom you speak, the CoP was the first to turn heads on a number of important fronts, including building relationships and partnerships within a university setting, involvement in field building by funding faculty grants and Ph.D. dissertations, and by helping to build the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA).

The CoP was really the first, and in a class of its own, in being able to mobilize really significant resources within a university setting to focus on nonprofit studies and that influence has produced noted work beyond the CoP’s walls, said Dennis Young, director of the nonprofit studies program at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

“You have to look at the field as a whole,” Young said. “There are more than 50 formal centers now, really developing the field and all of its assets. By no means can you look at the Indiana center as a sole player in the field. The center at the University of Southern California has done good work in institutional philanthropy. And, of course, Boston University and Paul Schervish’s center have done noted work on intergenerational philanthropy and so forth. (The CoP) has the ability to be comprehensive in ways that other centers have yet to realize and that’s been very important for the field. But the various centers enable lots of different points of view to be expressed and that’s also important for the field.”

For its part, the CoP is moving forward with ambitious plans. One new course was rolled out at The Fundraising School in 2007 with three additional courses premiering in 2008. One of its most noted research projects is the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study that is exploring income dynamics with the University of Michigan. Tempel sees great potential in that study for understanding why people give and the reasons for getting involved in giving.

The center is discussing what an undergraduate major in philanthropic studies might look like, The CoP’s Burlingame added. The issue with undergraduate programs is that much of the time students don’t realize that they want to be in the nonprofit sector until later in their academic or professional careers.

“This is one of the challenges we’ll face as we work to develop an undergraduate program,” Burlingame said. “We’re looking at the possibility of undergraduate courses that might be for general education purposes that would introduce students to philanthropy through a variety of different disciplines like sociology or psychology or history. Those introductions may lead some students to the undergraduate degree.”

The interest in philanthropy in academia has never been higher, Tempel added.”There has been a kind of explosion in research,” Tempel said.

“Twenty years ago there was hardly any. Now you can find experimental psychologists at the University of Oregon working on studies related to philanthropy when 20 years ago they wouldn’t have even known that the word philanthropy existed. I think that’s real good news not just for the center but for the entire nonprofit sector.”   NPT

CoP Time Line

1987 – The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is established at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) to increase the under- standing of philanthropy and improve its practice.

– Founded in San Francisco, Calif., by Henry A. “Hank” Rosso (1917-1999) in 1974, The Fund Raising School (TFRS) moves to Indianapolis and becomes the foundation for the center’s public service initiatives.

– The center convenes its inaugural annual symposium.

1988 – The center launches its first academic courses in a groundbreaking new discipline, Philanthropic Studies, an interdisciplinary approach grounded in the liberal arts.

– Robert L. Payton becomes the center’s first full-time executive director.

– Incubated at the Center, the National Committee on Planned Giving opens its first office.

1990 – Hank Rosso receives the inaugural Henry A. Rosso Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Ethical Fundraising, the center’s most prestigious award.

1991 -The center and the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), collaborate to launch the Master of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management degree program.

1993 – The Center launches its Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies degree program in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

1994 – The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), an open forum bringing together scholars in the emerging field of nonprofit and philanthropic studies, moves its headquarters to the center.

– The Fund Raising School launches its Certificate in Fund Raising Management program.

1997 – The center reports on current trends and future expectations in the philanthropic giving climate for the first time, launching the Philanthropic Giving Index (PGI).

– Eugene R. Tempel begins his current tenure as executive director.

2001 – The AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, now the Giving USA Foundation, contracts with the center to research and write Giving USA, the first and only annual yearbook that reports on both sources and uses of philanthropic giving.

2002 – The Lake Institute on Faith & Giving is established at the center.

2003 – The Center on Philanthropy and the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) release the Nonprofit Overhead Cost Study, exploring nonprofit fundraising and administrative cost reporting.

2004 – The Center admits the first students into the world’s first traditional-format Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies program.

– Founded in 1997, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) becomes a part of the Center on Philanthropy.

2005 – The Fund Raising School awards its 1,000th Certificate in Fund Raising Management.

2006 – The Center on Philanthropy receives a $40-million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to endow a portion of its operating costs, ensuring the permanence of the Center and its ability to remain at the cutting edge of service, research and teaching on philanthropy.