US establishes world's first dedicated school for philanthropy, while UK formal learning widespread

US establishes world's first dedicated school for philanthropy, while UK formal learning widespread

News (International, UK)

Indiana University’s commitment to pioneering philanthropy education, research and training looks set to continue with its announcement last month of the world’s first School of Philanthropy.

The School of Philanthropy will be home to the ongoing bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in Philanthropic Studies created by the Center for Philanthropy.

“Many of today’s students want careers that let them make a meaningful difference in the lives of others,” Gene Tempel, who will lead the development of the new school, said: “The School of Philanthropy will help them become the next generation of philanthropy and nonprofit professionals and scholars, equipping them to fulfill their dreams of changing the world.”

But what kind of leap forward is this, and what are the options for those interested in learning about philanthropy on this side of the Atlantic?

Dr. Beth Breeze, a researcher in the Centre for the Study of Philanthropy, Humanitarianism and Social Justice (CPHSJ), at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, says: "The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University has been the global leader in philanthropic studies and research in the decades since it launched. Its expansion into a school might sound like meaningless academic terminology but is in reality a very positive step forward for those of us working in this field. It signals the importance of this specialism and will no doubt lead to further innovations in the field.”

Breeze convenes a Masters level module on Fundraising and Philanthropy at Kent. It provides an overview of current academic knowledge about philanthropy, and industry knowledge about fundraising. Students also have the opportunity to achieve a professional qualification with the Institute of Fundraising.

Breeze tells Philanthropy UK: “We are a few decades behind in the UK but there have been many recent positive developments. We're proud that the University of Kent now has a Centre on Philanthropy with around ten funded research projects exploring a range of issues from major donors to corporate philanthropy. We also convene two taught courses - an undergraduate module on 'volunteering' and a postgraduate module on 'fundraising and philanthropy'. We are attracting students who are aiming to work in the charity sector and are delighted to be able to contribute to their career development."

The University of Kent isn’t the only university in the UK offering taught courses in philanthropy. City University London's Cass Business School offers the first grant-making degree courses in the UK and Europe. They offer PGCert, PGDip and MSc qualifications in ‘Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment’, taken over six to 24 months, part time.

Designed for those working in funding organisations, these courses aim to help students develop a clear understanding of the principles and practices of funding, and explore the importance of all aspects of the management of funding.

Professor Cathy Pharoah, of Cass Business School, tells Philanthropy UK: "Building up the teaching of philanthropy is a good idea. It's currently scattered across a number of courses. There are more general third sector programmes but there is a gap around philanthropy. In the US there is a higher level of giving, and it's a bigger country, so there is a bigger market for philanthropy education. Here there is a smaller market and it's therefore difficult, but there is a growing consensus that we need more education and training around philanthropic action.”

At present, it seems there is more parity in terms of education for philanthropists themselves, than those who study or aid their objectives.

Kurt Hoffman, CEO of the Institute for Philanthropy, which offers practical training to philanthropists from its London and New York offices, says: “In terms of quantity, given that there are many more philanthropists operating out of the US, not surprisingly there are more institutions and advisers who offer training of some kind to philanthropists …. but in terms of quality of services and offerings, the UK is right up there with the US.”

The institute’s flagship education programme is The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW), a three-week course split evenly between London, New York, and a developing country, across the space of a year. It aims to have philanthropists leave with a clear idea of what they can do and what they want to achieve.

Alumni, who include philanthropists such as Matthew Bowcock, chair of the Community Foundation Network and Secret Millionaire Marcelle Speller, founder of, have access to ongoing and more advanced sessions designed to boost their development as strategic philanthropists. In an upcoming session they will explore the potential of randomised control trials (RCTs).

But this $30,000 (£18,600) course isn’t for everyone, and doesn’t contribute to the UK’s academic philanthropy education, or do a great amount for a broader understanding of philanthropy in society. Demand is largely US-led: there are more than twice as many North American participants of the programme as there are British.

Perhaps the best example of where the UK is excelling in boosting the philanthropic inclinations and ambitions of its students comes from another initiative delivered in England by the Institute for Philanthropy.

The Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, (YPI) which originated with the Toskan Casale foundation in Canada, now works with up to 15,000 school children in England each year, across 90 schools. It is separately managed by the Wood Family Trust in Scotland, and also works in schools in the US as well as Canada. It is free for pupils and their schools, with philanthropic funders footing the bill."

Here YPI is taught via the National Curriculum during citizenship lessons to whole year groups, mainly those in years nine and ten.

Students split into smaller groups to identify the social needs of their local community. They then research and analyse a number of local charities and choose one they believe best addresses their chosen social issue. On-site visits and interviews with charity staff augment their research, and the case they then put forward in a presentation to the entire school and a judging panel. The team with the most compelling presentation is awarded a £3,000 grant, which goes directly to their chosen charity.

Teachers say it’s a great way to engage young people in the concept of strategic philanthropy and provide a way to channel money to local grassroots organisations.

Tim Pare, director of YPI, based at the Institute for Philanthropy, is extremely confident the model will grow further: "YPI has an inherent double impact as we are engaging young people in the concepts and realities of philanthropy while at the same time providing a way to donate to local grassroots organisations. The concept of strategic philanthropy should be taught to older students too. It's a no-brainer."

Now in their fifth year, YPI is looking to measure its impact on how young people engage with local causes. They already know that 74% of participants say they are more likely to give, and 80% to volunteer.

Perhaps it is just this type of boost to philanthropy – grassroots, educational, and inspiring, that will be needed to swell the demand for philanthropy courses at UK universities in years to come.

  • Next generation philanthropy
  • Promoting philanthropy
  • International
  • UK