Most fund-raisers stumble into the profession, but within a decade the field could be populated by
recent college graduates who hold degrees in philanthropic studies.
The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University soon will roll out a bachelor's degree that would be among the first of its kind. If all goes as planned, IUPUI would begin marketing the degree, granted by the School of Liberal Arts, for the fall of 2010.
"I bet within a decade we may have to cap it, simply because the demand may grow faster than we can hire good-quality faculty," said Patrick Rooney, the Center on Philanthropy's newly appointed executive director.
The Center on Philanthropy, founded in 1987, trains thousands of working professionals through its Fund Raising School. It conducts widely quoted research on Americans' giving habits. And it created the first doctoral degree in philanthropic studies.
"We have become the largest and most comprehensive center," said Rooney, who'd been serving as interim executive director since September 2008, when Eugene Tempel resigned to become president of the Indiana University Foundation.
The not-for-profit sector is growing rapidly, and other universities are capitalizing on the demand for trained professionals.
Many offer master's degrees or certificates in not-for-profit management. The University of Denver recently announced its own undergraduate program in philanthropic studies. Arizona State University created an undergraduate program in not-for-profit management several years ago, and granted about 20 bachelor's degrees this year.
Rooney would not give an estimate on the size of the first undergraduate class.
"This is clearly a niche market," he said. Though he thinks IUPUI's program will grow quickly, it could be many years before philanthropy majors overrun the job market.
"Every year, there's unmet demand of about 50,000 jobs in the not-for-profit sector," he said.
The center declined to release the budget for the undergraduate degree because it's still being negotiated with IUPUI.
The center, which relies on faculty from other parts of the university, would hire one or two of its own faculty to mentor students. Rooney said the new hires likely would be recent graduates of the doctoral program. The rest of the courses would be taught by affiliated faculty in other disciplines. The School of Environmental and Public Affairs, which already offers a certificate in not-for-profit management, also would teach required courses.
Harriet Ivey, CEO of the Nina Mason Pulliam Trust, thinks not-for-profits will benefit from more specially trained employees. She entered the field by chance in the 1970s after graduating with a degree in music.
Ivey's first fund-raising job was with a struggling, and now defunct, symphony. It was a trial by fire, she said.
"A lot of people don't learn well in those situations," she added. "It's not a great way to run an organization."
The field is so new that the leading academic centers tend to collaborate, rather than compete. Arizona State and IUPUI are taking pains to distinguish between their two academic programs.
Arizona State emphasizes the how-to of management, while IUPUI will take the liberal arts approach.
Ivey is familiar with Arizona State's program through the trust's work in Phoenix. She's also on the Center on Philanthropy's board of advisers. She doesn't think the distinct academic philosophies will be important to undergraduates, who will consider where they want to live and the cost of tuition.
Recent college graduates still tend to learn about fund raising by chance.
Gabie Benson, development services manager at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, majored in women's studies at DePauw University in Greencastle. She did internships with Planned Parenthood and the Julian Center, an Indianapolis shelter for battered women.
Benson realized she wasn't cut out for hands-on social work, but she could help a cause by raising money.
"I think that's a great opportunity," Benson said of IUPUI's bachelor's degree. "So many people fall into fund raising. They don't even know anything about it."
The bachelor's degree is part of Rooney's agenda to expand the Center on Philanthropy's reach and cement its reputation.
"One of our goals is to go global in our education, in our training, in our research," Rooney said. The center is seeking partnerships with foreign universities, he said, both to meet the demand for training abroad and to learn more about philanthropy in other cultures. The center has already begun laying the groundwork for an exchange with Peking University in China.
Rooney also hopes some of the initiatives will shore up the center's bottom line. With the recession taking a bite out of its endowment, and many not-for-profit professionals too cash-strapped to attend Fund Raising School, the center's budget has dropped from $11.2 million in 2008 to $8.8 million.
Lilly Endowment Inc. granted the center $40 million for its own endowment in 2006, but its value has slipped to $28.5 million. The Fund Raising School accounts for more than 20 percent of the center's income.
Rooney said he wants to make the Fund Raising School more accessible and affordable by offering classes online.
Teaching undergraduates could increase the amount of support the center gets from IU.
"It'll help," Rooney said. "That's one reason I'm excited about it."