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Carleton U looks to establish first School of Philanthropy

Carleton University
Carleton University, Ottawa

When it comes to fundraising at universities, securing large donations to endow business schools has rarely been an issue.

In 2007, Ian Telfer, the chairman of Goldcorp Inc., donated $25 million to the University of Ottawa to found the Telfer School of Business. At the time, it was the largest single donation for a business school in Canada, only to be eclipsed by Stephen J.R. Smith’s $50-million gift in 2015, creating the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

Look at any noted Canadian university and you will find a well-funded business school on campus. It is perhaps not surprising that the business of making money has attracted larger donations than the business of giving it away.

However, Carleton University’s Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership seeks to change that. The program already knows a thing or two about firsts. This groundbreaking program became the first and only of its kind in Canada when it opened its doors 10 years ago.

With a decade now under its belt, the program is thinking bigger. Although it currently rests within the School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton is seeking significant investment to establish the country’s first School of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.

“As a society, we do not always treat philanthropy as a profession and give this sector the attention it deserves,” says Susan Phillips, a professor and supervisor in the department, who helped bring the program to fruition a decade ago.

“We have accomplished a great deal so far in terms of applied research, events and programming. But our faculty is only three people. To grow, to become a true hub, one way to do that is through anchor faculty positions.”

The majority of the endowment would go toward funding full-time positions at the school over the next 25 years, Phillips explains, as well as practitioners-in-residence, doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

The idea has already gained traction among several Ottawa philanthropists who appreciate the impact that these anchor positions can have on the charitable sector.  

While in need of more funding, the program continues to generate plenty of interest among students.

According to Phillips, there have been more than 300 graduates over the last 10 years. The program receives far more applicants than it accepts, she adds, in order to ensure the best possible experience for the students.

The master’s degree, offering hybrid components, is national in focus, attracting students from across the country from a variety of age groups and disciplines, from data science, to neuroscience, to the performing arts. Phillips says the fact that the program attracts such a diversity of students shows the importance philanthropy has in society and why it is considered its own legitimate field of study.

According to the think-tank Imagine Canada, the charitable landscape employs 2.4 million people, or one in 10 workers. It also constitutes 8.3 per cent of Canada’s GDP, or an estimated $192 billion.

With the rise of social impact investing and companies focusing more on corporate social responsibility and frameworks around environment, social and governance (ESG), Phillips says the time is right to place a greater focus on research and academics in philanthropy.

To solve the complex problems of today, whether it be climate change, homelessness or income inequality, a dedicated school would provide the foundation for advancing philanthropy in Canada and solving the problems of today and tomorrow.

Phillips notes that there are more than 250 non-profit and philanthropy programs in the U.S., boasting a long history of philanthropists supporting the sector. But the gold standard for university-led philanthropic research and academia is the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, founded by the pharmaceutical heiress, Ruth Lilly, and the Lilly Endowment.

Phillips hopes Carleton University can be that beacon for philanthropy north of the border.

“The sector has long recognized it is data-deficient,” she explains. “We need to multiply our research and help grow the next generation of leaders. And the way to do that is an expanded centre or school — we would have more students and more professional development. The need for training in this sector is significant, whether it is in financial management, fundraising strategies or board governance. The demand is there.”

Jeff Todd is the president of AFP Ottawa Chapter and VP of marketing and communications for the WCPD Foundation.

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