I am far from an expert on philanthropy, but I only became aware of just how far quite recently. Two years ago I casually entered the graduate program in Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and I became a doctoral student last fall. This program is the only PhD in Philanthropy in existence, and being a part of it has (rather violently) expanded my awareness of the research going on in this field. Having worked and volunteered in nonprofit organizations since the mid-nineties, I was blown away at how many perspectives are being taken in philanthropy scholarship and approaches made to the study of the nonprofit sector.
My first reaction in my first semester was, “I have to get this information out to the fundraisers in the field!” But that was followed quickly by the understanding that the gulf between scholarship and practice is sometimes intentional. That’s a stretch so let me put it this way: writing for practice is not valued the same as writing for the scholarly community. And beyond that, not everyone’s goal is to make practice better through research.
And that’s ok.
But not for me.
Fundraising is not just a tough job (lots of jobs are tough) and it isn’t the most stressful (lots of people in sales have worse consequences than we do for not meeting goals), but it is silly that all the research in areas like donor motivation, giving trends and emerging priorities is not getting to fundraisers. I work in higher education, now, for the first time, so I’m lucky to get a lot more training than I ever did in other positions. I’ve also moved from a low-performing region of the country in terms of philanthropy to a high performing. So that could be a factor in my failure to EVER see this stuff before. I love to do scholarly writing and research (there will be a lot of that here), but the greatest test as I consider my own work is that it impact the work of fundraising.
Be prepared: I have a reverence for fundraisers – I call them the brokers of love.
Not only is this site a way for people to “find me” in the virtual word, it’s a way for me to think through my own research through writing. I look forward to feedback on my posts to help me shape my voice in this fascinating area of research and thought.