Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Philanthropy Education
Founded in 1987 on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI), the Center on Philanthropy pioneered the discipline known as Philanthropic Studies and was one of the first university institutions to offer critical insight into the history, culture, and values of philanthropy. Its study of philanthropy was grounded in Indiana University's liberal arts school and was complemented by expertise in the university's professional schools of business, education, journalism, law, medicine, nursing, public administration, and social work.


Historic Roots

Philanthropy is defined as "goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially an active effort to promote human welfare and as an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes; and as an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes." 

Using the methodologies of a number of fields, the Center on Philanthropy sought to understand the processes of giving and volunteering from the donor's perspective as well as nonprofit management, volunteer involvement, and fundraising from the organization's perspective. The Center established particular strengths in the relationship of philanthropy to religion, economics, health care, and history. It also specialized in the relationship between government and nonprofits and the ethics and practice of fundraising.

An extraordinary synergy of visionary people and powerful ideas, needs, and opportunities gave life to the Center on Philanthropy and the field of philanthropy. By the mid-1980s, there was a growing recognition of the need for greater knowledge about philanthropy and for more and better trained people to work in nonprofits. To meet those needs, Indiana University proposed the establishment of a center that would include The Fund Raising School, which had been founded in San Francisco in 1974. Lilly Endowment Inc., which had a history of helping nonprofits become more effective and selfsustaining, agreed to provide the initial funding.

The center’s annual symposium, “Taking Fundraising Seriously,” examined such topics as income sources, ethics, the role of trustees, the language and rhetoric of fundraising, the impact of technology, donor relations, youth and philanthropy, etc.

“The Center on Philanthropy serves as a national clearinghouse for education, research, training, and public service programs pertaining to the nonprofit sector. Programs and services created to assist with the education and understanding of philanthropy, or “voluntary action for the public good,” are the basis of activities. Areas of operation include academic programs, research, public services, and development and communications.

Regular, ongoing research activities include reports, such as the “Philanthropic Giving Index,” which shares current trends and future expectations in philanthropic giving in the United States; “Indiana Gives” (a summary of Indiana giving and volunteering); assistance with Giving USA, a publication of the American Association of Fund Raising Counsel; and collaboration with the University of Michigan’s Philanthropic Studies Institute. The only library devoted exclusively to philanthropic studies, the Robert and Matthew Payton Philanthropic Studies Library, is located on the IUPUI campus. It serves as a national and international resource for nonprofits and others on fundraising and charitable giving. In collaboration with Indiana University Press, the center edits a book series in Philanthropic and NonProfit Studies. The library houses a collection of philanthropic archives that includes records from foundations, fundraising consultants, and other professionals in the field.” Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Pg 58.



In 2012, the School of Philanthropy (first in the nation) was approved by the IU Trustees and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The school was inaugurated in 2013 and named for the Lilly Family, one of America’s great philanthropic families in honor of their generations of generosity and leadership. Gene Tempel was appointed as Founding Dean. The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is the world’s first school dedicated solely to the study and teaching of philanthropy.

Working together, leaders from the university, The Fund Raising School, and Lilly Endowment developed a vision for a university-based center that would serve the nonprofit sector, create a new academic field of study, and examine and perpetuate philanthropy through teaching, research, and service anchored in the liberal arts. To further advance understanding of key aspects of philanthropy, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving was established in 2002, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute became a part of the organization in 2004 and the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy in honor of William and Rose Mays was established in 2015.

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s degree programs bring together an understanding of how philanthropy works with why people give. The school emphasizes a comprehensive approach to the study of philanthropy in society that gives you the knowledge and understanding to be active in the nonprofit field.

On the undergraduate level they offer a bachelor's degree and a minor in Philanthropic Studies. They value a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding philanthropy, with courses in the humanities, social sciences and professions.

  • Bachelor of Arts in Philanthropic Studies
  • Minor in Philanthropic Studies
  • Certificate in Philanthropic Studies
  • Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies
  • Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies
  • Dual Degree Programs include the following:
  • Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies and Master of Jurisprudence or Juris Doctor
  • Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies and Master of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management
  • Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies and History
  • Masters of Arts In Philanthropic Studies and Master of Library Science
  • Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies and Economics
  • Graduate Certificate

In 2018, three esteemed scholars were appointed to endowed chairs created by generous donors. Patricia Snell Herzog, Ph.D., the Melvin Simon Chair in Philanthropy. Laurie Paarlberg, Ph.D.,the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Chair on Community Foundations. Pamala Wiepking, Ph.D., the Visiting Stead Family Chair in International Philanthropy.


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

The mission of the Center on Philanthropy was to increase the understanding of philanthropy and improve its practice through research, teaching, public service, and public affairs. The Center's goals included analyzing and interpreting the philanthropic process of associating, giving, and volunteering; teaching theory and best practices related to the philanthropic process and nonprofit structures; and providing public service and continuing education to volunteers and practitioners in the nonprofit sector.


Third Millennium Philanthropy and Leadership Initiative

With generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Third Millennium Philanthropy and Leadership Initiative was a major undertaking of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Millennium had three major constituencies: youth, women, and people of color. Specifically, Millennium sought to identify and encourage young people to explore the history, principles, and practices of philanthropy, which will lead to succeeding generations of philanthropic leaders. Further, Millennium facilitated the expansion of executive leadership opportunities for women and people of color in the philanthropic sector. They did so via professional development, research, peer-to-peer networking, lectures, workshops, and a host of other activities.

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, in partnership with the University of Chicago, hosts an annual Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI) Conference. This is an initiative started by John List, Michael Price, and Anya Samek in 2012 to encourage experimental (field and lab) research on charitable giving. In addition to providing an avenue for research discussions, another aim of the conference is to bring together researchers studying charitable giving with practitioners in the field of philanthropy.

Today, the Lilly School of Philanthropy plays a leading role in moving philanthropy forward across the country and around the world because of the vision and generosity of the founders and leaders who foresaw the need to study, understand, and teach about this integral component of life and society.


Important People Related to the Topic

  • Dwight Burlingame
  • Angela Bies
  • Robert Bringle
  • Warren Ilchman
  • Charles A. Johnson
  • Debra Mesch
  • Leslie Lenkowsky
  • Una Osili
  • Amir Pasic
  • Paula Parker Sawyers
  • Robert Payton
  • Kathy Reinhold
  • Patrick Rooney
  • Henry Rosso
  • Henry Schaller
  • Timothy Seiler
  • Genevieve Shaker
  • Shariq Siddiqui
  • Eugene Tempel


Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA)
  • Center for Service and Learning
  • The Fund Raising School
  • Lake Institute on Faith & Giving
  • Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy
  • Muslim Philanthropy Initiative
  • Payton Philanthropic Studies Library
  • Ruth Lilly Archives


Reflection Question

Why is it important to have a school dedicated to the study of philanthropy?



  • Burlingame, D. F. (2004). C. In Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (pp. ). Retrieved from


This briefing paper was authored by a student taking a philanthropic studies course in 2019 at The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

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