Friday, January 27, 2006

An academic absurdity

New York University will launch a new program in September to prepare graduate students for a "Master of Science in Fundraising." Perhaps I'm just a grouchy old man, but the idea of training students how to lure cash from the really rich folk and to reward the student with a graduate degree strikes me as being an academic absurdity.

According to an NYU announcement, the new program "emphasizes the critical skills needed for effective fundraising and grantmaking, and offers insight into the art, science, and spirit that create excellence in the profession."

To gain an MS degree in fund-raising, the graduate student will be required to take such core courses as "Theory and Practice in Fundraising," "Psychology of Philanthropy," "Technology for Fundraising," and "Ethics in Philanthropic Organizations."

The MS candidates will also be trained in estate and gift tax planning, "wealth management," "ethics and and laws of nonprofits," and--this is my favorite topic--"The Art and the Science" of major gift-giving.

"There's no better way to combine your personal values and your professional life than with a career in philanthropy and fundraising," declares an NYU fact sheet about the new program. "Job opportunities at handsome salaries abound."

As an alumnus of NYU with fond memories of the school's focus on genuine scholarship, I shudder at its grubby institutional descent. Fund-raising should remain an administrative function of the university, not an academic discipline for students.

I believe the impetus for the new program was the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. The new law is designed to improve corporate governance and accountability. Apparently, there is concern that the new financial scrutiny required by the law will now be applied to nonprofit philanthropic organizations as well as to corporations.

The creation of NYU's new master's program for fund-raising reflects the proliferation of academic disciplines that represent the most narrow and mundane of specialties.When asked about their college majors, candidates during the recent "Miss America" ceremonies responded with such examples as "journalism and sports management," "global supply-chain management," and "exercise and sports sciences."

For top-notch football and basketball stars still in college, there is always a major in "recreational management," enabling the student-athletes to devote as much time, if not more, to the playing field than to the classroom.

The next time I am solicited for a contribution to a charitable organization,I may ask the solicitor about his or her academic credentials. I want to be sure the solicitor has been properly educated on how to ask me for money.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, I hate money!

Friday, January 27, 2006 3:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, nevermind. My mom taught me to hate the LOVE of money.

Friday, January 27, 2006 3:50:00 PM  
Blogger Leon said...

"of Science" - I wonder if they are going to do statistical research into why people don't throw cash at them. Add one consumer math course to a program and it becomes science.

There should be a bachelors program. The graduates would certainly fit their "BS" moniker.

Friday, January 27, 2006 11:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good info

Saturday, January 28, 2006 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I work in university administration (although not at NYU) and there are some important complexities to working in "development" as "donations" is now called.

For example, how do you set up an annuity and who would find such an option attractive? How do you set up and manage a multi-million dollar, multi-year funding campaign? If someone wants to donate something silly like an airplane or something that seems beneficial like a large tract of land, what do you do?

Many years ago our university was offered a large office park, land included, just up the street. We were desperate for space and it seemed like a wonderful stroke of luck. But upon closer inspection, it turned out that the buildings were not in good repair, water flowed brown out of the drinking fountains and the ground contained industrial contaminants. It could've turned into another Love Canal.

We passed. Thank goodness someone in development knew not to just say "Okey-dokey" and let us get stuck with such an albatross!

So yes, there's a lot for a career development officer to learn.

Having said all that, offering a degree in this sort of thing is absurd. A few electives in the business college would cover it. Or better yet, a certification program through continuing ed. A full-blown master's program, though? Ridiculous.

Sunday, January 29, 2006 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can i get more info?

Thursday, April 20, 2006 5:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are too many "non-profit" organizations, and too many bureaucrats attached to them feeding at the philanthropic trough! In many cases, non-profits turn into fundraising machines; the more they raise, the more people they hire.
This army of "make a job for yourself" leeches have nothing but contempt for people who have worked a lifetime to make the money they think they have a right to control. Woe be tide to any giver who asks questions or, heaven forbid, says NO!to waste or frivolous schemes.

Good old Ernie Kovacks said it better than I can:

You have done many things that have pleased us greatly,
But, tell me, what have you done for us lately?
But by now you must get the drift,
It's not the thought, it's just the gift.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 2:38:00 AM  

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