Indiana University      Research & Creative Activity      January 2000 Volume XXII Number 3

Philanthropy Fellowship Program Attracts Nation's Best

by Aaron Conley

Since 1991, the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy has attracted some of the nation’s best college graduates to immerse them into the study of philanthropy. The Jane Addams – Andrew Carnegie Fellowship program has evolved into one of the most competitive and rewarding post-baccalaureate opportunities a new graduate can find.

You might assume these are aspiring fund raisers, foundation executives, or grassroots activists, but many of the nearly fifty past fellows have gone into law, medicine, public policy, and social work. According to Robert Payton, professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and director of the program, “The purpose is to have an intense engagement with the ideas, principles, and traditions of voluntary giving and voluntary service, so they will bring that added dimension to whatever they do.” He adds, “I don’t care what field they go into. The important thing is they will influence other people to think more seriously about these issues wherever they are.”

Much of the attraction of this ten-month program stems from the range of activities fellows undertake. Each receives a $15,000 stipend and 15 graduate credit hours for completing a series of seminars; an internship with a local nonprofit organization; directed readings; a “visitors program” of meetings with local clergy, politicians, business leaders, and nonprofit executives; visits to prominent foundations; and finally The Fund Raising School’s one-week introductory course. Fellows also attend a national conference of their choice.

Members of this year’s Jane Addams – Andrew Carnegie Fellowship class flank Robert Payton, Professor of Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, and director of the program: (on the left) Alejandro Amezcua, Kate Shannon, (on the right) Shana Brodnax, and Matthew Pippin. Not pictured are Smita Vadakekalam and Wendy Heller.

Each class leaves its own legacy on the program, but the 1998–99 class will be remembered for going beyond the basic program requirements. That fall, Hurricane Mitch struck Central America, killing thousands and leaving most who survived with nothing. Two of the six fellows had personal experiences that linked them to the devastated region. Glenn Gutterman lived there during a study-abroad experience while attending Duke University, and Erika Mein volunteered for an alternative spring break trip to the area during her studies at the University of Virginia.

Spurred on by the skills they picked up at The Fund Raising School, the group set out to raise $10,000 from the central Indiana community despite having only lived here a few months. The group first made a collective gift of $1,000 and then got some help from an IUPUI first-year student who heard about their efforts and showed up to volunteer. Eventually they raised more than $17,000 from more than 100 individuals, three foundations, and one church. The funds were passed on to the Church World Service in Elkhart, Indiana. Gutterman uses their success to make a point about his generation, “Young people get disempowering messages like, ‘You’re too young to really do anything.’ One real lesson from this is that people will support you. . . . There’s a lot you can accomplish just by trying.”

For members of this class, the outcome of the campaign and the entire fellowship experience helped reshape their perspectives on philanthropy. For Theresa Hwang, a native of Long Island, New York, and a 1998 Stanford graduate, the fellowship helped define philanthropy to mean more than just giving money. “All of us coming into the program had a lot of questions about the word ‘philanthropy’ and the connotations associated with it, which usually focus on just a money exchange,” she explained. “We hadn’t grasped the ‘Payton definition’ of philanthropy,” which portrays it as voluntary action for the public good.

Gutterman says as a result of the experience, he’ll leave behind the negative ideas he had about philanthropy. He associated it with social control, as those with enough money to give away decide what they want to support rather than what may be perceived by others to be a greater need. “The thing that changed me was understanding that it’s much more complex than that. There are many people who have the means but also have a real sense of social responsibility. I understand good work is also happening at that higher level where the money is.” Because of this, he adds, “I’ve learned not to romanticize all grassroots activities and demonize everything that happens at foundations or with wealthy people.”

Changing attitudes and enlightening a new generation about philanthropy is what this program is all about, and Payton says IU can be proud of the impact it has had and will have on future generations. He’s seen a consistent message in each class that tells him the program is successful. “These are first-year graduate students coming from some of the best institutions in the country,” he says, “and they say repeatedly when they come in that there is something in this program that they hadn’t found anyplace else. And they say at the end it has changed the way they think.”