Guide to philanthropy courses

Alliance magazine

What can students who take up a course or module expect? That will partly depend on which department in the particular university or institution the course is housed.

In other words, if it’s part of a business school, you can expect a greater emphasis on management and leadership, if it’s part of a school of public policy, there’s likely to be more stress on the relations between philanthropy and the public sector, and so on.

In short, there’s no consensus on what should be taught as part of a philanthropy course. There is, however, a growing body of knowledge of research and teaching materials, exemplified by Michael Moody and Beth Breeze’s The Philanthropy Reader.

Below are some examples of what students of philanthropy might study:

Indiana University’s PhD in Philanthropic Studies is the world’s first to offer a PhD in philanthropy. Courses include:

  • Historical and cultural perspectives on philanthropy
  • Ethical, moral, and religious aspects
  • Philanthropy and non-profit organizations in society
  • Qualitative and quantitative methods

Master of Philanthropy and Non-profit Leadership (MPNL) at Carleton University in Canada consists of 11 courses plus a ‘capstone’ research project (essentially an applied element where students work with a community partner in the non-profit sector). Required courses include both historical and theoretical (foundations of philanthropy, research methods) and practical elements (programme evaluation, governance and leadership, and finances).

Executive education
Broadly speaking, executive education comprises training for those who are already working in the sector and want a more nuts-and-bolts approach. Indiana also offers an executive MA option that includes online and off-site elements and extends over three years.

CSI Heidelberg’s executive training offers four levels: basic training, advanced training, expert training, and individual solutions tailored to suit requirements of students.

The Graduate Certificate in Business (Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies) at Queensland University of Technology is a one-year part-time course of eight units focused on the management of an individual organization including: frameworks of governance; ethics; legal, accounting and finance; fundraising development principles and techniques; and an introduction to social enterprise.

ESSEC Business School’s course Philanthropy: Strategy and Impact consists of 30 hours of teaching and looks at the history, key theoretical and ideological perspectives of philanthropy, its main actors (ordinary donors, high-net-worth individuals, corporate donors, etc), the importance of fundraising, philanthropic strategies, impact evaluation and what it calls ‘new frontiers’.

Comments (1)


In Montreal, Canada, you've miss the Certificate in philanthropic management delivered at Université de Montréal. It's an undergraduated program focused on management and fundraising development principles and techniques; it includes donor relations, marketing, frameworks of governance; ethics; and historical culture and perspectives in phlanthropy. It's the one and only university program in that field in french in Canada.

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