All Posts Tagged With: "philanthropy"
Donors, schools and profs disagreed on big gifts
Billionaire philanthropist Seymour Schulich is a man of maxims — one of which stands out after a bruising year of donor controversies in Canadian academia.
“Giving away money intelligently is truly more difficult than earning it,” Schulich, 73, likes to say.
Donors, university administrators and professors are looking for a smoother path forward in 2013.
Schulich, Canada’s most generous education benefactor, rolled out a new set of $60,000 scholarships this year that he hopes will rival the Rhodes.
Yet he’s sounding concerns that a donor chill might follow all the bad press that has surrounded benefactions amid concerns over academic freedom and integrity.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers, or CAUT, has been threatening sanctions against schools over donor deals that give benefactors influence on the curriculum, hiring practices and academic management of the sponsored program.
Four awards you should apply for now
There’s big money out there for graduating high school students who bother to apply. Some scholarships require long resumes, others simply ask for an essay. Here are four to consider.
Mackenzie Investments will award Canada’s Top Teen Philanthropist $2,500 cash plus $5,000 for the charity of his or her choice. Five other entrants will receive $1,000 each to split with their favourite charities. The deadline is Nov. 26th.
S-Trip, a company that specializes in student travel, is giving away $2,500 to a U.S. or Canadian student with the best essay of 250 words or less on this question: How does travel impact your learning and personal growth? Entrants don’t need to have travelled. The deadline is Dec. 7th.
On Berkeley, and why elite schools should charge more
Robert Birgeneau, a physicist and former University of Toronto president, has led the University of California at Berkeley as chancellor since 2004. Last week he announced he’s stepping down at the end of the year. Birgeneau, who turned 70 this month, delayed retirement because of the budget crisis—what he calls “the most extreme disinvestment by the state in UC’s history,” brought on by cuts and economic troubles in California. He implemented tough cost-cutting measures, found new sources of money, and dealt with an uptick in activism.
Q: Undergrad fees at the UC system increased 32 per cent two years ago, pushing costs up three times what they were a decade earlier. Last year, tuition rose another eight per cent, then another 9.6 per cent. Meanwhile, reduced services meant wastebaskets around Berkeley overflowed with trash. It sounds like a rotten time to be chancellor. Why didn’t you just retire?
The requests for money never cease
The other day, I got a copy of the Alumni Gazette, the magazine sent to alumni of the University of Western—sorry—Western University. This was no surprise, of course, since they’ve been sending them to me for years. In fact, as an alumnus of three universities, I get these things frequently.
They are always slickly produced—and they always make me a bit queasy.
I open these publications in the vague hope that I’ll see something about someone I went to school with, or hear some news about a favourite professor. It never happens.
Instead, I get a series of breathless articles about people I never knew who are changing the world.
A more charitable version of myself would swell with pride to be associated with such luminaries, but the cynic in me can’t help feeling like the whole thing is a big soft sell for the fundraising division of the university. Because, of course, that’s what it is. Nobody sends you a glossy magazine four times a year out of the goodness of their hearts.
And sure enough, in the middle of the mag is a multi-page spread on “The Campaign for Western” (is Western running for something?), and then another ad featuring smiling students imploring me to “Fund the Future,” and, then, near the end, still another ad urging me to consider giving good old UWO—-sorry—WU, a “planned gift” which means leaving money to the university in my will. Yes, they even want my money after I die.
All of this might be more palatable if I felt like I was getting the real story about a place I called home for four years. But I know enough about universities to know that’s not true. There’s no talk of controversy, let alone scandal. Because, recall, that’s not the point. The point is to get you feeling good about the old Ivey-covered halls. And it’s not just Western. All universities, so far as I know, do the same kind of cheerleading.
See how great we still are? Aren’t you proud to be one of us? Shouldn’t you write a cheque?
The irony of it all is that this reaction is never the one I actually have. Because to be perfectly honest, seeing all those uber-successful people—hob-nobbing with Bono or conquering the film industry—doesn’t make me feel better about the university, it makes me feel worse about myself.
RIM founder’s gifts now total $123 million
The founders of Research In Motion (RIM), the Waterloo, Ont. based produce of BlackBerry products, have fallen. But one of them, Mike Lazaridis, is ready to make a new investment. He and his wife Ophelia pledged $21 million to the University of Waterloo on Wednesday. “History has shown us that a relatively small investment in fundamental research in physics and in science today can lead to huge innovation tomorrow,” Lazaridis said. The money will fund chairs in condensed matter and astrophysics, a new science building and scholarships for mathematics students. The couple have donated $123 million in total, after funding the Institute for Quantum Computing and the soon-to-open Quantum Nano Centre. To get a sense of how big those donations are, consider that only one gift to a Canadian university exceeded $20 million last year, reports Academica.
Policies need to be in place to make sure academic voices aren’t lost in the shuffle
Two professors at the University of Toronto are concerned that philanthropic gifts are doing more to determine academic priorities than the school’s own academic faculties. And their concerns aren’t completely unfounded.
Following a large donation to the Munk School of Global Affairs, the university included in the donor agreement a line that announced “international studies is a top academic priority of the university.”
But according to professors Paul Hamel and John Valleau, that was never discussed in the traditional academic circles.
“Who decided that?” Hamel asked the Varsity, the student newspaper at the University of Toronto.
“Departments will put through their academic plans that they have an idea and we find ways of doing it. An academic priority is identified on the ground,” Misak added to the newspaper. “The idea that donors are driving academic priorities is crazy, just crazy.”
But the shift towards making philanthropy a significant source of income for post-secondary institutions is still new. Only in 2007, the head of fundraising at the University of Ottawa speculated that donations could become a permanent fixture of university priorities.
“It’s become a permanent feature of how universities do their job,” David Mitchell told The Globe and Mail. “The machinery of fundraising has come of age at universities in the last generation. I don’t think it is about to end.”
And since then, the amount of donations accepted by universities has been growing steadily.
While still representing a low total number in their overall budgets, donations now represent the second-fastest growing income source for universities, growing an average of nearly 11 per cent a year between 1997 and 2007.
And with hundreds of millions of dollars lining up at their door, it’s hard for universities to say no. That’s the problem Hamel and Valleau are now worried about.
While the University of Toronto’s donor agreement specifically affirms the academic freedom and freedom of speech of their faculty, that these two professors are concerned is reason for concern itself.
The way academic priorities are decided needs to be transparent to the academic community. It’s through this transparency that faculty can feel free to bring forward their own priorities and contribute in innovative ways to the university community.
If professors feel that priority setting is solely the domain of higher bodies, disenfranchised faculty will begin to wear down the institution’s morale.
It’s important to remember that donors don’t always get to set the priorities. As Ron Joyce, co-founder of Tim Hortons, told The Globe and Mail: “There is no such thing as a bad cause really, but you have to focus your efforts,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate. I have an obligation to give something back.”
Universities have a strong history in Canada of academic independence, important discoveries and developing brilliant minds. Donations are a necessary part of this process, but shouldn’t determine priorities. The University of Toronto needs to demonstrate to its academic faculty that this is still the case, or they will face increasing scrutiny from disenfranchised academic leaders.
Tax-free giving plummets about 80 per cent; endowment funds could suffer
The sorry state of stock markets is stoking concerns among Canada’s largest charities that big-ticket, shares-based philanthropy will plummet with the indexes.
Over the last decade, capital gains tax incentives for donated stocks have laid a philanthropist pipeline that has funnelled billions of dollars worth of shares to Canadian charities.
In 2007, Canadian donors gave about $1 billion of common stock to large institutions such as universities and hospitals, said the head of philanthropic advisory services at the Scotia Trust asset management company.
But the tumbling world economy could soon turn the stock contribution surge into a trickle, experts say.
“This year, it’s almost non-existent,” said Scotia Trust’s Malcolm Burrows, who advises philanthropists and charities. “There’s been a significant drop off, I’d say probably about 80 per cent.”
Since 1997, Canada’s wealthy have been taking advantage of tax cuts for donated shares.
In 2006, the Conservative government removed the capital gains tax on stocks donated to public foundations and registered charities. Last year, the government eliminated the capital gains tax on gifts to private foundations.
Donors not only save in taxes, they also collect tax credits.
Burrows said due to the incentives, stock contributions went up 160 per cent between 1996 and 2007. But as well-to-do Canadians shift their focus to more immediate needs, he predicts large institutional charities and endowment funds will sustain heavy blows.
“It’s a basic fact that people give when they feel like they have excess, when they feel secure, and in this environment there’s not much of that,” Burrows said.
“For the most part, Canadians tend to dig deep in down times – they look to community needs. It may be slightly different this year, just because of the depth of the economic situation.”
An umbrella group that represents 1,200 Canadian charities says many charitable organizations across the country have reported a drop in large stock gifts.
In some cases, funding for existing foundations has been put on hold, said Jocelyne Daw, vice-president of marketing and community engagement for Imagine Canada.
“Obviously, people aren’t going to give gifts of shares if their shares are worth half what they once were,” Daw said from her Calgary office. “I don’t think too many people are going to be worrying about capital gains this year.”