UT System to establish summer internship program in philanthropy

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The state of Texas funded 47 percent of UT-Austin’s budget in the 1984-85 academic year, while gifts and endowments funded 3 percent. In the 2013-14 academic year, the state only funded 13 percent of UT’s budget, but gifts and endowments rose to 10 percent of the budget.

To cover the gap in funding left by the state, UT has turned to private funding to cover some of its costs. The University has been successful in some aspects, such as when it raised over three billion dollars during a fundraising campaign. There’s still another problem: the lack of college graduates wanting to go into academic fundraising. 

“There’s a dearth in capacity of people going into development [fundraising],” said Randa Safady, UT System vice chancellor for external relations. “Often times, they don’t even know a career exists in that.” 

To encourage students to consider the profession, the UT System is launching a 10 week paid summer internship program, which will introduce students to academic philanthropy at a UT System institution, according to a UT System press release.

“It’s going to educate them about the back-office operations of what it takes to run a successful fundraising shop,” said Adrian Matthys, director of annual giving at UT-Austin. “They could be doing anything from annual giving programs to helping major gift officers do prospect [donor] research.”

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the average fundraiser stays at his or her job for only 16 months, and half of chief fundraisers want to quit their job. In 2014, the UT System noted in a press release there were six open positions for development positions at the vice president level and “many more” at the mid-manager level.

Safady said many people accidentally fall into the profession, and the System wants to deliberately introduce this career to students as a viable career option.  

“The demand for development professionals far exceeds the supply,” Safady said. “Recognizing that this is a national issue, we want to do our part in filling that gap, bringing young people into this profession so they can start to gain experience in it.” 

Safady said introducing students to philanthropy is more important now than ever to fund the missions of universtities.

“We sort of fell into the profession by default because there wasn’t any academic training in it,” Safady said. “Philanthropy now is accounting for a larger percentage of institutional revenue, but it’s directed. People don’t just write checks and say ‘Do with it what you want.’”

The program is part of a broader plan to improve fundraising performance across the UT System. In 2014, he Board of Regents invested $800,000 in the system’s Center for Enhancing Philanthropy to train development professionals, encourage more people to enter the field, and even possibly add a major in philanthropy at a UT System institution.

Annie Albrecht, Plan II and communications studies junior and development intern at Well Water Aware, said she wasn’t aware of how fulfilling philanthropy was before she started working in the field.  

“I think it’s important for everyone to find their niche as far as service goes,” Albrecht said. “Philanthropy is a way to explore your passions as well as to give back to the community.”