Philanthropy for Public Relations Education Jumps But Remains in Its Infancy

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Philanthropy for Public Relations Education Jumps But Remains in Its Infancy

NEW YORK (Dec. 7, 2010) – Total philanthropic support dedicated to public relations education has reached at least $15 million, according to a research report released today by the Commission on Public Relations Education. The report’s author, Dr. Kathleen S. Kelly of the University of Florida, documented 64 major gifts ranging from $10,000 to $2 million. Market values of endowed funds range from $12,300 to $3 million.

The report, “Philanthropy for Public Relations: 2010 Follow-up Study,” updates research that was published in 2006. Both reports measured the extent and the amount of philanthropy directed to U.S.-based public relations education. “My research seeks not only to recognize those who have already made gifts and their educational partners, but also to inspire others to follow their example,” Kelly said.

Despite the recession, the research uncovered some remarkable gifts in recent years. For example, the Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications was established at the University of Florida in 2008 with a $2-million gift from the Trellis Fund. Scott Widmeyer, chairman and CEO of Widmeyer Communications, led the effort to endow the Widmeyer Professorship in Public Relations at West Virginia University in 2008 with contributions totaling $380,000.

Still, Kelly notes that the most popular purpose of philanthropy for public relations education is undergraduate scholarships. While Kelly applauds these gifts, she notes, “Gifts for other purposes can collectively raise the quality of education and contributions to the profession.” Part of the blame rests with public relations education programs that don’t give enough thought to identifying potential new donors and developing strategic gifts.

The report emphasizes that philanthropy for public relations education is still in its early stages compared to philanthropic support for business and other areas of professional education. Kelly said she hopes that practitioners and educators will engage on this issue and do their part to increase giving for public relations education. “Public relations practitioners and their affiliated organizations must follow the example of older professions and form partnerships with education,” she said.

The full report can be downloaded at The study was funded by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama and the PRSA Foundation.