Growing Interest in Philanthropy Among Business School Students

Over the past decade, philanthropy has become a popular topic of study at business schools across the United States and may be inspiring students to think more strategically about their own giving, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

When Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen began teaching a philanthropy course at Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2000, there were only a handful of case studies and few teaching materials available. In the ensuing decade, interest in the topic has surged, and philanthropy courses are now offered as a component of dozens of MBA and undergraduate business programs. Institutions such as Stanford, Columbia Business School, and the Boston University School of Management offer entire courses on philanthropy, while others incorporate the subject into classes on social enterprise.

According to the Aspen Institute's most recent Beyond Grey Pinstripes report, a biannual survey of business school education, thirty-six business schools offer philanthropy-related courses, while Campus Compact, a national coalition of universities and colleges that promotes civic engagement, reports that there are approximately one hundred undergraduate courses available on philanthropy across the country.

Many philanthropy classes offer students hands-on learning opportunities like those offered through the federally funded Pay it Forward program on thirty-three campuses in Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky. A recent survey of Pay it Forward program participants found that philanthropy courses often have an impact on students that lasts long after they leave the classroom. According to the survey, the number of students who planned to give to local nonprofits rose from 41 percent before the class to 64 percent after course completion. In addition, the number of students who said they were likely to make volunteering or philanthropy a lifetime pursuit rose from 48 percent to 73 percent.

Kristen McCormack, faculty director at Boston University School of Management's Public & Non-Profit Management program, told Bloomberg Businessweek that MBA students are increasingly interested in becoming better educated philanthropists who know how to make an impact with their money. "[MBA students] need to figure out 'how much good can I do with this money'," said McCormack. "It is a very strategic kind of question that involves their business skills. This is a generation used to being hands-on, they want to have a direct impact."

"Philanthropy Gains Eager Followers in B-Schools." Bloomberg Businessweek 08/17/2011.