When venture philanthropy rocks the ivory tower: An examination of high impact donors and their potential for higher education development

Luisa C Boverini, University of Pennsylvania


The billions of dollars raised today for higher education from private coffers are no longer luxuries to provide “margins of excellence” but vital sources of annual operating funds as colleges and universities are seeing an overall retrenchment from other income sources. As private funding becomes increasingly important for the future of higher education, so has a new style of giving, often called venture or high impact philanthropy. Venture philanthropy represents a significant shift from previous donor profiles. Although this type of giving has been examined more generally as a trend, the potential that venture philanthropy holds for higher education remains largely unexplored. Research questions. (1) How is a donor characterized and identified as a venture philanthropist by literature, scholars, donors and higher education administrators? (2) What have been the experiences of the venture philanthropist in higher education? What have been the opportunities and challenges of working with higher education? (3) What are some of the recent developments in venture philanthropy in higher education as exemplified by the University of Maryland (UMD); the Gates Foundation; and the Posse Foundation? (4) What lessons can higher education learn from the recent developments in venture philanthropy as exemplified by these three profiles? To answer the above research questions, I will undertake a three-part review of the literature to provide a brief history of philanthropy in higher education; examine the motivations of traditional donors against high impact donors to illuminate similarities and differences; and summarize the material that exists on venture philanthropy as a whole. Profiles of three venture philanthropy initiatives will serve to analyze how, and to what extent, high impact philanthropy can be useful to higher education and how institutions have harnessed this potential. As institutions are forced to think more creatively about how to raise external funds, this study strives to draw attention to a largely untapped market of donors that may significantly impact the strength and solvency of higher education in the new millennium.

Subject Area

Higher education|School finance

Recommended Citation

Boverini, Luisa C, "When venture philanthropy rocks the ivory tower: An examination of high impact donors and their potential for higher education development" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3168014.