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December 08, 2010

Study Finds that Philanthropy for Public Relations Education Increases But Remains in Its Infancy

A report released this week by the Commission on Public Relations Education, which received partial funding from the PRSA Foundation, found that total philanthropic support dedicated to public relations education has reached at least $15 million. The report’s author, Kathleen S. Kelly, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, professor of public relations at the University of Florida, documented 64 major gifts ranging from $10,000 to $2 million.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the PRSA Foundation are among 12 professional organizations that comprise the Commission on Public Relations Education. Additional funding for the study was provided by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama.
The report, “Philanthropy for Public Relations: 2010 Follow-up Study,” updates previously published research from 2006. Both reports measured the extent and 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,” said Kelly.
Despite the recession, the research uncovered significant in recent years. For example, the Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications was established in 2008 at the University of Florida 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. 
The report also concluded that the most popular purpose of philanthropy for public relations education is undergraduate scholarships. While applauding these gifts, Kelly notes, “Gifts for other purposes can collectively raise the quality of education and contributions to the profession.”
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. 
About the Commission on Public Relations Education
The Commission on Public Relations Education is composed of public relations educators and practitioners who represent 12 professional societies in public relations and related fields of communications.
For several decades, the commission has periodically presented recommendations on undergraduate and graduate public relations curricula and associated subjects. Its curriculum recommendations have been adopted by colleges and universities throughout the United States; in recent years, these standards have also become points of reference for the development of public relations education in many parts of the world. The commission's undergraduate curriculum has also served as the basis for the formation of chapters of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
About the PRSA Foundation
The PRSA Foundation is an independent, 50l (c) 3 charitable foundation which enhances the role of the public relations industry in serving the public good, by raising funds to support scholarships for public relations students,  research projects that impact the practice of public relations and public education initiatives that build greater awareness among business and government leaders about the role of public relations in serving the public good. Its role is to be a small foundation that serves as catalyst and convener.
About the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
With more than 31,000 members, PRSA is the largest organization of public relations professionals and students. PRSA is comprised of 111 local Chapters organized into 10 geographic Districts; 16 Professional Interest Sections that focus on issues, trends and research relevant to specialized practice areas, such as technology, health care, financial communications, entertainment and sports, and travel tourism; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which has more than 300 Chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. PRSA is headquartered in New York.

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