Total philanthropic support dedicated to public relations education has reached at least $15 million, according to a research report by the Commission on Public Relations Education.  The report’s author, Kathleen Kelly of the University of Florida, documented 64 major gifts ranging from $10,000 to $2 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.


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. 


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.