Practicing What You Preach: UK Philanthropy Practitioners’ Experiences of Theoretical Academic Study




Philanthropic studies, philanthropy, higher education, nonprofit studies, pracademia


Analysis of UK educational provision in philanthropic studies (Carrington, 2009; Keidan et al., 2014; Palmer & Bogdanova, 2008) has demonstrated a need for further provision of philanthropy education for the UK sector. Taking its lead from debates around the role of academic theory in this growing field of study, this project aims to determine how theoretical (rather than practical) master’s-level study of philanthropy is understood and perceived by those working in the philanthropy, charity and fundraising sectors. Using a qualitative case study, this paper will present and discuss three key themes emergent from the data. These are: the ethical soup philanthropy practitioners experience as a result of reflection on their practice, the trickle effect of how literature and theory is shared around their networks, and the interdisciplinarity problem whereby the teaching of philanthropic theory from multiple disciplines can make application of the theory to practice difficult. The paper will conclude with some suggestions of what theory in the academy can contribute to practitioner skills in the philanthropy sector, including both strengths and some limitations

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Author Biography

Triona Fitton, University of Kent

Lecturer in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research