Associate Director of The Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy, Indiana University

Tyrone Freeman is the Associate Director of The Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy, Indiana University. Tyrone is an alumnus of The Fund Raising School, and joined the staff in 2008 after serving nearly 15 years as a fundraiser in the non-profit sector. Formerly director of development for the Indiana University School of Education at Indianapolis, Tyrone coordinated a comprehensive fundraising programme focused on supporting urban public education and led the school’s first successful capital campaign.

He also previously held development leadership positions with a youth and family social services organisation, an after-school programming organisation, and a community development corporation. Tyrone teaches core curriculum courses and customised contract programs for The Fund Raising School and regularly makes conference and seminar presentations for the School and the Center. With a specialised background in adult learning and development, Tyrone has also served as an instructor for graduate courses in the School of Continuing Studies, the School of Education, and the School of Public & Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Tyrone is a doctoral candidate in Philanthropic Studies at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. His specialty areas are philanthropy, fundraising and education; and the history of philanthropy and fundraising in the United States.

Five Questions

1. How long have you worked in the non-profit space?

I first started working in the non-profit space in the mid-1990s through my graduate school internships which enabled me to work in local non-profit organisations in Indiana, USA. Since that time, I have served in full-time development positions for organisations in community development, youth and family services, and higher education.

2. What are the most significant changes you’ve observed in that time? Please share these with us – the good, the bad & the ugly.

My work has enabled me to travel in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. I am excited by the energy and activity in non-profit spaces around the world. Although languages, cultures and perspectives may be different, the common thread is that individuals are voluntarily acting and working together to make their communities better. In some instances, this is a relatively new thing. In others, it’s an extension of long-standing traditions and practices. Technology and media are bringing easier access and renewed focus and attention to these global activities. It is very exciting to observe these activities and changes, and, in some instances, play a small part in building the capacity of individuals and organisations through training and support to pursue their missions.

Another interesting development, which has potentially both positive and negative consequences, is the evolving relationship between an increasingly set of sophisticated donors and the non-profit organisations they support. Some donors have very clear goals for how they direct their philanthropic giving and expect—perhaps even demand—a certain amount of attention, input, influence, and hands-on involvement. Simultaneously, organisations are wrestling with how much donor input, influence and involvement is too much as they strive to achieve their goals while retaining their autonomy and using strategies, research, and best practices based on their professional expertise and experience which may be at odds with donor perspectives. So it is an interesting time in terms of how these relationships will continue to develop and which approaches will lead to desired change and achievement of goals for the common good.

3. What are the holy grails for you in higher education advancement work, i.e. which sources of information are you constantly referring to and or recommending?

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is a comprehensive academic research centre that provides educational programs, research and training. It regularly offers research reports, degree programmes, symposia, training and other activities that are very useful to organisations around the world. The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a must read, both its bi-weekly print issues and daily electronic newsletters. The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) is an important resource for advancement practitioners as is the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Both associations have international affiliates, conferences, publications and gatherings that enable me to connect with other advancement professionals, stay abreast of trends and best practices. Finally, the Association of Research on non-profit Organisations & Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) is a gathering of researchers and practitioners in the non-profit space from around the world. It provides conferences, publications and networking resources and opportunities that help me stay connected to colleagues who are researchers and practitioners. It has an international membership, so it helps to break down borders and barriers to enhance collaboration. The recent meeting in Toronto, Canada was a wonderful experience and I always learn when I participate.

4. What do you do in terms of continuous education?

I am currently completing my doctoral degree in Philanthropic Studies at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. This programme has enabled me to broaden my understanding of philanthropy and the non-profit space in ways I could not have imagined prior to my admission. It has greatly enhanced my work and perspective on our field in both conceptual and practical ways. It has also enabled me to teach and write for the non-profit space which has provided new learning and perspectives on our field as well. I also enjoy participating in conferences produced by AFP and CASE, and read academic journals about philanthropy and fundraising. I think it’s important for practitioners to keep up with both research and practice in order to be effective in our field.

5. What motivates your work in this sector?

My interest and commitment to working in the non-profit sector is rooted in my early experiences growing up in the African American Baptist Church as the son, grandson, nephew and cousin of preachers. After professing my own faith at the age of 11, my father told me that I could no longer simply sit in the pews—I had to serve. So I joined the junior usher board among other activities. As a member of the church, I shared fellowship with “fellow-believers,” supported missions activities, and typically enjoyed meals together after service. I never thought of any of this activity as volunteerism or “associationalism.” It was simply “doing the Lord’s work,” as the old folks would say. Additionally, in the African American religious tradition, the pastor and his family are held in great esteem and frequently viewed as extensions of the church members’ own families. Members regularly remembered my birthday with cards and gifts—to this day I still receive a birthday card from one elderly member in particular who has been doing so since I was a very young child. In a way, it is her ministry—remembering people on their birthdays and reminding them of God’s love for them. Other members frequently came to my ball games or took me and my sister to community events of interest, like performances or just to the park. And they frequently shared thoughts and words of support and inspiration as their way of “being a blessing.” I now understand these activities as their way of living out their faith and showing “love for mankind”—which is the Greek definition of philanthropy. This was my first experience with informal and intangible philanthropic expressions. To this day, their words and love have been just as important—perhaps more—than any scholarship or other financial gift that I may have received. And these experiences influence my own research agenda and practice as someone who studies and works in philanthropy and the non-profit sector.