Publicness, Priorities, and Mega-gifts: Does Money Change Anything?
Webb Farley, Kathryn Elaine
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As constraints on public funding become more prevalent and public policy devolves funding responsibility to the agency level in part, public organizations seek additional revenue streams. One identified private resource is philanthropy, which has seen a growth in importance over the past decade as individuals with vast sums of wealth commit a portion of their fortunes to aid society. The literature on philanthropy primarily seeks to understand donor motivations in order to aid organizational pursuit of these funds, with some scholars finding that giving is often undemocratic and can give private donors power relative to other stakeholders. What is far less understood are the effects donations have on organizational priorities. This becomes an important question for public administration as philanthropic donations to public agencies seeking additional funding. To better understand the effects of this phenomenon, this research undertook two replicative case studies in public higher education, an area where public organizations that have a long history of fundraising as well as decreased public funding. Through the lens of quasi-autonomous governmental organizations, rather than privatization, this study triangulates archival, historical, and interview data to study changes in salience of university priorities after a mega-gift is made. In the two cases studied, mega-gifts were found to have some limited effects on salience of priorities. Three different interpretations can be drawn from the findings. First, as loosely-coupled structures, higher education institutions guard against change. Second, control is a negotiated proposition and thus the potential for gifts to create change may be limited. Third, mega-gifts enable structural change, which allows some organizational actors to work with private donor to set agendas for otherwise public functions. These findings are particularly important for public policy makers, administrators, and citizens to understand and scholars to build upon as increasing numbers of public organizations seek to raise private monies.
- Doctoral Dissertations