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Leader Profile:

Patrick Rooney

Patrick Rooney was the executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (now the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy) during the partnership between the academic philanthropy centers at Arizona State University, Indiana University, and Grand Valley State University. Rooney is an economist and researcher who is deeply engaged in documenting and understanding the scope and scale of philanthropy. Rooney's national perspective as an academic and a practitioner, and experience working with Michigan philanthropists, informs his reflections on Michigan’s history.

Leadership Highlights

  • Executive associate dean for academic programs, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
  • Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy’s chief operating officer and director of research, 1999–2008, and executive director, 2008-2012
  • Recipient of the John Grenzebach Research Award for Outstanding Published Scholarship from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, 2008
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about Michigan's initial interactions with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about philanthropic leaders being flexible in their goals for the field depending on the nature of their funding.
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about the many functions of academic centers on philanthropy.
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about the value of trust in relationships.
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about the spirit of cooperation that has helped build the field of philanthropy.
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about developing partnerships among the philanthropy centers in the Arizona-Indiana-Michigan (AIM) Alliance.
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about the impact of Learning to Give.
Dr. Patrick Rooney talks about his career in philanthropy.


Patrick Rooney earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics, a Master of Arts in economics, and a doctorate in economics from the University of Notre Dame.

Philanthropic Biography

Patrick Rooney cites his introduction to philanthropy as watching his parents model the importance of tithing in the Catholic Church at an early age. He learned that it was important to make an effort to help others, regardless of how much you had to give.

Contributions to the Field

While working as an assistant to the chancellor of Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Rooney was tasked with conducting a cost benefit analysis of the Indiana University Foundation and IUPUI’s development programs. Rooney developed a systematic approach to analyzing and tracking the cost benefit analysis for fundraising organizations, which was later published in a philanthropic journal (1999). The journal article caught the eye of Eugene Tempel, then executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, who recruited Rooney to begin working on more philanthropic-specific research projects.

Rooney eventually moved to a full-time position, serving as the chief operating officer and director of research for the center from 1999 to 2008. During his time, he helped transform the center into a premier research organization, directing such research projects as the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study in collaboration with the University of Michigan — the largest and most accurate study of charitable giving over time ever conducted — and the ongoing Giving USA report.

Rooney was the director of the Center on Philanthropy during the partnership between academic centers on philanthropy at Arizona State University, Indiana University, and Grand Valley State University. This unprecedented partnership between three of the nation’s leading centers for the study of philanthropy, the A.I.M. Alliance, sought to model collaboration and explore common research standards while increasing sector capacity and diversity.

Rooney lent his extensive knowledge of research and economics as a professor of economics and philanthropic studies at IUPUI for both graduate and undergraduate courses. He played a critical role in helping transition the organization from the Center on Philanthropy to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He currently serves as the executive associate dean for academic programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Rooney has served on multiple advisory committees, including for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the U.S. Bureau of the Census’ Current Population Survey, Association of Fundraising Professionals, the United Way of Central Indiana, and Independent Sector. He also served as a board member for the Rollins College Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Center, the Children’s Bureau of Indianapolis, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, and the Techpoint Foundation.


Patrick Rooney was interviewed regarding his insights and experiences in working with Michigan’s philanthropic community and the Our State of Generosity (OSoG) partners. The following quotes specifically relate to the five organizing themes of the OSoG project.

 Servant Leadership in Michigan Philanthropy

“There has been, I think, genuine buy-in among all the people that we’ve dealt with from Michigan that ‘this is important and this is not just about you and this is not just about any one individual or any one institution, and that we have an obligation to help build the field. We have an obligation and an opportunity to contribute in lots of different ways.’ Let’s think about, ‘are there other synergies by collaborating?’ And if not, then that’s fine, but if there are then let’s pursue that. I think it’s been very inspirational in many ways.”

Human, Financial, and Knowledge Resources

“One of the takeaways I have from first being director of research and then executive director was that money really matters, that you can have a great vision and great aspiration, but unless you have the funding to match that vision and aspiration, you’re just going to have frustration. Now whether that funding comes from earned income or philanthropic support or state support and so on, doesn’t matter as much as figuring out a way to put that together, right?”

“What I’ve observed in working in this field longer is that oftentimes, the more money that they’ve [foundations] given or granted, the more strings that are attached. And that can allow you to do things but it doesn’t give you a lot of discretion for creativity and innovation. One of the things that benefitted the Center on Philanthropy was that we had some goals and objectives … that we were expected to meet, but we had a lot of flexibility on how to do it, and we also had a lot of flexibility about establishing those goals ourselves. The relatively non-prescriptive nature of that funding gave us a lot of autonomy and self-determination to go where the field needed us to go, and I think that was imperative to our success in many respects.”

National & Global Implications

“At the end of the day, [Learning to Give] is not just strictly an academic exercise; I think the Learning to Give model and programs does that in a very core way, has this huge multiplier effect. So, you get people early on to think about their giving and volunteer behaviors … It is in fact about training the mind and the heart and the behavior to think about others in a way that mass, mosque, synagogue does and parents may do and so on. But in a society that is more mobile (you don’t have grandparents and great grandparents in the same house anymore helping reinforce the ideals of a good life in a philosophical sense and in a spiritual sense), having teachers and educators and peers reinforcing those ideas through the Learning to Give type programs, I think is a great idea. I think that you all should be very proud of that perhaps more so than anything else, because I think that will have likely the biggest impact (even though it’s the hardest to measure).”


IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Patrick Rooney. https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/people-directory/rooney-patrick.html


Rooney, P. M. (1999, Fall). A better methodology for analyzing the costs and benefits of fund raising at universities. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 10(1), 39-56. https://doi.org/10.1002/nml.10104

This profile was last updated: 05/20/2020