Fundraising for SMPA career network dwindles for second year

Media Credit: Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

The School of Media and Public Affairs received just $2,325 in donations to their Career Access Network last year.

Donations to the School of Media and Public Affairs’ Career Access Network have slowed for the second consecutive year – but officials said the decline won’t deter the school from hitting its fundraising goal by 2020.

The network, which gives scholarships to SMPA seniors and graduate students in low-paid or unpaid summer internships, has raised $182,221 so far but collected just $2,325 in the last year. The funds put the school at roughly 73 percent of its $250,000 goal, which SMPA Director Frank Sesno says is enough to give him “full confidence” that the fundraising effort will hit its 2020 goal on or ahead of schedule.

“We will continue to expand the SMPA CAN internship and mentorship programs to provide students with hands-on professional experience and direct access to learn and engage with an amazing network of alumni and distinguished friends of the school,” he said in an email.

Sesno said there is no yearly fundraising goal for the fund and that SMPA will “continue to have strong engagement with potential donors who want to support SMPA students in a meaningful way.”

Fundraising for CAN, which began in 2015 as part of SMPA’s 25th-anniversary celebration, has slowed in the past two years. The network raised roughly $160,000 in the 2015-16 academic year – largely backed by five alumni fundraising events – but raised approximately $20,000 in the 2016-17 academic year.

SMPA awarded nine scholarships through the CAN program this year, three more than last year, University spokesman Jason Shevrin said. Shevrin declined to say how much money was awarded to the nine students for their summer internships.

Sesno and Shevrin both declined to say why fundraising has slowed this year and whether SMPA officials had plans to increase donor outreach in the near future.

Char Beales, the former chair and current member of the SMPA National Council, said after the initial fundraising push in 2015, officials found that the sum raised was enough to administer the planned $1,000 to $3,000 scholarships last year and this year, so fundraising efforts wound down.

“It turns out that the $160,000 appears sufficient to achieve our original goal, hence SMPA isn’t seriously fundraising for SMPA CAN, although we continue to receive contributions to this worthy fund,” she said in an email.

Paul Wilson, a member of the SMPA National Council, said he “wouldn’t panic” about the small amount raised this year because the University will launch another fundraising campaign after the CAN fund’s current balance is empty.

“My guess is that $160,000 will last for nearly four years and then another campaign will need to be mounted — which is how all universities work,” he said. “Raise money. Thank everyone. Take a breath. Do it again.”

SMPA faculty said internships are critical for journalism students, but they are often unpaid opportunities that are not accessible for financially disadvantaged students – a situation that SMPA aims to rectify with the CAN.

“Internships are an invaluable experience, but many of the good ones are unpaid and students with financial need cannot always take full advantage of them,” Steven Roberts, a professor of media and public affairs who heads the SMPA awards committee, said.

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