Outside the front steps of the Schulich School of Law building. (Photo: Kelly Graham)

NSCAD works hard to raise funds

While Dalhousie, SMU, and St.FX have enjoyed generous gifts from major donors in recent years, NSCAD is having a difficult time finding one

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Just a few million dollars could help the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design solve its current financial crisis. This may seem like a lot to students trying to support their school through art sales and benefit concerts, but fundraisers say one major donor could go a long way.

These days, philanthropists across the country are donating millions to have their names attached to medical and business schools.

Who are the major donors?

In 2009 the Dalhousie Law School received a $20-million donation from Seymour Schulich, and renamed itself the Schulich School of Law. The Canadian Business magazine's 2010 list rated Schulich as the 45th wealthiest person in Canada. According to the report his net worth was approximately $1.35 billion. His sources of wealth including the Newmont Mining Corporation and the Canadian Oil Sands Trust. 

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Students give their views on wether or not universities should allow donors to name buildings.

Click to Enlarge Units are $500,000. Information for this graph was taken from MSVU, Dalhousie, and NSCAD financial statements for 2010/2011.

Last year Saint Francis Xavier University received a $10-million donation to their business school from businessman and co-founder of the CanWest media corporation, Gerald Schwartz. The school now houses the Gerald Schwartz School of Business.

Likewise, Saint Mary's University is opening the Homburg Centre for Health and Wellness in April 2012, named for entrepreneurial real estate investor Richard Homburg, who has an honourary doctorate in commerce from SMU.

The NSCAD Dilemma

Meanwhile, NSCAD University, which offers degrees in fine arts and design, finds itself in a serious financial crisis and struggles to raise the funds it needs just to stay afloat.

Marilyn Smulders, Director of Communications at NSCAD, points out a key distinction between fundraising for fine arts schools and other professional faculties has to do with the number of art institutions that exist in Nova Scotia.

"There's just a lot of competition for these kinds of dollars," she says. "Our school competes with other art institutions like the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Neptune Theatre, or the Symphony Nova Scotia."

Where law and business schools are natural targets for donors who have made their careers in those fields, there are numerous ways to give money to the arts without necessarily donating to an educational establishment, Smulders says.

NSCAD has been getting a lot of vocal support from its own students and alumni, and has recently embarked on an effort to convert that support into dollars, she adds.

"We have an annual fundraising campaign called NSCAD Now, based on the stories of students and alumni and the transformative experience that they get at NSCAD," Smulders says. 

One recent donation of $100,000 by the Harrison McCain Foundation will outfit a new screen-printing studio. Although this is a substantial contribution, Smulders says, it's still a far cry from the kind of money that has kept the Dalhousie law school and other universities in Nova Scotia afloat.

What motivates the philanthropists?

Adrienne Malloy, the senior vice president of RBR Development Associates Ltd, a fundraising consultants firm, says there's a very passionate reason why the wealthy in our society look to make six and seven figure donations.

"It is normally because they believe in the mission of the organization and believe their investment will have a real impact and outcome," Malloy says. "The motivation for giving is not a tax receipt and not recognition, the main motivation is a belief in the cause."

Moshe Ronen, managing director of the Schwartz-Reisman Foundation agrees.

"We canvas potential recipients from across the country and try to assess where a donation will most contribute to society," Ronen explains.

Diane Chisholm, the fundraising co-ordinator for the Schulich School of Law, says, "Private fundraising, rather than taxpayer and tuition-based funding, is becoming the way Canadian universities are fueling growth."

While in the past there was some controversy surrounding the acceptance of private funds and the renaming of Canada's oldest law school after a major donor, the positive impact of the gift cannot be understated.

"Frankly, $20 million seems out of this world," Chisholm says.

As for NSCAD, even a modest donation would be welcomed. As Smulders points out, "We are a small school and the dollars go a lot farther." 

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