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UCLA Law launches the Lowell Milken Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofits

Pictured is the UCLA School of Law. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Amy Wong

Feb. 15, 2024 9:24 p.m.

UCLA community members said a new research center at the School of Law provides opportunities for leadership and scholarship related to nonprofit law and philanthropic efforts.

The law school established the Program on Philanthropy and Nonprofits in 2021, which has now transformed into the Lowell Milken Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofits after Milken, the founding donor of the center, gave an additional $8.05 million for its creation.

“What motivated me is the rather unique moment in history that’s taking place as my generation, the baby boomers, pass on the amount of wealth that they left to foundations,” Milken said. “(This) is something we’ve never seen in our nation before.”

Because of the recent donations Milken made, the law school can focus on serving the students in the nonprofit sector instead of spending time fundraising, said Jill Horwitz, faculty director of the Lowell Milken Center.

Joel Feuer, executive director of the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy who worked on the program, said he thought members of the law school could provide useful information to nonprofit and philanthropic communities.

“Lawyers have a lot of information and insight into these areas,” Feuer said. “I also felt that it (the nonprofit sector) was probably underserved by both law schools and other institutions.”

The nonprofit sector is an important part of culture, economy and civic expression, making the new center important, Horwitz said.

Rose Chan Loui, the executive director of the Lowell Milken Center, said she anticipates the center working in the three main areas of education, scholarship and thought leadership.

The new research center will also introduce law students to nonprofit law, a field many do not know exists, Horwitz said.

“Many people say that they want to work in a substantive area like environment, or civil rights or healthcare,” Horwitz said. “But a lot of lawyers end up working in those areas, … (and) part of what they’re doing is acting as an expert on nonprofit governance and organization law. We hope to offer them opportunities to train in those areas.”

Feuer said the center will educate law students about what nonprofits do and how nonprofit board members think about things, which he believes will be valuable.

Loui said in addition to education, the center can help practitioners through thought leadership.

“It’s also really important to me that in the present, we are there as a resource for the nonprofits and philanthropies that are working in our world today,” Loui said. “We definitely want to be educating the next generation of philanthropic and nonprofit advisors, but I think we can do that work now.”

As a research center, it can also contribute to current scholarship, Loui said. She added that this can be accomplished by looking at how the impact and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector can be improved, and by writing articles about how laws can be changed or interpreted.

Ellen Aprill, a senior scholar in residence at the center, said there are specific ways scholarship can influence decision-making, including through influencing tax policy.

“I do at times try to persuade the IRS and Treasury (Department) to adopt certain rules, and not to adopt (others),” Aprill said. “Research as to what the IRS and Treasury, in fact, do, can be useful to nonprofit practitioners of all kinds, whether they (are) lawyers, accountants or people inside nonprofits.”

The center is well-positioned to become an active and robust institution through its research and by hosting events, Feuer said.

On Feb. 29 and March 1, the center will host the 27th Annual Western Conference on Tax-Exempt Organizations, which will cover topics such as whether nonprofits can save journalism, and takeaways from recent Supreme Court decisions.

The conferences held at the center bring people interested in studying and learning about issues in the nonprofit sector from all over the country, Horwitz said, adding that she looks forward to collaborating with others.

“My research is at the border of law and policy, and so being able to convene in a space where we bring in practitioners and regulators and scholars to work together, that’s the stuff that makes my heart sing,” Horwitz said. “The center is giving me the space to do that.”

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