Debra Mesch

Professor of Philanthropic Studies; Director of Women's Philanthropy Institute; Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy

Women's Philanthropy Institute
University Hall, Suite 3000
301 University Boulevard
Indianapolis, IN


  • Ph.D. Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
  • M.B.A., Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
  • M.S., Vanderbilt University
  • B.S., University of Cincinnati


Debra Mesch is director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. As of July 1, 2015, she holds the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Endowed Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Dr. Mesch’s primary responsibility for the Women’s Philanthropy Institute is to guide the research agenda on the role of gender in philanthropy. She has undertaken studies addressing the role of women in Lions Clubs International and is currently working on a nation study of giving and volunteering of Lions Clubs in China. During her tenure as director of the WPI, she and her colleagues have written several reports for the Women Give series examining the effects of age, marital status, and income of gender differences in the likelihood and amount of giving to charity.

Dr. Mesch’s research agenda has focused on women’s philanthropy; issues of civic engagement; volunteer motivation and management; executive compensation in nonprofits; human resource management in nonprofits; diversity; and race and gender issues in giving and volunteering. Dr. Mesch received both her M.B.A. and Ph.D. in organizational behavior/human resource management from Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

Courses Taught

  • Gender and Philanthropy


Research Interests

  • Gender and philanthropy
  • Gender differences in giving and volunteering
  • Gender differences and civil society cross-nationally

Honors & Awards

  • Selected for Women Creating Excellence at IUPUI by the IUPUI Office for Women (2010)
  • 2014 America’s Top 20 Women in Philanthropy, Social Innovation & Civic Engagement (2014)

Grants & Funding

  • “How and Why Women Give.” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. $375,000.  11/18/2014–10/31/2015
  • “Charitable Giving by Older Women: Is There a “Bag Lady” Syndrome”? COP Research Fund. $12,000. 7/1/11–5/30/12


  • Wells Fargo Advisors—Indianapolis, IN; Cleveland, OH (2014)
  • PhilanSci Advisory—Boston, MA (2014)
  • The Nature Conservancy, NY (2013)
  • Nebraska AFP (2013)
  • St. Louis Art Museum (2013)
  • University of Rochester (in NYC) (2013)
  • Chicago Council on Planned Giving (2012)

Other Activities

  • Chair, Philanthropic Studies Faculty at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy