Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Thinking outside of the Fundraising Box: From Black-Tie Events to Direct Deposit Donations from Alumni, Private HBCUs Are Finding Success in Creative Fundraising

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Thinking outside of the Fundraising Box: From Black-Tie Events to Direct Deposit Donations from Alumni, Private HBCUs Are Finding Success in Creative Fundraising

Article excerpt

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After Dr. Larry Earvin became Huston-Tillotson University president, he crafted an annual black-tie gala to raise scholarship funds. Despite the country's economic doldrums, Earvin's event this year netted proceeds pushing the cumulative total since 2004 to more than $1 million.

When Beverly Hogan became Tougaloo College president, she urged alumni to make charitable donations supporting the school. One of Hogan's recent initiatives has Tougaloo automatically collecting $20-a-month minimum contributions from each graduate signing up for bank-account drafts.

Hogan and Earvin are among leaders of private historically Black colleges and universities whose fundraising skills have helped their institutions survive and thrive in their niches.

Regardless of their constituencies, the overwhelming majority of U.S. private schools are tuition-dependent.

"It's always hard for small, minority-serving institutions to educate low-income students," says Dr. Michael Lomax, United Negro College Fund president.

More than 50 percent of students at UNCF schools like HT and Tougaloo have families whose annual income is $25,000 or less, Lomax says.

Many of these schools are lesser known among the general public than the wealthier Morehouse and Spelman colleges, which boast endowments that are at least four times more. But financially modest schools play as big a role in producing Black professionals. More than 40 percent of Black doctors and lawyers in Mississippi, for instance, are Tougaloo graduates.

School presidents interviewed for this story say increased alumni financial support has been key to their success.

Before Hogan assumed Tougaloo's presidency in 2002, only 13 percent of 9,000 graduates had ever made a gift. She has made a habit of attending annual fundraisers of the 25 alumni chapters in order to praise but also to inform them of college news and accompfishments so they don't feel that only their checkbooks are valued. Alumni giving has tripled to 39 percent, totaling some $1 million a year.

In Tougaloo's bank-draft program, the average monthly donation runs $125; one participant gives more than $800.

"It doesn't matter if you were here in 1950 or 2009, you probably have a little to spare," Hogan says.

Lomax says the most financially savvy UNCF schools are led by presidents who avoid high-loss ventures.

Dr. Luns Richardson, president of Morris College in South Carolina, acknowledges that his nickname of "Scrooge" is deserved but illustrates the importance of fiscal prudence. For instance, students and faculty were delighted when Morris gained ownership of a local AM radio station as a gift in the early 1990s. But with station operations resulting in losses of $30,000 a month, Richardson decided to sell it.

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"Here, we put education first. …

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