Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use. – Gamaliel Bailey
There was thankfully almost no where to go but up after The Center for Philanthropy’s 2013 database reported HBCUs garnered only one $1 million or more donation out of the 559 to colleges and universities. However, with overall $1 million or more donations in 2014 to colleges and universities down 7.5 percent there was not much expectation that HBCUs would see a substantial increase from the previous year. Yet, a substantial increase there was as nine donations of $1 million or more found their way into HBCU hands out of the 517 to colleges and universities in 2014. This represents an increase from 0.2 percent to 1.7 percent of the overall donations year over year.
It is not all glitter and gold though. The gap between the top donations to HBCUs vs. HWCUs highlights both the institutional and household wealth gap that persist in this country. Combined, the nine donations totaled an impressive $20.5 million for HBCUs. Unfortunately if you take the top nine to HWCUs that number is $1.2 billion or 56 times greater. The gap between the largest donations is even bigger. Harvard University received a $350 million gift, while Paul Quinn College received a $4.4 million gift or an amount almost 80 times less. Transformative donors who can change the paradigm of an entire institution with one donation are much harder to come by for HBCUs. Transformative donations can be different amounts for different size institutions, but the definition lends itself to a minimum of $50 million and above for HBCUs. A figure that would double the bottom half of the top ten HBCU endowments and move the needle double digits on the upper half of the top ten HBCU endowments.
So what is holding back these transformative donations to HBCUs? A myriad of factors. Most transformative donors are titans of industry throughout America and the world. Their ownership in corporations and investments lends them the wealth to do such. African America’s disproportionate labor presence in the public sector where incomes are limited, lack of entrepreneurship, and lack of overall investment in our own institutions often aborts the ability for capital to circulate in African America. However, as more HBCUs are creating entrepreneurship centers on their campuses this could prove in the long-term a positive shift. In the short term, there has to be more emphasis on securing donations from the likes of African American celebrities willing to both give seven figure donations and lend their public capital to the institutions in the way of attracting more donors. That is if HBCUs can throw off their issues of being donor image conscious.
The growth in the number of $1 million or more donations is a positive if it continues, but the amounts as well need to see dramatic increases as well for us to make sure our institutions are viable for generations to come.
1. Trammell S. Crow – $4.4 Million
Recipient: Paul Quinn College
Source of Wealth: Family wealth, Real estate
2. Alfred C. Liggins – $4 Million
Recipient: Howard University
Source of Wealth: Media and entertainment
3. Ada Cecilia Collins Anderson – $3 Million Recipient: Huston-Tillotson University
Source of Wealth: Insurance, Real estate
4. Anonymous – $2.1 Million Recipient: Virginia Union University
Source of Wealth: N/A
5. Anonymous – $2 Million Recipient: Stillman College
Source of Wealth: N/A
6. Steve and Anne Pajcic – $2 Million Recipient: Edward Waters College University
Source of Wealth: Law
7. Nicholas Perkins – $1 Million Recipient: Fayetteville State University
Source of Wealth: Food and beverage
8. Josh Smith – $1 Million Recipient: Central State University
Source of Wealth: Consulting
9. William R. & Norma B. Harvey – $1 Million Recipient: Talladega College
Source of Wealth: Education, Manufacturing
Source: The Center for Philanthropy