If charity is any economic indicator, then wealthy donors have retrenched their nervousness about the economy as a whole. Two years ago, $1 million dollar plus donations to colleges and universities were under 500 such charitable gifts for the first time since 2012. Last year, that was reversed to almost 600, but the reversal was not to be sustained in 2017 where once again less than 500 donations – only 460 to be exact were of the $1 million dollar plus variety to colleges and universities. The largest donation made its way to UC-San Francisco to the tune of $500 million by the Hellen Miller Foundation whose source of wealth stems from real estate. For perspective, this donation is an amount equal to twenty-five percent of all HBCU endowments combined.
For HBCUs, the trend has been a constant struggle to get back to 2014 when nine such donations were made to our institutions. Since that time, not more than five have occurred in a given year in the past three years and this year marks the lowest number with only three donations of $1 million plus. That HBCUs can not even garner three percent (the number that HBCUs represent as a total of all American colleges and universities) marks a continued challenge in the financial arms race that is happening among higher education institutions as the shifting landscape of the 21st century unfolds. Without the transformative donations, HBCUs remain reliant on tuition revenue and at risk in competing for talent both among faculty, students, research, and infrastructure. What is the solution to this philanthropic Rubik Cube? As with most problems, there is more than one solution, but there is no doubt those solutions need to come fast and soon.
If you need perspective on just how large the gap is between the largest donations to HWCU/PWIs and HBCUs is – the top three PWI donations totaled $969 million. In contrast, HBCUs top three donations totaled $3.7 million, an amount that is 262 times less.
1. Orlando L. Clark (pictured above) – $1.59 Million
Recipient: Tuskegee University
Source of Wealth: Health care
2. Antonio Clayton – $1.1 Million
Recipient: Southern U. System Foundation
Source of Wealth: Law
3. George & Jill Hamilton – $1 Million Recipient: North Carolina Central University
Source of Wealth: Chemicals
Source: The Center for Philanthropy