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12 Things Your HBCU Alumni Association/Chapter Needs To Do To Be Financially Successful

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

Far too many HBCU Alumni Associations and Chapters have been asleep at the wheel for far too long financially. They have conducted themselves like a child who says they want to start a lemonade stand, but refuses to take the time to make a plan of acquiring lemons, sugar, water, and certainly not building a lemonade stand. There is more time spent playing with their friends and then seemingly complaining that their friends do not support their lemonade stand – that does not exist. It is enough to drive one mad. We have laid out twelve steps that HBCU alumni associations and chapters need to do to make themselves financially integral and sustainable for the future to meet the financial needs of both African America and the HBCUs they serve.

  1. Move banking accounts to African American owned banks and/or credit unions. It is utterly baffling that HBCUs and HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters at this point still have not done this very elementary point of economic development given the acute presence of the #BankBlack movement over the past few years. Public HBCUs have more red tape by being state institutions and there are significant political dynamics at play there, but private HBCUs and HBCU alumni associations/chapters at private or public HBCUs at this point simply have no excuse.
  2. Invest in technology, especially financial technology. If HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters want younger alumni involvement as they claim then they have to come into the 21st century – do you realize we are two decades into the 21st century and some HBCU foundations, alumni associations/chapters do not have a functioning web presence. This is where typically you would insert a mind blown emoji or gif. It is unfathomable and inexcusable at this point. HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters need a web and social media presence independent of the mother institution for a myriad of reasons that should be readily apparent without great explanation. Alumni associations/chapters can work out an agreement with their schools to create work study that involves social media work and web development for those students who are interested and have the necessary skillset. Otherwise, spend the money and pay for a real web designer and social media manager – it is worth it. Financial technology – accepting payment by Venmo, CashApp, etc. should not be groundbreaking it should be standard. There are a plethora of financial technology available for nonprofit organizations. This should be the job of the treasurer at both the national and chapter levels to find technology that can improve the financial efficiency.
  3. Collect information on your members. Know your association/chapters strengths and weaknesses. If you plan on doing education outreach with your alumni association/chapter, it may help knowing who in the organization that has a background and connections in education. Need to put on an event? It may help to know the alumnus who worked in event planning or knows someone who does. Other information should be household income, level of education, home ownership, etc. The more information the better (we will explain the value of this in another point). But not knowing what assets you have is a dearth of proper planning and strategy.
  4. Write a business plan. If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there. This opaque behavior is stressfully true with HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters. We have an alumni association/chapter, now what? Having a written plan of what you want to accomplish, why, and how is paramount to any organization. HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters are no different. The business plan should be reviewed and updated every 3-4 years to ensure that goals are on track . A review committee made up of internal and external members would be advised.
  5. Create a revenue and investment committee. These can be one committee or two committees, but it needs to exist. Beyond dues, how does the association/chapter plan to make money? Thinking of ways that revenue can be generated and those ideas presented to the association and chapter would be vital. Seriously, because have we not killed the annual golf tournament? Someone on this committee needs to have an investment background and if there is no one in the chapter with it, then invite a local financial adviser to sit on the committee in a volunteer role to help.
  6. Raise dues. There was just a collective gasp from everyone just now. However, creativity. Right now, most associations/chapters charge annual dues of $25-35 annually. Going to a monthly model of $5-10 can skyrocket annual dues revenue to $60-120 which is an increase of over 100 percent in dues revenue and it is an amount that few will miss. Implementing financial technology can allow this to be automated around alumni pay periods.
  7. Produce a newsletter and sale local advertising. Remember the roster of your membership and the data we talked about collecting. This is extremely valuable in putting together a media kit that you can use to sell local advertising in. Most alumni associations/chapters send out newsletters anyway. The ability to monetize that in the most optimal way requires being able to tell potential advertisers who they are reaching. Imagine being able to simply sell ten advertisements a year with twelve month commitments that each pay $50 per month. This is $6,000 in new annual revenue for the chapter from local businesses and relationship building.
  8. Hire a financial adviser. It can be the aforementioned one or a different one, but this also needs to be done. Associations/Chapters should be generating far more income than they do with the collective financial ability at their disposal. As an entity, your association/chapter can have a brokerage account that invest in stocks and bonds – not just sitting in a checking and savings account losing purchasing power. Ensure that the financial adviser is credible. There are even African American brokerage firms that can provide accounts and advising all under one roof. Again, we are not going to fundraise our way to institutional wealth. Our organizations’ money needs to be making money while it “sleeps” because money never sleeps.
  9. Purchase real estate. Now that you have a financial adviser, your chapter should also retain a real estate adviser to help build a rental property portfolio. Remember, we just created $6,000 in new annual revenue via the newsletter. You also raised dues from $25 to $60 and with the $35 surplus on a chapter of just twenty alumni that provides and extra $700 annually. In line with your investment income from your brokerage is also rental income. The association/chapter can focus on purchasing everything from single-family to commercial properties. If chapters purchased near their HBCU, it could help stem off any potential gentrification as many HBCUs are seeing, but in little position to do anything about. They could also purchase real estate locally where their chapter is located. This would provide the association/chapter another stream of revenue and diversified real estate holdings.
  10. Invest in African American small businesses. This could be done in conjunction with African American owned banks/credit unions. If a small business could not qualify for a SBA loan, then the chapter could work out a deal with the bank that would allow them to review the investment on the bank’s recommendation. The chapter would then either invest in the business with equity or provide a loan and act as a shadow lender. We know this is something desperately needed for many African American small businesses who are trying to grow and for some reason or another lack access to traditional financial products. Imagine a local African American kid comes to the bank with the next great social media company, but he needs $38,000 to get it going and does not qualify, but the bank says they have a program that may work to help him. The chapter invest the $38,000 for a 50 percent stake and acts as a passive investor while the kid builds his dream. Why $38,000? This is the amount Mark Zuckerberg and classmate Eduardo Saverin invested to get Facebook off the ground in 2004. A company now worth $840 billion and a 50 percent stake would be worth $420 billion – from a $38,000 investment. Not to mention the potential to secure jobs and internships for your HBCU’s students and alumni as the company grew.
  11. Endow internships at local organizations. HBCU alumni constantly complain about our students not having access to opportunity. Well, now with your new found financial wealth you can buy them access just like everyone else does for their community. The Museum of Natural Science in New York, Miami, Houston, etc. sure do appreciate that $100,000 donation your association/chapter gave them to hire a paid summer internship. The condition? That intern needs to come from your HBCU. Now, a student from your HBCU gets a paid summer internship, work experience in a field of their interest, and most importantly builds their professional network.
  12. Be transparent. Associations and chapters need to ensure that members feel like they know and understand what is going on. Part of this is improving the membership’s financial aptitude through financial literacy so that they understand the decisions being made on some level. Have a quarterly review of the financial portfolio and an annual audit. Trust is vital and for African American organizations that trust is built through transparency.

HBCU Alumni Associations & Chapters should be the symbol of group economics for African America. Instead, the actions have been more hat in hand with the rest of African American organizations who could, but do not leverage their capability. The infrastructure is there for HBCU Alumni Associations & Chapters to be financial forces if the proper financial strategy and plan is implemented. It is time to stop playing and start planning, there is a lemonade stand to build.

Do HBCU Alumni Associations Need A Big Frying Pan?

This article is a speech given by the late President Emeritus Dr. A.I. Thomas (pictured below) in 2007 to the Prairie View A&M University National Alumni Association. Dr. Thomas was the longest serving president in Prairie View A&M University history and arguably its greatest. The speech has been altered to address all HBCU alumni associations, but at the time was given to the Prairie View A&M National Alumni Association. His vision for the scale and power HBCU alumni associations could wield remains unprecedented – and still unimplemented. Dr. Thomas understood both the power of institutionalism and the importance of Pan-Africanism as a means to empowerment and liberation for African America and the African Diaspora. His speech is the full embodiment of those ideals and values from which he presided, believed, and lived to the fullest during his life. Hopefully, shining light on his words will reignite the flame that needs to and must burn for not only our survival, but our success.

By Dr. A.I. Thomas, President Emeritus – Prairie View A&M University

Since I am speaking to you at a luncheon meeting, it seems appropriate that I ask, “Do HBCU National Alumni Associations Need a Big Frying Pan?”

Surely, you have heard the story of the HBCU Alumni who were fishing on the lake. One of the HBCU Alumni noticed that every time his classmate caught a little fish, he placed it in his take home basket. Whenever his classmate caught a big fish, he threw the big fish back into the lake. After watching his classmate put about twelve little fish in his take home basket and threw about twelve big fish back into the lake, he asked his classmate, “Why do you always throw the big fish back into the lake?” His friend announced with a knowing smile, “Ray, I don’t keep the big fish because I only have a small frying pan.”

Members of HBCU National Alumni Associations, I am sure that you would agree that it may be time for Ray to get a big frying pan or get a big skillet.

  • Yes, it is important to have a dance. It fits a little skillet.
  • Yes, it is important to have a party. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have a golf tournament. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have a bus tour. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have this luncheon. It fits a little frying pan.

Let me encourage you to consider at least five big fish for your HBCU National Alumni Association.

For these five big fish, HBCU National Alumni Associations will need a big frying pan or a big skillet. Let us quit throwing the big fish back into the lake of opportunity.

The first big fish HBCU National Alumni Associations should place in a big skillet, in the years ahead is the creation of a:

think tank

Within the membership of HBCU National Alumni Associations there are some of the brightest minds in the nation.

There is a need to bring together not more than 50 people and have them “think out” an agenda for the future of HBCU National Alumni Associations.

Tavis Smiley has laid out a: Covenant with Black America.

The Urban League has laid out the State of Black America 2019.

William D. Wright has laid out what he believes in: “Crisis of the Black Intellectual.”

“Think Tank” is a term that has gained popularity since the 1950s.

Each day you hear ideas from more than 25 “Think Tanks” which are mentioned in the mainstream news. These “Think Tanks” have programs which give direction to the ideas of each group.

Conservative “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Heritage Foundation

Liberal “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • Brookings Institute
  • Economic Policy Institute

Non-Partisan “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • The Cato Institute
  • The Ayn Institute

There are governing “Think Tanks”, Chinese, European, Russian, and other international “Think Tanks.”

Each one of these “Think Tanks” lays out its philosophy, purpose, strategic plan, and road map for the future. A “Think Tank” then gets its supporters behind its programs.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia web site states, “A Think Tank is an organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research advocacy for a central purpose.”

HBCU National Alumni Associations must create a “Think Tank” to:

  1. Guide its future;
  2. Centralize its philosophy, mission, purpose, goals, and programs;
  3. Develop consensus in its membership;
  4. Influence the power structure to accept its programs; and
  5. Give orderly direction to the growth and development of the HBCU National Alumni Association.

The results of the “Think Tank” would establish a clear direction to foundations, politicians, financial power brokers, legislators, etc.

The Second “Big Fish” recommendation for HBCU National Alumni Associations is

CAPITALISM

We live in a capitalistic society. All of us must understand money. The value of money! The use of money!

Each of you know the value of a little money – over the years, all of you have acquired some money, many of you have acquired “Big Money.” The National Alumni Associations must begin to understand the value of owning, acquisition, and the ability to access “Big Money.”

Consideration should be given to the development of your HBCU National Alumni Association Financial Group.

Most of the alumni in this room have at least $10,000 or more conveniently resting in money market accounts at low interest rates. Some of you have $10,000 or more earning less than 1% in checking accounts. Using highly qualified financial counselors or advisors, 100 members of the Alumni Association could be issued $10,000 guaranteed membership certificates in the HBCU National Alumni Association Financial Group. Immediately, the HBCU National Alumni Association would have an equity position of $1,000,000. This million dollar equity position could be leveraged into a $20,000,000 position to: 1) underwrite real estate, 2) owning a pasta factory, 3) venture capital or other financial ventures. If there were not so many hardcore Baptists in the audience, I would recommend a $20,000,000 Wild Turkey Whiskey or Johnny Walker Scotch distributorship. In five  years this $20,000,000 could be leveraged into a $100,000,000 equity position. For this $100,000,000 fish HBCU National Alumni will need a big frying pan.

The second recommendation  for the use of a “big frying pan” is to develop an on-line fund-raising program. Most of you are familiar with what Governor Howard Dean did with on-line fund raising program in the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign. He went after $5 and $10 contributions from the small contributors. Barack Obama is a leader in the current political campaign using on-line fund raising. This on-line fund-raising is driving the current political campaigns into the largest bounty in the history of the United States political fund raising.

A $10,000 investment to construct a high quality alumni web site promoting the value of higher education for African-American youth would reach alumni, ex-students, and individuals interested in helping youth go to college.

Ten thousand alumni plus ten thousand hits from non-alumni would be 20,000 contributors. If these 20,000 contributed an average $100 per donor, HBCU National Alumni Associations would need a frying pan big enough to hold $2,000,000.

Get industry to match the $2,000,000 from individual donors and your HBCU National Alumni Association would need a big frying pan to fry this fish.

Alumni and others interested in the education of  youth and in HBCUs could be encouraged to give a $25 per month bank draft. Ten thousand bank drafts at $25 per person is $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year.

This is Capitalism. This is the American Way. The day of the nickel cup of coffee  is over, never to come again. Starbucks is selling coffee for $1.85 and is making a fortune from a global customer base.

These are only two ideas relating to “Capitalism.” HBCU National Alumni Associations will be able to develop many more and better ideas related to “Capitalism.”

The third “Big Fish” recommendation HBCU National Alumni Associations must consider is

RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMMUNITY

40 years ago, the Kerner Report identified “Two Americas, Separate but Unequal.” 

When Katrina moved the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the below sea level bowl in New Orleans, we saw the two Americas. We saw individuals, families, and communities like the Ninth Ward, made up of blacks, Hispanics, and whites driven from hidden dens of poverty into the depths of despair. We saw city, state, and federal officials fail to respond to the needs of the “unequal” communities.

Dr. Ron Walters, an African American Social Scientist at the University of Maryland published a paper titled, “No. 1 Statistics on Blacks in the United States.” Among his No. 1 conditions are:

  • No. 1 in the poverty rate
  • No. 1 in the rate of incarceration
  • No. 1 in victims of homicide
  • No. 1 in victims of hate crimes
  • No. 1 in mortgage denial rates
  • No. 1 in obesity and diabetes rates
  • No. 1 in teachers in neighborhood classrooms with less than three years experience
  • No. 1 in receiving the death sentence
  • No. 1 in the unemployment line
  • No. 1 in suspensions and expulsions
  • No. 2 in percentage of Americans without health care
  • No. 1 in teenage pregnancy
  • No. 1 in HIV among black women
  • No. 1 in still born deaths

You ask…How can we get to be No. 1 in the positive aspects of community? The response maybe in how we got to be

  • No. 1 in collegiate basketball
  • No. 1 in pro basketball with 20 year old players making millions of dollars
  • No. 1 in pro football
  • No. 1 in Hip Hop music
  • No. 1 in the music industry

Tavis Smiley recently published a New York Times Best Seller, entitled, “The Covenant.” He listed ten key concerns:

  1. Securing the right to health care and well being
  2. Quality education for all children
  3. Correcting the System of Unequal Justice
  4. Fostering Community Policing
  5. Access to Affordable Neighborhoods
  6. Claiming our Democracy
  7. Strengthening Our Roots
  8. Access to Jobs
  9. Environmental Justice
  10. Closing the Racial Divide

Smiley quotes Dr. Cornel West, “You can’t lead our people if you don’t love our people. You can’t save our people if you won’t serve our people.”

The State of Black America 2007, published by The National Urban League, focused on 10 essays on the plight of young men.

With almost 40% of young black men unemployed of incarcerated, where was the focus on the recent debates by the 20 Democrats and Republicans actively running for President in 2008.

Do HBCU National Alumni Associations need a “big frying pan” in order to positively impact communities? Can HBCU National Alumni Associations join with each other and other groups, such as the Urban League, NAACP, 100 Black Men, and other interested organizations to deal with this “Big Fish”? Do we expect the Jewish Community to fry this fish for us? Do we expect the Hispanic Community to fry this fish for us? Do we expect the Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese Communities to fry this fish for us?

Do we need to get our own big frying pan and begin to fry our own “Big Fish”?

The renowned black labor leader, A. Phillip Randolph once said:

“At the banquet table of life, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything. And if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.”

Randolph was right. Without organizations like HBCU National Alumni Associations, black folk will never able to take, keep, or hold onto anything, much less the hard fought gains that we have struggled to achieve.

The responsibility of HBCU National Alumni Associations must also extend beyond the city, state, and nation. I am sure each one of you has read Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat. We no longer live in the Houston or Carthage Community, the Texas or California Community, or the United States Community. Each one of us is wearing clothes made outside of the U.S.A. We are eating food imported from the world or from international communities.

Why not get involved in building communities in Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Ghana. Why not the Bahamas? Why not Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, or Haiti?

Examples of the understanding of “Capitalism” and “Responsible for Community” are reflected in the efforts of the Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc., a Houston organization under the leadership of Rev. KirbyJon Caldwell and a membership organization, in Jamaica, New York, led by Dr. Floyd Flake out of Houston’s Acres Homes Area.

The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. leveraged its funds with local and national banks. Together with corporate gifts, the result was a major shopping center anchored by a Fiesta Grocery Store. The shopping center has grown near twenty smaller store units. They Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. developed The Power Center Building which includes a large banquet hall and professional offices. The group established the Imani School, a Texas Charter School.

The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. also developed one of the largest residential villages consisting of over two hundred housing units, each appraised from $125,000 to $225,000. The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. had a big frying pan and demonstrated an understanding of capitalism and responsibility to the community.

Dr. Flakes secured a “big frying pan” in Jamaica, New York. Understanding capitalism and the responsibility for empowering community, his group acquired an entire city block of property which was turned into a shopping strip. His group also developed an education academy.

One of the most pressing problems facing our nation is the energy crisis. HBCU National Alumni Associations working with respective HBCUs could develop the HBCU Energy Research Institute. The institute could conduct research in agriculture, water, wind, business, etc. The institute could conduct research anywhere in the world, in Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, or Kenya. The HBCU Energy Research Institute could lease 20,000 acres of land in Louisiana or Brazil and create ethanol from sugar cane. It could grow switch grass in Africa. It could collect algae from the Atlantic Ocean.

It would be truly wonderful to have such a research institute based in Liberia. This would certainly help the economic recovery of Liberia, the nation of our forefathers.

The organizations which make these types of efforts work do not have the little skillets. They have big frying pans. I encourage you to keep the little pans for parties, dances, golf tournaments, conventions, etc. Can we dare to get some big frying pans and during the next twenty years make a “big difference?”

If you truly understand capitalism, you know that HBCU National Alumni Association members would not necessarily be workers in these projects. The HBCU National Alumni Associations would control capital which hires leadership and management talent to execute each project for the Association.

The fourth “Big Fish” we need to catch certainly needs a “big skillet” or “frying pan”.

INCREASING AFRICAN AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS

The HBCU National Alumni Associations must take on the responsibility for replacing African American professionals.

African American professionals are declining each year due to age and death.

Who is responsible for replacing the African American Educators, namely, University Presidents, Professors, Superintendents, High School Principals, Vice Principals, and teachers?

Qualified professionals are being imported into the United States from countries all around the world: Nurses from the Philippines, Scientist from Europe, and Engineers from India.

HBCU National Alumni Associations should take on the responsibility of increasing:

  1. Health Professionals (Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, and Dentist,) How many podiatrists are in your community? There are less than 40 African American podiatrist in Texas for a Texas population of 23,507,783 (2007).
  2. Lawyers (Corporate, Immigration)
  3. Bankers (Investment Bankers & Owners)
  4. Professional Trained Ministers
  5. Engineers and Architects
  6. City Planners
  7. Biologists
  8. Physicists
  9. Agricultural Scientists
  10. Agricultural Economists
  11. Military Personnel
  12. Diplomats
  13. Other Professionals

I wish to close with a final suggestion for the need of a big skillet or frying pan.

Perpetuation of HBCU National Alumni Associations by recruiting African American students to attend HBCUs and African American Faculty to work at HBCUs. 

HBCU National Alumni Associations should assist their HBCU in recruiting qualified African American faculty. While diversity in ethnic background should be encouraged and maintained. HBCUs must not lose its historical identity. This identity is essential to maintain balance in the democracy. A pluralist balance in society gives strength to the democracy. Ethnic groups maintain loyalty to their own group identity. The University of Texas would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from Yale. The University of St. Thomas would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from non-Catholic institutions. Baylor University would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from the University of Punjab. HBCUs will lose its identity if the majority of its faculty is no longer African American.

There was a time when HBCUs could not pay competitive salaries. Faculty came to the HBCU because of loyalty to the philosophy of HBCUs. HBCUs are now paying competitive salaries. The demand for qualified African American faculty and administrators must be met by an active recruitment program of African American professionals.

While diversity is important, there is a need for a faculty and administration to carny on the spirit and traditions of HBCUs.

Recruitment has two parts: Faculty and Students

The HBCU National Alumni Associations must have a student recruitment program throughout their states in key cities and throughout the nation and world.

One of the most ciritical national needs is for professional nurses. HBCU Colleges of Nursing has space to graduate thousands of nurses per years, which is double its present graduation rate. HBCU National Alumni Associations ccould place student center recruiter teams in 50 city sites in each state and 40 in the nation and recruit 2 students from each site and the freshmen nursing enrollment would exceed thousands of students.

This model could be duplicated for recruiting:

  1. Engineers
  2. Elementary School Teachers
  3. Science Teachers
  4. Math Teachers
  5. Reading Teachers
  6. Business Majors
  7. Agriculture Majors
  8. Pre-Med Majors
  9. ROTC Graduates
  10. Others

To accomplish this task, the HBCU National Alumni Associations need a big frying pan – because we are talking about big fish.

There are many big fish which are available to HBCU National Alumni Associations in the economic, political, and other rivers, lakes, streams, and other human endeavor. I pray that each one of you and the entire HBCU National Alumni Association will reflect on this message and look forward to answering the question: “Do HBCU National Alumni Associations need a big skillet with a resounding … YES! I close this visit with the Productive People of HBCUs with two of my favorite statements.

I have given you my best thoughts. If perchance I may have offended anyone please forgive me.

If you have heard me and understood what I said, my words are reflected in the thoughts of Robert Frost when he stated.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves not step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

On your way home at the close of this convention, please get the biggest skillet you can buy. A big skillet will make a big difference in your life and in the life of the HBCU National Alumni Associations.

 

The Conundrum Of HBCUs & American Campus Communities

Glorious shall be the battle when the time comes to fight for our people and our race. – Marcus Garvey

It is often preached that one of the major obstacles to African American economic development is the inability for the African American dollar to circulate within the community. This is often viewed on an individual level by where African Americans shop or eat, but what about at the institutional level? Do African American businesses and institutions like HBCUs also have a role to play in the circulation of the dollar? The answer is without a doubt, yes. Perhaps even more so and more impactful than anything individuals can do. Yet, it seems that when it comes to real estate development and student housing, specifically HBCUs have missed a golden opportunity to circulate millions of dollars within the African American economic ecosystem. To be more blunt, they have failed. That land development is not more revered is somewhat remiss given the lore of the 40 acres and a mule legacy within our communities, but our lack of strategic integration has become others opportunities.

American Campus Communities is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that was co-founded in 1993 by Bill Blayless. Its primary developments are as their name suggest focused on college and universities both on and off campus and primarily housing with some retail mixed in. They have built 206 developments spread across 96 colleges of which 11 have been built on 7 HBCU campuses. Prairie View A&M University, which has a twenty year relationship with ACC,  has the most with four developments with the most recent one opening in 2017. ACC as they are known by their ticker symbol is publicly traded with a market capitalization of $6.1 billion and annual revenue of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars. They have a unique niche in the campus housing development space. However, the story does not simply end there.

If HBCUs are going to do business with developers that are not African American and more importantly HBCU alumni, then there should be something that compels them to do so. A company with an outstanding track record for diversity, a stake of the company in their endowment portfolio, etc. Yet, further examination of American Campus Communities leaves serious questions about exactly who is making the decisions to use them for HBCUs. Of the company’s executive team, senior officers, and board of directors there is not one African American present and no HBCU alumni present either. In fact, there are no ethnic minorities period on the aforementioned groups and only a handful of women. What are decisions like this saying to our community that we so passionately claim to be saying we have the interest of? Are we to believe that there are no African American real estate developers who we trust or are worthy of such projects?

Don Peebles, Sharon Johnson, and Quintin Primo, three African American real estate developers with a combined net worth of almost $2 billion, have developed multi-faceted real estate development corporations and are nationally known certainly would seem more than capable of handling the multi-millions worth of development that happens at HBCUs. There are likely hundreds if not thousands of local African American developers as well like Sharone Mayberry in Houston, Texas who renovated Unity Bank, the only African American owned bank in Texas, and is leading the efforts of renovation in Houston’s historic Third Ward.

It is hardly a surprise that some of these HBCUs are being directed who to use or even having it chosen for them as six of the seven HBCUs who have ACC developments are state schools with Clark Atlanta University being the one private school. Being a public university means that public politics from the gubernatorial office and state politicians have a heavy influence on who receives government and public contracts for work throughout the state. This probably comes with a concerted lobbying effort by ACC to select politicians who make the decisions. The autonomy that state/public schools among the smaller schools (see HBCUs) often marginalizes their decision making while the state’s flagships tend to have the political capital to leverage their own autonomous decisions as it relates to almost every facet of their strategic decision making.

To be clear, this is not a suggestion that all American Campus Communities needs to do is add a token African American to their executive team or board and all is right in the world. That would still not create institutional circulation of the African American dollar and ultimately that is what this is about. If embracing the true circulation and creating a multiplying effect it would take HBCUs concerting with African American financial institutions to sell the bonds that would raise the funds for such construction, then taking that funding and having a request for proposals that ensured HBCU engineers, architects, and developers were a healthy percentage of those who were vying for the bid. Something akin to the Rooney Rule that the NFL uses in ensuring minority coaches get interviewed for head coaching positions that come available. The fact that HBCUs do not seem to be making a more vigorous effort to do this is troublesome.

Time and time again, African American institutions, be it HBCUs, churches, or businesses operate in their own bubble and are not more purposeful in integrating themselves, which makes the dollar within our communities even more difficult to circulate and therefore antagonistic to our institutional economic development. Alumni must deepen their resolve to be involved in not only fundraising for HBCUs, but auditing where those dollars go once they are received. It would be prudent if alumni demanded accountability of just how much of the annual services and products were bought from businesses owned by HBCU alumni. There is a long way to go in moving the needle on circulating our dollars more effectively, but a $10 meal at an African American restaurant versus hundreds of millions in development deals between HBCUs and our own real estate developers is a stark difference in getting us there.

Who Is The Wealthiest HBCU Graduate? Hint: It Is Not Oprah Winfrey

By William A. Foster, IV

“The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.” – Francois de La Rochefoucald

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Pictured Above: Ann Walton Kroenke, Lincoln University (MO) – Class of 1972

In a recent article for HBCU Money, I was researching the educational demographics for America’s 100 wealthiest. Naturally, as I was looking through their profiles I was seeing the names of your typical Harvard, Yale, etc. as colleges attended. Knowing that Oprah Winfrey, who is not among America’s 100 wealthiest, has long been the only African American billionaire and was an alum of Tennessee State University it seemed fairly certain she was then the wealthiest HBCU graduate. You know A + B = C type stuff. Well, you know what happens when you assume. I stumbled across the profile of one Ann Walton Kroenke and saw the name Lincoln University, but the profile did not specify which Lincoln University. If it turned to be true, then Ann Walton Kroenke would actually be the wealthiest HBCU alum. Mrs. Kroenke’s $5.1 billion net worth according to Forbes makes her 76 percent wealthier than Oprah Winfrey.

Wait, what? Can that be right? Is there another Lincoln University other than the two HBCU Lincoln Universities? Turns out there is one in California so the investigation was on to verify exactly which Lincoln University she attended. After some digging and further research the answer would indeed be she attended and finished from the HBCU known as Lincoln University of Missouri. According to Lincoln University (MO) school records, “Ann Marie Walton received an Associate of Applied Science majoring in Nursing Science on May 14, 1972. She attended Lincoln University from August 1970 to May 1972.” Yes, the Walton name you see is actually her maiden name; and yes it is those Waltons to which she is related and derived most of her wealth from. She is the daughter of James “Bud” Walton who co-founded the Walmart empire with his brother and more well-known Sam Walton. James and Sam Walton spent their formative years being raised in Missouri by their parents. According to the Historical Society of Missouri, the majority of Walmart’s initial store openings would happen in Missouri and Arkansas. The pair originally got started owning Ben Franklin variety stores after Sam Walton obtained a $20 000 loan from his father-in-law in 1945. An amount that would be equivalent to $260 000 in today’s dollars. Walmart would come into being after the two brothers decided to expand into rural communities in the early 1960s. Although the company is well known as having its headquarters in Arkansas; the family’s roots have been firmly planted in Columbia, Missouri since the 1930s.

A fascinating prospect if ever there was one given Missouri’s own paradoxical racial history despite not being considered “south” geographically, but having much of the cultural nuances of it. Mrs. Kroenke, would have been a fresh 21 year old at the time of her arrival in the fall of 1970. The Nursing Science program itself would be just a year old at Lincoln having been launched in 1969. America’s backdrop in 1970 would be fresh off the heels of Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, and the Black Panther Party in 1970 would see the apex of its membership and power. Walmart as an incorporated company is not even a year old, when the then Ms. Walton would be entering Lincoln University’s (MO) program. America’s wealthiest family to be was by no means poor, but her father and uncle were also leveraging all of the family’s resources to strike out on their own and build their company. The possibility that Mrs. Kroenke at the time needed a fallback could have certainly been plausible, but why Lincoln University (MO)? Given the backdrop of race relationships, civil rights, and her family’s resources it is inherently fascinating how the family and/or she decided to send her 40 minutes down the road to Jefferson City, Missouri to attend an HBCU.

The discovery of Mrs. Kroenke as a Lincoln University (MO) alumni is no small happenstance. Not only is she worth $5.1 billion herself, but she is married to one Stanley Kroenke who is billionaire real estate developer himself worth $5.6 billion. The couple owns professional sports teams in every professional sport, except baseball. Their roster includes the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, NFL’s St. Louis Rams, MLS’s Colorado Rapids, and English soccer club Arsenal. A $50 million donation from Mrs. Kroenke for the endowment would instantly catapult Lincoln University (MO) to the number six slot in terms of HBCU endowments. It would also become the largest gift ever to an HBCU and it would not even be 1 percent of her wealth and less than 0.5 percent of the couples combined wealth. Yes, you read that correctly.

It would be interesting to see how the HBCU community would receive the donation quite honestly. There would be more than a bit of mixed feelings certainly. Given the new push for cultural and ethnic “diversity” (despite European Americans always being welcomed at HBCUs since their inception while vice versa was not true) at HBCUs as presidents have seemingly given up on how to increase the HBCU share of African American high school graduates going to HBCUs which currently sits at 10-12 percent, and instead focused on recruiting all other groups as a way to deal with tuition revenue shortfalls from dropping student populations and to sell themselves as more “American”. This despite many older HBCU alumni believing that these students are even less likely to give back to an HBCU than the traditional core demographic. There is no data to say one way or the other. Unfortunately, this is not something HBCUs can afford to be wrong on given the amount of resources they seem to be throwing at recruiting other communities. If the payoff is only a short-term fix for a long-term problem, then we are simply continuing to put a band-aid on a bullet wound. There is also the psychological impact of the largest donation (albeit from an alumni) still coming from someone that is European American much in the way when the valedictorian of Morehouse some years ago was European American and the fallout it caused. A wound, that in talking to some Morehouse alums still runs deep. However, Lincoln University (MO) seems to lack any endowment of note or at least has refused to publish the number anywhere in my research for it.

The old adage that beggars can not be choosy may apply here as HBCUs have continued to lack in obtaining transformative donations, those that are of the eight and nine figure variety, and in general struggle with consistency in alumni giving rates as a whole. America’s wealthiest family at the writing of this article was worth north of $150 billion combined by the three surviving children of Sam Walton, the widow of Sam Walton’s fourth child, and the two daughters of James “Bud” Walton, one of which is Mrs. Ann Walton Kroenke. The family also has a bittersweet HBCU connection when in 2012 the Tennessee Supreme Court allowed Alice Walton, the only daughter of Sam Walton and founder of Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, to purchase a 50 percent stake in Fisk University’s George O’Keeffe art collection for $30 million as Fisk dealt with financial issues. It goes without saying that the Walton family clearly knows about HBCUs, but whether or not HBCUs and more specifically Lincoln University (MO) can leverage that into something transformative is another story. I would go so far as to say I would set up an office in Columbia, Missouri if I was LUM’s administration and dedicate development staff solely to the purpose of achieving that donation.

Honestly, finding out Oprah Winfrey is not the wealthiest HBCU graduate almost feels like the moment as a child you figure out Santa is not really real. To find out there are two HBCU graduates who are billionaires is always good news. That one of those billionaires is a member of the Walton family is almost too hard to wrap my own mind around at the moment, but as my favorite HBCUstorian Dr. Crystal DeGregory famously says, “HISTORY is the story of great men; HERSTORY of great women. HBCUstory is the story of HBCU greatness. That’s our story!” And I have to say our story never ceases to amaze me.