Tag Archives: philanthropy

HBCU Money™ Business Book Feature – The Foundation: A Great American Secret


Private foundations have been the dynamo of social change since their invention at the beginning of the last century. Yet just over 10 percent of the public knows they even exist; and for those who are aware of them, as well as even those who seek grants from them, their internal workings remain a complete mystery. Joel Fleishman knows the sector like few others, and in this groundbreaking book he explains both the history of foundations—with their fledgling beginnings in the era of the robber barons seeking social respectability—through to the present day. This book shows how, why foundations matters, and how the future of foundations can provide a vital spur to the engine of the American, and the world’s, economy—if they are properly established and run.

Paving the Road to Sustainable Alumni Support for HBCUs


“Philanthropy without scale and sustainability is like any other bad business that will simply wither and die on the vine.” – Naveen Jain

Since 1837 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played a vital role educating students. Prominent activists and scholars including Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison and Thurgood Marshall benefited from attending HBCUs with supportive environments. The emphasis on cultural pride, scholarship and political acumen transform the lives of students from underserved communities. In comparison to predominantly White institutions (PWIs), HBCUs enroll more underserved, first generation and minority students. Upon their arrival on campus students are surrounded by majestic trees, serene suburban landscapes or colorful urban enclaves. However, despite their idyllic settings HBCUs are at a crossroads. The closing of Saint Paul’s College in 2013, Morris Brown College’s bankruptcy filing in 2012, Lewis College of Business uncertain status, and nine other HBCU closings over the years highlight the fragility of HBCUs in through the years into the present. Ensuring our institutions remain viable is predicated on the financial support of alumni, administrators, faculty, stakeholders, students and trustees.

Dramatically increasing donations to HBCUs would alleviate the financial strain that has plagued prominent institutions including South Carolina State and Grambling State University. Unfortunately several factors have contributed to the financial crisis at HBCUs including: inequitable funding, shifting federal and state policies and limited alumni contributions. To the last point, HBCU Money found that only 1 out of the 559 $1 million or over donations to colleges in 2013 and 9 out of the 517 $1 million or over donations in 2014 to colleges went to HBCUs.  Although HBCU alumni are among the most dedicated graduates they are more likely to come from underserved communities and leave with more loan debt in comparison to students from larger PWIs. The stark difference between HBCUs and PWIs regarding alumni contributions and endowments is problematic. For example, Harvard University’s estimated $30 billion endowment far exceeds Howard University’s estimated $586 million endowment. Pundits would argue that comparing Harvard and Howard is unfair; however, the funding gap reflects the uphill battle HBCUs have encountered since their inception.

While HBCUs face challenges overcoming fiscal crisis, the Black community has always worked together collectively to avert financial disaster. For instance, the efforts of alumni and students at South Carolina State highlight the importance of exerting political pressure to ensure our institutions remain open – political capital that is a lot easier to build and exert if the community wielded more economic power. Despite the trials and tribulations HBCUs are allying with supporters to challenge the non-HBCU owned media’s deficit orientated focus. Increasingly administrators and alumni are taking steps to change the narrative regarding HBCUs focusing on their history fighting for Civil Rights. The renewed emphasis on social justice and growth of social media could become a rallying point for stakeholders. Recently, HBCU alumni have raised money to increase institutional aid for students from underserved communities.

The I Love Howard campaign is an example how HBCU graduates are using social media and grassroots efforts to galvanize graduates. Led by Howard University alumnae Michelle Jayne, Jessica Neal and Rochee Jeffrey the campaign is making strides engaging alumni and supporters to protect Howard’s legacy. Ensuring post-secondary institutions including Howard have networks that are fighting for increased funding could turn the tide for HBCUs. For instance, fundraisers, online telethons, social media campaigns, after work mixers and private/public partnerships are practical options for alumni.

Encouraging students to identify conventional or unconventional methods to increase donations should begin freshman year. Campaigns that urge students to give as little as $1 highlight the important role donations play in sustaining critical programs. Without support from alumni HBCUs are susceptible to cuts in federal and state funding that hamper efforts to recruit talented students. Schools including Claflin University recognize increasing donations is linked to the institutions future success.

Claflin, 2015’s HBCU of the Year, received funding from the Kresge Foundation and the United Negro College Fund to strengthen fundraising efforts. Claflin designed a campaign encouraging alumni, faculty, parents and students to donate. In 2013, the alumni giving rate increased nearly 10% from 43% to 52%. This year the university announced they raised nearly $90 million for phase one of the capital campaign. The success of Claflin underscores the commitment from supporters. HBCUs with a low alumni giving rate should use Claflin as a template to increase overall support. Strengthening HBCUs through campaigns can fund endowments, repair and renovate dilapidated facilities and recruit students.

Ensuring HBCUs continue their mission educating African American students is linked to financial support from alumni and students. Although HBCUs enroll more students from underserved communities in comparison to PWIs they are equipped to encourage alumni to provide critical funding. For example, Black greek letter organizations, concerts, football classics, homecoming and regional alumni events present opportunities to reach out to newly minted graduates. In addition, developing partnerships with African American (and African if they are really ambitious) corporations and philanthropic organizations are important for institutions dependent on external funding. The future for HBCUs is bright, but increased donations will ensure they develop a new cadre of entrepreneurs,  Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

HBCU Money™ Business Book Feature – Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy


Winner of the 2009 Skystone Ryan Prize for Research, Association of Fundraising Professionals Research Council

“All outstanding philanthropic successes have one thing in common: They started with a smart strategic plan,” say authors Paul Brest, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Hal Harvey, president of ClimateWorks.

Money Well Spent explains how to create and implement a strategy that ensures meaningful results.  Components of a smart strategy include:

  • Achieving great clarity about one’s philanthropic goals
  • Specifying indicators of success before beginning a project
  • Designing and implementing a plan commensurate with available resources
  • Evidence-based understanding of the world in which the plan will operate
  • Paying careful attention to milestones to determine if you are on the path to success or if midcourse corrections are necessary

Drawing on examples from over 100 foundations and non-profits, Money Well Spent gives readers the framework they need to design a smart strategy, addressing such key issues as:

  • Effective use of tools—education, science, direct services, advocacy—that can achieve your objectives.
  • How to choose the forms of funding to achieve stated goals
  • How to measure the impact of grants or programs
  • When to be patient and stick with a winning strategy and when to abandon a strategy that isn’t working

This is a book for everyone who wants to get the most from a philanthropic dollar: donors, foundations, and non-profits.

559 Donations To Colleges Over $1 Million in 2013 – Only 1 To An HBCU

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Pictured above: Jesse F. Brown, the sole HBCU donor to give a donation of $1M or above in 2013. Courtesy of Morgan Magazine.

By William A. Foster, IV

The highest use of capital is not to make more money, but to make money do more for the betterment of life.— Henry Ford 

Wealth is an arms race. The more you have the more you can control others. The less you have the more dependent you are on others. This adage is as true as anywhere in higher education institutions who can end up being beholden socially, economically, and political to major donors and their agendas if they do not have endowments that allow for autonomy. How much is enough? Well, if you use Godfather (the movie) logic, there is never enough and the moment you slow down others are catching up. Otherwise, how do you explain Harvard’s $6.5 billion capital campaign it launched last year. This from a university that already has the world’s – yes the world’s – largest higher education institutional endowment of over $30 billion. An amount fifteen times the size of all 100 HBCU endowments combined. More importantly, what does it say about HBCU development offices that they can not land high-quality and transformative donors? Instead, some HBCU development offices lean on students and faculty to pick up the slack. The very people who are suppose to benefit from strong development work.

HBCU capital campaigns are quite frankly bland, boring, and leave little in the way for young or old alumni to feel compelled to give assuming they are even asked. More times than not a mimic of their HWCU counterparts and not culturally designed to an African American philanthropy point of view. Most students and alumni of HBCUs I talk to rarely know what an endowment is let alone what their school’s is – assuming it has one. Six years ago pre-recession while doing some research on HBCU endowments there were 20 percent of HBCUs who I could not verify or account for having an endowment, period. Wait, Harvard is trying to raise $6.5 billion and we have schools with no endowment?  Maybe HBCU development offices need to take a page from John F. Kennedy’s speech where he gallantly said, “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” That is how HBCU development offices need to think. I would love for an HBCU to come out and say “WE WILL BE THE FIRST BILLION DOLLAR HBCU ENDOWMENT” and communicate to alumni their role of how and why it will happen. How bold would that be? People would start finding pennies in their seat cushion to give because HBCU alumni are competitive if they are nothing else. Something to consider is also HBCU conferences taking a more active role in development. HBCUs could consolidate their development resources under one banner and possibly could leverage more marketing and outreach to high-quality and transformative donors.

In light of the recent donation to Paul Quinn, an HBCU located in Dallas, donations of $1 million plus to HBCUs are as rare as lightning striking someone. When HBCUs do get donations that are $1 million plus they tend to be from an alum’s estate meaning the person might have waited an entire lifetime to make one grand donation. An indication of just how long it is taking for HBCU graduates to accumulate wealth, which can be attributed to a number of different issues, but at the forefront tend to be weak financial literacy and lack of entrepreneurship or asset ownership. Demographics are also constantly pushing against HBCUs. Despite a recent study by Boston Consulting Group that reports there are now 7.1 million American households that are millionaires  and almost 4 800 households worth more than $100 million, the development of wealth has not taken root in African America. Only 1 of the 400 richest Americans are African American or the equivalent of 0.25 percent. It is hard not to suspect the aforementioned numbers are vastly better. 

The Chronicle of Philanthropy tracks a database of annual giving to different causes that exceed $1 million. In 2013, 559 donations  went to colleges and universities with only 1 going to an HBCU or an equivalent of 0.18 percent. This despite HBCUs constituting 3 percent of all American colleges and universities. Fourteen of the donations exceeded $100 million or more with Phil Knight, owner of Nike, and his wife giving $500 million to the University of Oregon’s hospital topping the list. Not much of a problem for a man who has $5.4 billion of his wealth in cash alone. Yes, Phil Knight has almost twice as much in cash as Oprah Winfrey has in total wealth. The lone HBCU donation exceeding $1 million was to Morgan State University from alum Jesse F. Brown who bequested $1.2 million for their medical technology program.

So why are more HBCUs not receiving transformative and high-quality donations? There are after all a number of millionaires scattered throughout the African Diaspora. My belief is that as many HBCUs have moved away from being considered African American colleges to just wanting to be recognized as  American colleges creating a psychological disconnect that would prompt those of African descent here in America and elsewhere to have any reason to support them. Carl and Ruth Shapiro never attended Brandeis University, but have been noted on record for their giving to the school because they want it to be a good representation of the Jewish community and therefore gets their support. HBCU development offices have refused seemingly to blow that same horn to African American and Diaspora non-alumni potential donors. There is also the mixed relationship between actually asking and being image conscious about who is giving. Wilberforce and Central State University in Ohio should be at LeBron James front door trying to build a relationship with him. Morris Brown and the AUC schools should be at T.I.’s front door trying to build a relationship with him. I could go on and on, but the reality is USC was not afraid to develop a relationship with Dr. Dre because of his image in gangster rap. HBCUs also have to look abroad for donors, which is part of why recruiting donations as a conference may be more cost effective. Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Isabel dos Santos, and Patrice Motsepe have a combined net worth of $31.5 billion. They may be down for the cause, but if you do not want to be a part of the cause, then why should they choose you over schools more widely recognized globally. Connecting the African American and African Diaspora experience could go a long way into an exchange that helps all parties.

What does it say to African America that the only money we can raise is from everyone, but our own community? The most recent major donations to HBCUs have come from the Koch brothers to UNCF and from Trammel Crow to Paul Quinn. As usual, it will not be until others tell us that our institutions are worthy that we will think so ourselves. I dare say we still continue to be the only group who has to be convinced that having institutions that represent our social, economic, and political interest are important, but vital to community success. This is where courting the likes of the aforementioned young African American millionaires and African billionaires can have an impact. They can not only bring major donations, but the press they bring can create a domino effect from other African Americans and Diasporans to consider giving to our institutions. What do you have to lose? After all, when you shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land amongst the stars.

HBCU Money’s 12 Month HBCU Alumni Giving Challenge


To give away money is an easy matter, and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power-nor an easy matter. Hence it is that such excellence is rare, praiseworthy and noble. – Aristotle

The HBCU Money™ 12 Month Challenge is an effort to help HBCUs and HBCU support organization increase their charitable donations. We are offering this challenge sheet to HBCU alumni, alumni associations, and friends of HBCUs. You can challenge yourself, a fellow alum, or anyone who is interested in giving to the HBCU Diaspora. Share your progress on social media to inspire others. Keep a hard copy on your refrigerator. Whatever it takes to keep ourselves accountable to empowering our institutions for tomorrow.

HBCU or HBCU Organization:

Your Name:

Your Challenger:

Giving Purpose:

  • Month 1 – $1

  • Month 2 – $2

  • Month 3 – $4

  • Month 4 – $8

  • Month 5 – $16

  • Month 6 – $32

  • Month 7 – $64

  • Month 8 – $128

  • Month 9 – $256

  • Month 10 – $512

  • Month 11 – $1024

  • Month 12 – $2048