Jump-Startin Black College Fund-Raising
‘It takes money to raise money’
ATLANTA — Earlier this year, the Kresge Foundation announced the recipients of $18 million in grants to help historically Black colleges and universities improve their advancement offices. The universities can use the money to hire more staff, prepare for capital campaigns or update their records.
Bethune-Cookman College, Dillard University, Johnson C. Smith University, Meharry Medical College and Xavier University of Louisiana all were recipients of the grants, administered by the Southern Education Foundation here.
“We decided to jump-start these five institutions,” says Billie Sue Schultz, fund-raising consultant for Kresge. “There’s a recognition that it takes money to raise money.”
Schultz headed Spelman College’s advancement division when the institution raised $114 million during its capital campaign in 1996, an amount considered to be the largest raised by an HBCU at that time.
Black colleges have been so short-staffed that they haven’t been able to afford the luxury of hiring researchers to compile information on prospective donors, or proposal writers to go after major grants, she says.
“Black colleges have been practicing reactive fund-raising: Filling out applications for whatever programs foundations and the federal government announced,” Schultz says. “But sometimes these programs didn’t have anything to do with the priorities of the colleges.”
Schultz says the grants allow their colleges to concentrate on building relationships and cultivating ties to alumni who should have more money to give than in the past.
At Meharry, E. Ramone Segree, the senior vice president for institutional advancement, is using the foundation’s money to hire nine people in his operation, including those experienced in research, planned giving and the relatively new field of donor acquisition markets.
“Institutional advancement offices don’t enjoy robust budgets,” says Segree. “And at HBCUs the needs are just magnified. But you have to put the investment in the offices if they are going to be able to raise more money.”
Segree says that because of the Kresge grant, other foundations and corporations are investing in the college.
“Their stamp of approval is opening doors for us,” he says.
The grant also is providing a network for other Black colleges, says Segree, the treasurer of the National Society of Fund-Raising Executives.
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