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NAFEO, UNCF Disagree on Fund-Raising Issues

NAFEO, UNCF Disagree on Fund-Raising Issues
By Robin V. Smiles

Two of the nation’s most prominent organizations dedicated to Blacks in higher education are at odds over fund-raising issues.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) have been long-standing partners in the arena of educational advocacy. The members of UNCF are almost all members of NAFEO.
However, at its March meeting, UNCF member presidents resolved that institutions that also are members of NAFEO are in violation of the fund’s solicitation policy. The policy “prohibits any member institution from belonging to and receiving funds from a fund-raising organization which is in competition for dollars which might be solicited for UNCF.”
As a result, UNCF, whose members include 39 private historically Black colleges and universities, has asked that NAFEO stop using the names of UNCF schools in the organization’s marketing and fund-raising efforts.
In a letter to NAFEO president Dr. Henry Ponder, William H. Gray, UNCF president and CEO, advised Ponder of the resolution and that NAFEO’s use of the names and images of UNCF institutions is “strictly prohibited.” He asked that NAFEO “remove all UNCF member institutions’ names from all NAFEO listings, including the Web site.”
Ponder countered with a three-page letter to Gray in which he maintains that NAFEO is not a fund-raising organization but an advocacy organization.
Although NAFEO’s primary mission is not fund raising, it has recently embarked upon economic initiatives that include corporate partnerships.
In his letter to Gray, Ponder explains the nature of these partnerships.
“The funds NAFEO generates come from fees paid to it for administering corporate partnerships developed with member colleges and universities. …  NAFEO sends to member colleges and universities only income received above its operating costs. … No direct support is requested from corporations, foundations or the general public.”
Ponder further argues that these efforts should not be interpreted as a violation because they are based on sales generated, not solicitation requests.
UNCF, however, clearly views NAFEO’s efforts as fund raising.
According to Clinton R. Coleman, UNCF’s director of media relations, there is “no difference” between NAFEO’s corporate partnerships and UNCF’s own fund-raising initiatives. “We also give money to schools and students over and above UNCF’s operating costs,” says Coleman.
“It creates a misunderstanding and a lack of clarity in the marketplace when people don’t understand NAFEO. So, when they approach corporations using the names of UNCF schools, they think they are giving to UNCF,” says Coleman.
Dwayne Ashley, president of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, which represents 40 historically Black public colleges and universities, disagrees with UNCF’s interpretation of NAFEO’s efforts. Ashley understands NAFEO’s initiatives to be “cooperative agreements,” which is not fund raising, he says.
Ashley’s main concern, however, is for those UNCF schools that will elect to not be members of NAFEO. “It is a sad day — that those private institutions would not have access to the NAFEO resources and the great job that they have done historically as the voice on the Hill. I hope that something can be worked out so that those private schools will have access to that voice,” says Ashley.
Dr. Carlton E. Brown, Savannah State president and NAFEO board member, also maintains that NAFEO’s efforts are not fund raising.
“I am in full agreement with Dr. Ponder that it is not fund raising, but partnering — strategic partnering designed to enable NAFEO to provide services for all HBCUs.”
Brown points to NAFEO’s deal with Gateway computer company, in which those institutions that wish to participate can buy a Gateway computer at a lower cost.
UNCF presidents still maintain that they were simply enforcing a long-held rule.
The UNCF decision “reaffirms a long-standing policy,” says Dr. David Beckley, president of Rust College and chair of the UNCF member presidents. “We encourage our members to be apart of the advocacy part of NAFEO, but they cannot be part of the fund-raising aspect of their program.”
According to Beckley, the decision is not unique to NAFEO, but consistent with other instances where UNCF schools who are members of state foundations have had to pull out of participation in foundations’ marketing and fund-raising efforts.
Although Ponder said in his letter that NAFEO is willing to meet to resolve this matter, at Black Issues press time, no meeting between the two organizations had been scheduled.  

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