Book Review: Mapping Out a Blueprint for Fundraising Success

A Guide to Fundraising at Historically Black Colleges and Universities by Dr. Marybeth Gasman and Nelson Bowman.A Guide to Fundraising at Historically Black Colleges and Universities by Dr. Marybeth Gasman and Nelson Bowman.

Marybeth Gasman and Nelson Bowman have written a thoughtful, insightful and informative book on fundraising that will assist members of an important faction in American educational society. Although aimed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in point of fact, it is valuable to other minority-serving institutions and majority ones as well. Notably, the book won the 2012 CASE John Grezebach Award for Outstanding Research in Philanthropy for Educational Advancement.

Gasman is a noted authority on fundraising at HBCUs. A professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, she enjoys a solid reputation as a researcher and mentor to graduate students and young scholars. Bowman, an alumnus of Morehouse College, launched a successful career in the private sector before deciding to apply his sales and marketing background in higher education. He currently serves as director of development at Prairie View A&M University. Their team approach in co-authoring this volume is a masterful blend of academic research with practical experience. The result is a thoughtful insider’s perspective on best practices that will be helpful to presidents and development officers but also to deans, department chairs and frontline administrators.

Basically, anyone involved in the delivery of student services—admissions directors, financial aid officers, student activities directors—should read and fully digest this book. It is always recommended to governing boards whose members do not always grasp their seminal role in fundraising. The appendices at the end of the book provide useful tips and questions about fundraising, financial aid along with data about retention and graduation rates. In short, A Guide to Fundraising is a must-read for nearly everyone in a leadership role at an HBCU.

Here is why: HBCUs face mounting pressure on enrollments, finances, facilities and technology. This is true for independent and public colleges. The independent institutions are often church-related with small endowments and the public HBCUs are dependent on state budgets most of which are under severe fiscal stress. The authors point out that “it is time to make improvements and changes in fundraising at HBCUs across the board. The very survival of these institutions depends on it.”

This may be a reality not fully understood. The authors write that “One development officer … spent almost two years convincing his president that fundraising was part of her job.” How does one get selected president of a college or university without understanding the primacy of fundraising?

Perhaps the greatest value of the book is captured in its subtitle: An All Campus Approach. While it singles out the role of the president, academic deans, faculty and student services, the book also stresses the importance of everything and anything that impacts the quality of student life. Donor cultivation begins at the onset of enrollment and any negative experience on the campus has the potential to mitigate goodwill. If a student leaves with a bad experience in the classroom, in the financial aid office or elsewhere, it may not bode well for prospective donor cultivation. In order to create a favorable climate, HBCUs, like majority institutions, must have all hands on deck.

Black colleges are an invaluable national resource whose value to higher education and the larger society is indisputable. We should aim to ensure their sustainability. A Guide to Fundraising at Historically Black Colleges and Universities provides a practical, hands-on useful roadmap to make it happen. D

Dr. Alvin J. Schexnider is a former chancellor of Winston-Salem State University and former interim president of Norfolk State University.