Dear BI Career Consultants:
What types of programs can be implemented to educate and motivate Black alumni to increase
giving at their HBCU alma mater and HBCUs in general?
Trisa Long Paschal
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
Spelman College and other HBCUs have wrestled with this issue of increasing alumni giving for several years. There is a movement among HBCUs now to address the problem — a problem that exists because we have not strategically placed much emphasis on it in the past. I consider it our number one concern in the area of African American philanthropy, as alumni are the single base of support that is inherently our own.
We must first reconnect with our alumni. Many of us in the HBCU community have lost touch with our alumni. Much of this is due to inadequate record keeping over the years. However, when we locate our alumni, our first inclination is to ask for money because the need at the institution is so great. A better option is to gauge their level of interest using face-to-face meetings, Web site chat rooms, or meetings in the form of focus groups to gain feedback. These types of meetings can provide valuable information for our institutions.
Secondly, education is critical. Our publications and presentations to alumni must be substantive and provide information on academic and administrative trends, our students and the impact of their gifts. During Spelman reunions, we host an “Officer’s Forum” wherein each of the vice presidents give a report on their division.
Third, involvement is essential. Participation in alumni programs or serving as trained volunteer solicitors provides a sense of ownership in the college. We must develop programs geared toward their individual interests such as the multi-generational or market segmentation approaches that are being used widely. This demonstrates to alumni that we understand them and their needs.
Fourth, develop an alumni pride campaign. At Spelman College, our campaign is entitled Alumnae Empowerment and is one of the college’s strategic initiatives. The Alumnae Empowerment Campaign includes leadership development, recognition, philanthropy and involvement.
Finally, make giving uncomplicated by using electronic funds transfer, online giving, etc. However, more seasoned alumni might want to continue to write the check. And after receiving the gift, don’t forget good stewardship. Certainly, you will want them to continue their contributions.
We have experienced good results at Spelman using these techniques, resulting in breaking records in young alumni giving and overall reunion giving. We are not where we would like to be, but we are making great strides thanks to our alumnae.
Joy L. Jefferson
Assistant Vice President for
For many graduates of historically Black colleges and universities, giving back is not a priority and, in some cases, not a consideration. What graduates must understand is in order for their alma mater to continue to thrive and to compete for larger gifts from corporations and other individuals, it is essential that alumni contribute financially. No matter how large or small the gift may be, the graduate’s contribution is a testimony to the external community, which has an impact on the overall fund-raising efforts of the institution. Funds for scholarships, capital improvements, research, faculty and staff development and much more are affected by alumni support.
One of the ways to motivate graduates to contribute is to create an Alumni Endowed Scholarship program. Endowments are the mechanism through which great universities become pre-eminent. The principal from the fund is maintained and invested, and the earnings provide scholarship support to help finance deserving students’ education. For generations to come, endowed scholarships will support a wide variety of students’ needs, including tuition, books, fees and room and board.
In addition, alumni will have the opportunity through this program to establish named, endowed scholarships. An individual, an alumni chapter or region, a group of classmates, a group of friends, a fraternity, a sorority, or just about anyone who is willing to enter into and honor the agreement with the university can establish a named, endowed scholarship.
Planned giving is another means by which alumni may be motivated to contribute to their alma mater. Planned giving provides a way for donors to enjoy tax advantages and sometimes income benefits, while helping to advance the institution. With careful planning, a graduate may garner income tax deductions and reduce or eliminate estate, inheritance, capital gains and other taxes, allowing his or her family to receive the full benefits of their life’s work without jeopardizing their needs. There are many types of planned gifts. Alumni should consult with their college or university’s development office to determine which type of gift is most advantageous for them.
Alumni support has been a critical source of encouragement for institutions of higher education. Endowed scholarship and planned giving programs create an opportunity for alumni to give to their alma mater and to help students realize their dream of obtaining an education. Alumni should share the dream and provide opportunities for generations to come.
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