Tag Archives: hbcu

Simplifying Financial Aid

financial aid, paying for college, college access, scholarships, grants, HBCU, first generation studentsTrying to receive financial aid for college? How do you feel when completing the ten page FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Student Aid) form? Could reducing it to two questions improve the process? Senators Alexander (TN) and Bennett (CO) believe more students could pursue a college education if the form were simplified. They want to reduce FAFSA to a postcard that asks two questions: What is your family size? And, what was your household income two years ago? Using earlier tax data – and a simple “look up” table – would let students know how much financial aid they are eligible for when they start looking at colleges.

The Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act proposes to streamline federal grant and loan programs by combining two federal grant programs into one Pell grant program and reducing the six different federal loan programs into three: one undergraduate loan program, one graduate loan program, and one parent loan program.

The bill would also restore year-round Pell grant availability so students who want to accelerate their education by attending college during the summer can do so. It seeks to discourage over-borrowing by limiting the amount a student is able to borrow based on enrollment: a part-time student could only take out a part time loan. It also seeks to simplify repayment options by streamlining repayment programs and creating two plans, an income based plan and a 10-year repayment plan.

Financial aid by the numbers: There are approximately 22 million students enrolled in more than 6,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S. In 2013, taxpayers lent more than $102 billion in new federal student loans to 10 million college students. 9.2 million students received a Pell grant in 2012-2013 with an average award of $3,477 and total federal expenditures of $33 billion.

Here’s what we know: college education is critical to the economic success of individuals, families, and communities. Financial aid plays a key role in providing access to college. Completing FAFSA is complicated and time consuming: many people give up. With bipartisan sponsors this proposed legislation could remove a barrier to education and increase access. We also know policy changes can have unintended consequences. When changes were made to the Parent PLUS loan program the consequences were devastating for students, their families and the colleges they attended. Many students could not complete their education because they were suddenly no longer eligible for these loans. Decreasing enrollment had a dramatic impact on colleges and universities with substantial numbers of first generation students. We don’t know what unintended impacts this legislation could have: we do know that when people come together we can find solutions.

To learn more contact Bob Moran, in Senator Alexander’s office – robert_moran@help.senate.gov or (202) 224-6770; or Juliana Herman in Senator Bennet’s office – Juliana_herman@bennet.senate.gov or (202) 224-1334.

Image credit to the US Department of Education

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


Salute to a transformational HBCU leader

Wesley McClure - President Lane CollegeDr. Wesley McClure will be remembered by alumni, friends and the Jackson TN community as a transformational leader of Lane College. He served as president of Lane – his alma mater – for 21 years. He transformed the campus with new facilities and programs, but most importantly he kept true to his mission of ensuring that students who wanted an education could obtain one – regardless of what others thought. More than this he was my college classmate – an outstanding, straight A student – a brilliant math major,  born and raised in Jackson, TN. He was a student leader with great potential for all to see. His focus on securing civil rights was intense – and he was at the forefront of the civil rights movement for the West Tennessee area. The gains that were made were greatly influenced by his participation as a leader.

Dr. McClure assumed the leadership of Lane College when it was truly struggling. He deployed his intensity once again, making the college’s turn-around his personal commitment. He put students first in the way that he developed the institution. He knew the backgrounds from which the students came, for their background was his background. He came from very humble beginnings during a time of segregation and succeeded in life because of Lane College. He never forgot his past, and wanted to make sure that other young African American men and women who struggle with the legacy of racism and limited access to quality education, poverty, hunger and family challenges would have the ability to succeed. He held out his hand and he opened the doors of Lane College – but he always had high standards and demanded that students live up to their potential. He did not accept mediocrity in students or in himself. He always held the bar high – he was a “hands on president” who demanded a lot of himself and his team.

One thing that I will always admire about Dr. McClure was the slogan he used for Lane College – “The Power of Potential.” This was at the core of  his life work and how he interacted with young people: “If you want a degree I will help you succeed.” He truly believed in the power of potential and encouraged all of us to see – and nurture – the  potential of young people. He was determined to provide students with attainable and affordable education under his leadership. In a time of revolving presidents Dr. McClure was committed to Lane College and to providing leadership – he was one of the few remaining long-term presidents of our HBCUs. He was a role model amongst his peers for his innovation, leadership and commitment.

Rest in peace, Dr. Wesley McClure.

– Melvin B. Shaw, class of ’62

Photo credit: Lane College (www.lanecollege.edu)

African American Corporate Executives: HBCUs Need You!

The expertise and connections of African American corporate executives can help chart a sustainable future for historically black colleges and universities.

hbcu, historically black collegesHistorically black colleges and universities are amongst the largest African American controlled businesses in America. Many date back to the 19th century.  They have educated generations and built the black middle class. They are major employers in communities across the country. They also face well-documented challenges as they operate in an increasingly competitive educational marketplace.

These challenges can be addressed through a deep and meaningful partnership with African American corporate executives. These executives have increased corporate profits, managed turnarounds, introduced new products, increased employment, expanded operations, managed globalization, developed new technologies, and introduced social media to market and sell their products. Their expertise and management skills – when combined with that of academic leaders and trustees – can creatively and strategically address higher-education challenges in areas such as recruitment, retention and graduation; finances; marketing; and fundraising including alumni giving, corporate, foundation, state and federal support.

African American corporate executives can serve as executive coaches and mentors to presidents and chancellors, shadowing these leaders and working with them to provide additional strategies, perspective and potential solutions gained from their corporate experience.  They can volunteer to serve as trustees providing HBCUs with the same level of professionalism they would bring to a corporate board. They can serve as interim-presidents acting as change agents who help address unresolved structural challenges. They can serve on a corporate leadership team – joining with their peers – to provide management expertise and connections that can transform institutions. Such a team can surround and support the president and trustees helping to resolve challenges and take advantage of unleveraged opportunities.

Corporate executives can also provide funding and resources needed to stabilize our HBCUs. They can build endowments. They can ensure the continued competitiveness of HBCUs through timely capital investments in facilities, equipment and technology. Mutually beneficial strategic collaborations can support corporations who place a premium on attracting and retaining a diverse talent.

When the White House or a state governor needs top talent they often turn to the private sector, calling upon the patriotism of corporate executives, asking them to take a leave of absence to serve their fellow citizens. Today we need African American executives to heed the call to service. HBCUs provide a special brand of higher education. They play a critical role in educating African American, Hispanic and first generation students who seek an education that will allow them to fully participate in the global economy and build a strong future for themselves and their families.

Increased “business know-how” and financial investment can help HBCUs continue to play a key role in addressing educational disparities. Reach out to these institutions, share your know-how, and help them grow to the next level.  Volunteer now!

Photo credit: HBCUBuzz

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

UNCF telethon: a black history game changer

UNCF telethon: a black history game changer

UNCF Telethon Parade of StarsLights, camera, action. In 1980 the United Negro College Fund, UNCF, launched the Parade of Stars telethon. It became a nationwide fundraising program raising millions of dollars for generations of students, and support for historically black colleges and universities. It became the largest one-day African American special event in the country. It changed black history – and American history – creating an acknowledged culture of fundraising in the African American community. America’s largest corporations became engaged. Small churches, teachers, sororities and fraternities became engaged. Donors and volunteers from across the country organized to support UNCF and celebrate black philanthropy.

Here’s the back story. The telethon actually began years earlier in Dallas, Texas. The first telethon was a live performance at the Fairmont Hotel with STAX recording artists Rufus Thomas and Johnny Taylor backed by the Dallas symphony. The performance was filmed, edited and prepared for broadcast in 13 radio and television markets across Texas. Local volunteers answered phones and families across Texas called to give. A national fundraising movement was born.

The telethon gained national exposure in 1974 with hosts Nancy Wilson and Clifton Davis. Ron Bookman secured the talent; television and radio stations broadcast in select markets at no charge. This caught the attention of Anheuser-Busch and the rest is history. Lou Rawls, as spokesman for Anheuser-Busch, became the iconic host of the telethon. American Airlines, Kellogg, General Motors soon joined as sponsors and underwriters.

The telethon became a great recruiting tool for UNCF colleges. It also increased alumni pride and giving. It sent a message to corporations and foundations: UNCF colleges are important to African Americans and America. With an ear to the ground for the drumbeat of the community, these major funders joined with grassroots America to give – and give generously – to what became the “charity of choice” for African Americans. UNCF shed its image as an organization that appealed to the elite: it had launched a “people’s campaign” engaging donors and volunteers from all walks of life.

The telethon did what hadn’t been done before. It created a culture of fundraising throughout the black community that also engaged Hispanics, American Indians and Whites. It made UNCF a household word, and the phrase “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” one of America’s most iconic slogans. Corporations participated in cause-marketing focused on the black consumer. African Americans became the majority of UNCF donors, “documenting” their widespread support for the organization. The telethon provided an opportunity for all segments of the community to participate and be publicly recognized for their contributions. It provided economic opportunities for African American advertising agencies, marketing executives, producers, writers and small businesses. Most importantly it demonstrated the power of diverse volunteer-led fundraising. Our take: Think big, start small.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.

Church Giving Supports HBCUs

The United Methodist Church and HBCUs – behind the scenes at the Black College Fund…

The power of your church giving may be stronger than you know. For example, did you know that when you give to the United Methodist Church you are supporting eleven historically black colleges or universities in addition to supporting your congregation? That’s right. You are part of a long tradition that is now managed by the church’s Black College Fund under the leadership of Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson.

As you may be aware, black colleges and universities have been transforming the lives of individuals, communities and our country since before the Civil War. Eleven of these 105 institutions are private-church related colleges founded by the United Methodist Church. In order to learn more about the relationship between these colleges and the church, we talked with Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson and share our conversation with you.

Saad & Shaw:   Why did the church establish these colleges and why has it continued to support them?

Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson:   The Methodist Church has always had a passion, tradition and belief in the power of knowledge and as the Civil War ended, it was painfully clear that the education that had long been denied to slaves would severely hamper their self sufficiency if not addressed. The people called Methodists (through the Freedmen’s Aid Society, founded during the 1860s) saw an urgent need and addressed it. This ministry to the educationally underserved remains and we see it as essential to empowerment and self determination. According to a history of the Black College Fund written by Dillard University President Emeritus Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, “Without question, the UMC has no peer or competitor, either quantitatively or qualitatively, in terms of church support for its HBCU. No other mainline communion approaches the United Methodist level of generous and sustained financial support.” We believe in higher education and generously invest in it.

Saad & Shaw:   How does the church support these colleges? (Do you provide funding, conferences, technical assistance…)

Dr. Hopson:   All the above, but mainly the financial piece; our (mostly unrestricted) funding goes directly to the institutions to help keep their tuition and fees low, to enhance the infrastructure, to create new programming—whatever it takes to stay competitive. There is a capital projects designation and we also offer/share the United Methodist Connection of people, information and resources.

Saad & Shaw:   Why do you feel HBCUs are important today?

Dr. Hopson:  They are uniquely suited historically and otherwise to nurture, challenge and mentor their graduates to be instruments of change whether they’re running a school board, multi-national corporation or a university. These institutions attract the best and brightest in addition to those who have the potential to be great and they inspire them to “find a way or make one” as the Clark Atlanta University motto says. The small class sizes and low teacher/student ratios allow the faculty, staff and administration an opportunity to provide personalized attention and a family-like environment. Students can’t help but flourish and soar.

Saad & Shaw:   What role do these colleges play in the life of the church?

Dr. Hopson:    We get some of our most effective, committed, talented and innovative leaders from these institutions. Supporting leadership for life is not just a motto for us— we invest in it. The choirs tour and perform in local churches and our Project Athletic Ambassador program links congregations with the BCF basketball teams when they’re on the road for games. Also, in the Southeast, our institutions host the Youth Harambee, an annual gathering of youth groups from around the jurisdiction. Many of the schools were founded in local churches and that historic bond is a tremendous source of pride.

Saad & Shaw:   How do these church-related institutions work together? Do they engage in joint programming or joint fundraising?

Dr. Hopson:   The Council of Presidents (active presidents and retirees who have served more than ten years) help plan programming and promotion. Further, my office hosts a biennial continuing education event for public relations and advancement directors.

Saad & Shaw:   Is giving to these colleges a “black thing” or do all church members give?

Dr. Hopson:  Every United Methodist Church in the United States is assessed an amount to pay and many local churches and annual conferences (a group of geographically grouped churches) take enormous pride in paying their 100 percent share. We love those! We also receive memorial and estate gifts from supporters occasionally.

Saad & Shaw:   Has giving by churches to the Black College Fund increased or decreased during this economic downturn? (Whether increase or decrease, how has giving affected the fund and its work?)

Dr. Hopson:   I am delighted that our funding has held steady, and if anything, it has increased percentage wise. This year we received about 87 percent of $11 million, but our students’ needs continue to outpace the funding so we are constantly striving to reach potential new students and donors.”

Saad & Shaw:   Does the support of these church-related colleges and universities perpetuate segregated institutions?

Dr. Hopson:   Absolutely not! These schools are and have always been open to anybody with a hope and a dream, regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity or national origin. They are our most diverse campuses with students and faculty from around the world.

Saad & Shaw:   What else would you like to share with our readers about the Black College Fund in specific or HBCUs in general?

Dr. Hopson:  Our 11 institutions come in all shapes and sizes and there’s bound to be one that fits your needs or interests. If you haven’t visited one of them, stop by and be impressed by the critical research, innovative programming and some of the best and brightest students anywhere on the planet! And, if you want to invest in excellence, the Black College Fund is a great choice. Our administrative costs are less than four percent and your contributions are tax deductible. We support leadership for life.

Saad & Shaw:   Any last words on the power of collective giving such as giving through one’s church?

Dr. Hopson:  Our schools are a great investment and together we can do so much more than any one of us individually could do. I continue to be amazed at what happens when everyone gives their best gifts—together we are a force to be reckoned with!

Saad & Shaw:   Thank you for your time!

To learn more about the UMC Black College Fund visit www.gbhem.org/bcf or call (615) 340-7378.

National Fundraising — The Power and Impact of Local Volunteers

From time to time we seek to share what we have learned from Mel’s 25 years with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and his work developing and producing the Lou Rawls UNCF Telethon. In this column we focus on the impact that local volunteers – and local campaigns – have on the fundraising of national organizations.

Back in the day the Lou Rawls UNCF Telethon was the largest African American fundraising special event held on a single day anywhere in the world. Over the years, the telethon raised over $500 million dollars. Lou Rawls was certainly the star of the show, but the real stars were the thousands of volunteers who raised money in communities across the country during the six-to-nine months leading up to the telethon.

Mel Shaw, Lou Rawls & Jim Alston

While people continuously called into the show to pledge their gifts, 60 – 70% of the money was raised in advance from local communities. These local UNCF campaigns were led by volunteers who were respected at the grass roots level – and at the highest levels – in the communities where they lived and worked. UNCF volunteers raised funds from churches, civic organizations, local businesses, families and individuals. All gifts were recognized publicly during the telethon. Local TV and radio stations invited leaders and every-day folk to make their gifts on air. Some local gifts were announced on the national show. The anticipation of being publicly recognized and acknowledged in front friends, neighbors and co-workers helped stimulate giving and ongoing involvement.

The one-day telethon was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning, preparation, training and follow up. The fundraising was non-stop – and there was never be enough staff. We learned how to depend on and trust volunteers in local communities. We focused our efforts on training and preparing these volunteers, and made it a high priority to recognize and acknowledge their work.

Finding the right volunteers was at the heart of all our local campaigns. Cities such as San Antonio, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Phoenix, Portland (OR), and Omaha operated volunteer-led campaigns without the day-to-day support of local staff. All were successful in creating a buzz for UNCF and the telethon. San Antonio in particular extended that buzz beyond the black community and engaged large numbers of Hispanic volunteers and donors. Cities with a UNCF office such as New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami had local and regional responsibilities. Staff were charged with managing the local production of the telethon as well as implementing the volunteer-led fundraising plan.

The number one thing that made a difference in the telethon’s success was the power and impact of qualified, committed and trained local volunteers – including those from Memphis. UNCF’s commitment to localized fundraising kept people giving, year-after-year.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Meharry Medical College – Doing It Right!


Engaging your president and board is key to ensuring your institution’s fundraising success. Engaging faculty, staff and students is also important at colleges and universities. Engagement is a clear indicator of commitment, and commitment is a number-one prerequisite for fundraising success.

 We have long admired Robert S. Poole, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Meharry Medical College, for his success in leading a strong fundraising team. A seasoned advancement professional, Poole led Meharry through a historic $125 million campaign, and in 2010, the College reached a $100 million endowment milestone.

These successes are a result of strong philanthropic giving and prudent financial management. We recently turned to Poole for information about his strategies, and his insights to help impact fundraising at your college, university or non-profit.

A vital part of Meharry’s fundraising success has been the engagement of the College president, Wayne J. Riley. “As lead spokesman and vital leader/partner in every development discipline, the president is highly visible and engaged throughout the advancement program,” says Poole. “He’s involved in media (including op-ed features, video features, editorial board meetings, radio and TV interviews, health policy position statements, etc.), external affairs and government relations, donor prospect calls and campaign strategy, and alumni relations.”

Poole ensures the president is well prepared for these activities and has a clear vision of the College’s fundraising priorities. He discusses top prospects with the president and conducts briefing sessions before cultivation or solicitation visits. He also keeps him abreast of fundraising trends and best practices, as well as activities and progress at peer institutions. Poole says he works closely with the president to “develop and review new funding opportunities based on the College’s strategic plan and in conjunction with the deans and other campus executive leaders.”

 Board engagement is another key part of Meharry’s fundraising strategy. Poole updates the board’s advancement committee and chair about fundraising and marketing priorities and objectives. He gives prospect briefings to board members who participate in cultivation and solicitation calls. “We also involve board members in planning major fundraising initiatives, both as policy makers and potential donors,” says Poole.

Poole’s team also strives to engage staff, faculty and students in fundraising initiatives. “We encourage them to share their perspectives on the institutional needs and opportunities they would like to see addressed through philanthropy,” he says. “We provide education on how the fundraising process works and, where appropriate, involve them in fundraising cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.”

Students provide testimonies for solicitation appeals, write letters of thanks to scholarship donors and participate in donor recognition events. Poole’s team draws upon faculty members’ expertise when crafting fundraising proposals and projects. Faculty members and deans are also effective partners in donor visits, reports Poole. In fundraising there is a role for everyone – especially the president and board.

Keep People at the Core of Fundraising

Amidst the practical challenges of a fundraising campaign, it can be easy to lose sight of an organization’s greatest assets: its people. People are at the core of Meharry’s fundraising success, reports Poole: “Donors, staff and leadership … deliver the most value,” he says. “The vision and support of leaders provide us with the rationale and tools to engage fundraising. The staff and volunteers enable us to launch our plans, and the donors offer their financial capacity, which ultimately helps us realize our potential.”

Poole says he looks for several important traits in staff, including strong critical thinking skills. Successful staff members have exceptional communication (and listening) skills and a genuine interest in other people and their interests. Staff are also expected to have an outstanding work ethic and the self-discipline to see tasks through to their completion. Poole says his team carefully follows a fundraising plan, which is “reviewed constantly and updated periodically as circumstance warrant.”

Keeping people motivated over long periods of time can be a challenge, Poole acknowledges. “Another significant challenge is recalibrating priorities in an effort to keep pace with the demand for greater service to constituents and other stakeholders, patients and the general public as an academic health science institution,” he says.

Meharry College’s mission keeps Poole motivated. He takes pride in “aligning donors’ giving priorities and inclinations with the College’s aspirations” and in helping donors imagine fulfilling outcomes they may not have considered previously. Above all, Poole is motivated by “witnessing the great impacts — sometimes life-changing — of philanthropy on campus.”

Poole cites several role models who have inspired his career as a development professional, including his first boss, Nathaniel Smith, at Fisk University as well as Arthur Frantzreb, Jerrold Panas, and Alice Green Burnett.”

When asked what advice he would give those pursuing a leadership position in fundraising, Poole shared the following: “They should be aware of the time and mind share demands — often you are mentally ‘on call’ 24/7. One should have a natural curiosity about people and a range of topics. Because of time demands, people in these positions should develop strong ties and support systems with family and friends to maintain perspective away from the job. Additionally, as advancement leaders they must be decisive but not judgmental, and rely on evidence and data as well as instincts in decision making. Good and honest communication and the ability to set and execute priorities are essential.”

Tips For Fundraising Success: Engaging Your President, Board and Others

Robert Poole

Robert Poole

Engaging your president and board are key to ensuring your institution’s fundraising success. Engaging faculty, staff and students is also important. Engagement is a clear indicator of commitment, and commitment is a number one prerequisite for fundraising success. We have admired Robert S. Poole, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Meharry Medical College for his success in leading a strong fundraising team. A seasoned and successful advancement professional, Poole recently led Meharry through an historic $125 million campaign. In 2010 the College reach the $100 million endowment milestone. These successes are a result of strong philanthropic giving and prudent financial management, and one of the many reasons we admire Mr. Poole. We turned to Robert for specific information about how he engages the College’s board and president Dr. Wayne J. Riley . Our hope is that his tips and experience can help impact fundraising at your college, university, non-profit.

Saad & Shaw: How do you engage your president as a fundraiser?

Robert Poole: Here are five things we focus on at Meharry:

  • Developing and reviewing new funding opportunities with him based on the College’s strategic plan and in conjunction with the deans and other campus executive leaders.
  • Helping to maintain clarity regarding fundraising priorities.
  • Updating him on top prospects.
  • Conducting prospect briefing sessions before cultivation/solicitation visits.
  • Keeping him abreast of fundraising trends, best practices, and tracking and reporting on progress at peer institutions.

Saad & Shaw: How do you prepare and support your board in the area of fundraising?

Robert Poole: We communicate with the board’s advancement committee and its chairman regarding fundraising and marketing priorities and objectives. We provide prospect briefings for board members that participate in cultivation and solicitation calls as appropriate. We also involve board members in planning major fundraising initiatives both as policy makers and potential donors.

Saad & Shaw: How do you integrate the president into your fund development program?

Robert Poole: As lead spokesman and vital leader/partner in every development discipline the president is highly visible and engaged throughout the advancement program.  He’s involved in media (including op-ed features, video features, editorial board meetings, radio and TV interviews, health policy position statements, etc.), external affairs and government relations, donor prospect calls and campaign strategy, and alumni relations.

Saad & Shaw: How do you involve staff, faculty and students in your fundraising initiatives?

Robert Poole: We encourage them to share their perspectives on the institutional needs and opportunities that they would like to see addressed through philanthropy.   We provide education on how the fundraising process works and, where appropriate, involve them in fundraising cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.  For example, we’ve had great success in utilizing students during donor recognition and other events, students’ personal letters of thanks to scholarship donors have helped raise a lot of money as have their testimonies in solicitation appeals.  We work with faculty and other academic leaders to develop concepts that may ultimately become fundraising proposals or projects.  Additionally, faculty and deans have been very effective participants in donor visits.

Learn more – Read the full story.

HBCU support – its alive on the West Coast!

James Mayo II, Vice President, UNCF

James Mayo II, Vice President, UNCF

“All that I am and ever hope to be I owe to my family and to Howard University, an HBCU” – James H. Mayo II

We recently talked with James Mayo, Western Regional Vice President for the United Negro College Fund about the role of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Here is some of what he had to share.

Saad & Shaw: What do you see as the important role of HBCU’s today?

James Mayo: There are three principle reasons why our HBCUs are as indispensible today as they were when they were founded more than 150 years ago. First, these institutions provide a level of affirmation and care that allows our students to learn and grow in a climate where people are genuinely concerned that they survive and thrive. Faculty and administrators come from similar economic situations, and they know the challenges that so many of our students face. Second, the cost of a college education at an HBCU is one third of that charged by majority institutions.

HBCU’s stretch funds farther than larger majority institutions. This is our history. This is what we have done since our founding.  The third reason is the low faculty-to-pupil ratio that affords students the opportunity to work more one-on-one with faculty members.  There is nothing more compelling, more urgent, more immediate than to afford higher education opportunities to those African American students who, but for HBCUs, would never have access to the low faculty-to-pupil ratio that results in the attention and care that they need and succeed with.

Saad & Shaw: In your experience, why do people in California support the UNCF?

James Mayo: First of all, the one thing we can all agree upon as Americans is the importance of education. People support UNCF in largest measure because of the quality of education that is provided at a very low cost. People on the west coast support UNCF because of the many testimonies provided by people who have attended our colleges. Likewise, corporations see the investment. They understand that the cost ratio is low. These institutions do more with less than most majority institutions. These schools have soul. Soul is the ability to take nothing and make something out of it. HBCUs take students from all environments and they stretch a small amount of funds to create an environment where our students can succeed.

We have always had as our mission to go forth and provide service to those who do not have. “Enter to learn. Go forth to serve.” Service is at the core of our colleges and universities. This is another reason why people support UNCF. HBCUs are as vital today as they were on the day they were first founded. Their historical mission is as important as it was when envisioned by their founders. We are working not only for our local communities, but for our nation, our world, and for all mankind…

Join UNCF supporters at the annual UNCF gala on Saturday February 27th at the Oakland Marriott. For more information call (415) 956 – 1018 or visit www.uncf.org.

And as always, have a FUNdraising good time! – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Yes We Can – Building HBCU Endowments

Dr. John Berry

Dr. John Berry

Endowments are an important component of institutional stability and sustainability. They are a way to help address future needs and to leverage fundraising now and in the future. The growth of endowments at all colleges and universities has come under increasing scrutiny as those institutions with meaningful endowments examine their investment policies, and those with small or developing endowments look at how to grow theirs.

We asked Dr. John Berry to provide his insights in this guest blog. Dr. Berry’s dissertation focused on effective fund raising operations for endowment development.  Let us know your thoughts.

It’s safe to write that these are times in which greatness comes to the fore, as development professionals manage to make a way out of no way. It seems that all around us the fund raising landscape looks extremely bleak.

If you work in higher education in this country, these are challenging times.  Large, midsized, and small colleges and universities are struggling with the reality of shrinking lines of credit or perhaps no line of credit at all. This situation has the potential to cause a catastrophic system failure for numerous colleges and universities, which is an unimaginable scenario.

At the Historically Black University where I am employed, my weekly directors’ meetings have become dire, to say the least. It’s clear from all of the power centers within the university that this institution is experiencing the onset of a massive reduction in its operational budget, stemming from the extremely poor condition of the national economy. The briefing that I’ve received is sobering.

But the circumstances surrounding my institution are not isolated. This university is not the exception but rather the rule, as its leadership grapples with the very difficult decisions of scaling down programs, disciplines,  and the very heart of any college or university—its faculty and staff.

The drastic funding concerns of higher education nationwide are simple and yet complex in their formulation. Historically, the primary resource formula is based on a college’s or university’s projected student recruitment. The more students successfully enrolled, the more tuition fees paid by Pell grants, along with scholarships, fellowships, and students loans to supplement financial aid packages. These are the power centers/funding streams of colleges and universities’ chief financial officers.

The present economic climate of institutions indicates that students from low-income households or those facing the loss of parental employment and federal grants no longer will no longer be able to cover the full cost of tuition. These students often must defer their dreams of pursing a college degree.  In the past, a viable option for a family’s tuition shortfall was applying for a private-sector student loan which generally supplements an existing federal grant thereby resulting in a zero balance with a college or university for the academic year.

At public universities such as mine, we have seen our state economy drop. Therefore state tax revenue has dropped, meaning massive operational budget cuts along with the act of reverting existing allocated funds back to the state’s treasury.

The question then becomes, what are the options for small to midsized schools like those within the HBCU sector? As a professional development officer/fundraiser at an HBCU, I have—along with many of my colleagues at other HBCUs—seen the handwriting on the wall. But I have been for the most part unable to build up counter measures to address difficult times such as this unprecedented economic downturn. All but a very few colleges and universities, if called upon to do, so could fully cover their annual operating budgets by drawing on the school’s private reserves resources. The critical aspect to this sustainability function is that the larger a college or university endowment, the more options an institution’s leadership has to ward off periodic economic downturns.

The fundamental question for higher education leadership of small and midsized colleges and universities must be “what is the annual yield of primarily unrestricted funds coming from their respective institutions’ endowment portfolios?’ The pure income from a college- or university-invested endowment has become of the utmost importance to chief financial officers. The leadership at HBCUs will be called upon to aggressively manage these funds for maximum growth toward annual income yield.

The Challenges for Leadership
Given the grim economic prognosis for the United States—perhaps for the next few years—nationally, higher education will be called upon to do more with less government-allocated and philanthropic resources. However, the reality is that colleges and universities with larger endowments portfolios will probably fare better than those that do not. The late Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, former president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, said once in an affirming speech to “always think big.” This should be the rallying cry for 21st century HBCU sector leadership.

The Nobel Laureate and Yale economist James Tobin said in regard to higher education leadership and endowment management responsibility in 1974, “The trustees of endowed institutions are the guardians of the future against the claims of the present. It is their task to preserve equity among generations.”

The challenge in the early part of the 21st century is daunting for most institutions of higher education, but one could argue even more so for the HBCU sector and these institutions fund raising officers.  However, if history does nothing else in this kind of situation, it can provide a road map from which a plan of action can be developed and implemented to achieve a new desired outcome. Case in point:  Dr. Mary McLeod-Bethune, founder and president of the college which bears her worthy name, started that institution with $2.50. However when Dr. Bethune stepped down as president of the college, it had a $2 million endowment. As noted in her biography, Dr. Bethune herself cooked and sold fried-fish sandwiches to enhance the schools fund raising efforts. A word to the wise is sufficient: We are able.

John M. Berry
Chief Development Officer
South Carolina State University Student Affairs