The following is an anonymous submission from one of our readers, but speaks to the complex topic of HBCU philanthropic development of young graduates.
There is a hierarchy of blame when it comes to HBCU philanthropy. The first is that "HBCU graduates do not give back to their schools," and the second level is that "young alumni are not giving back to their schools."
For better or worse, we, young HBCU alumni, have our reasons for not being as active as we could or should be. For many of us, the reason is "we don’t have money because of student loans," For some of us, it is revenge for bad customer service while we were on campus.
But somehow, people in both categories find the money to finance a turn-up in Miami, or to go over the top on Valentine’s Day, or to cash out every homecoming.
Yes, there is hypocrisy in our reasoning and our actions. But it is not totally our fault. Collectively, our HBCUs do not do enough to teach philanthropy as much as we teach “fundraising and donating," and as such, we are conditioned to believe in gifts, and not development.
I graduated from an HBCU and am proud to work at my alma mater. For years pre and post-graduation, I have watched HBCUs hold fundraisers and ask for donations, yet never teach philanthropy and instill a culture of giving among students, alumni and supporters.
Our schools focus too much on the gift and rarely enough on the giver. We don't talk nearly enough about the far-reaching impact of philanthropy when it comes to endowment investment returns, athletic expansion, reducing institutional debt, or any other major area of finance.
Here is how I think HBCUs could do better in educating their young alums:
- Provide clear transparency on where their money goes and how it impacts the university
- Explain the difference between an “Unrestricted” and “Restricted” gift
- Use social media to tell stories about financial and non-financial gifts benefitting the university
- Directly address rumors of “embezzlement” and how holding your gift because of a grievance does nothing to further the mission of the university
- Move away from the “this-for-that” fundraising game. Every gift does not require a trinket as thanks (it’s also against IRS guidelines depending on what you send them).
These five things are a start to moving us into the right direction, but it’s on annual fund officers to educate our students and create an attitude of philanthropic support of our institutions.