Over the past few years, HBCU alumni have been asked to participate in many surveys related to giving back to their alma mater and consistently their number one reason for not giving back is not being asked. Some may not agree with this logic, but I understand their reasoning, as I did not start giving to my institutions until I was asked.
Given the recent closure of one HBCU and the hemorrhaging of several others, should HBCU Alumni continue to wait on the planets to align hoping our institutions will get it right and make the ask of us first,? Can we? From my perspective, if being right means being without HBCUs, I would rather be wrong and give without being asked.
Robert Douglas West, a nationally known pastor and Bishop College lumnus, often tells the story of how he had to adopt another HBCU because the majority of his classmates and fellow alumni chose not to give without being asked and now, it’s too late. Bishop College closed in 1988 and in his words,
“…imagine having no homecoming to attend, no registrar’s office to secure a transcript or no school website to visit. Just makes me sad.”
There is no denying that financial support is needed and in some cases life-saving for many HBCUs especially given their low alumni giving rates. However, gifts do not have to be financially transformational or financial at all. In fact, there are a number of other ways alumni can engage and be supportive as well as a few inexpensive ways of showing your school pride.
Consider These Alumni Giving Options:
- Alumni Association Officer – Become active in the local and/or national Alumni Association and possibly, become an officer
- Class Adoption – You and members of your class, i.e. Class of 1990, could adopt incoming freshmen and provide mentoring, tutoring and career advice through their senior year
- Institutional Ambassador – Recruit prospective students in your city, county and/or state by attending college fairs and visiting high schools to promote the college
- University Advocate – Introduce the institution to your network of professional colleagues, fellow board members and friends that share your interest in the school
- Guest Lecturer – Share you life and professional experiences with students in an effort to inform and stimulate their interest
- Opportunity Creator – Identify and create internship opportunities with your employer or at your company for student pursuing careers in the industry
- Fundraising Ambassador – Leverage your skill set in fundraising and marketing to cultivate and solicit fellow alumni who may have become alienated from the university
- Regular Contributor – Give consistently, possibly choosing to sacrifice a pleasure you enjoy, i.e. a dinner out or a week’s worth of Starbuck purchases and let that become a monthly contribution amount
- Scholarship Creator – Leave a legacy at your institution by creating a permanent scholarship that bears your name or that of a loved one. Many employers and a few schools offer matching funds that will increase the value tremendously
- Group Endeavor – Create a Giving Circle of alumni who pool their money together to support an initiative (s) at the school
- Planned Giver – Include the university in your estate by designating a certain percentage or dollar amount to it. You can also purchase an additional life insurance policy naming the institution the sole beneficiary
Whereas most of these ideas are simple and easy to do, one would think that all HBCU graduates would be performing at least one and possibly more. I mean after all, we love our schools and honestly, “Where would we be without our HBCU degrees?” Unfortunately, that is not the reality as very few of our alumni are engaged or give back. So again, I ask, even when you not asked, should you still give? I think you should.