Tag Archives: fundraising

Claflin University Ranked Best Black College by Forbes

By Marybeth Gasman

This past week, Forbes determined that Claflin University is the best Black college in the country. The magazine bases its assessment on the quality of education offered to students, the number of alumni listed in Who’s Who in America, student debt, graduation rates and the number of faculty who have won nationally competitive awards. Forbes also ranked the Orangeburg, S.C., No. 141 out of 569 undergraduate colleges nationwide.

For those of us who study and watch Black colleges Forbes’ decision was no surprise. Claflin has been on the rise — at a great speed — for the past five years. Under the leadership of President Henry N. Tisdale, the institution has put students first and foremost. From the moment one visits the University’s Web site, the centrality and deep care for students is obvious. The institution boasts a diverse student body, rigorous liberal arts curriculum, and ample research and internship opportunities.

Claflin has also concentrated its attention on fundraising, increasing its alumni giving rates to 37 percent. In fact, the institution is currently expanding its fundraising staff in order to capitalize on all of its academic success. Claflin is investing money in creating an infrastructure that will sustain the institution long into the future.

What is most impressive about Claflin University is its graduation rate African-American students. At 65 percent, the institution’s rate is significantly above the national average for African-Americans (45 percent) and college students in general (56 percent). Something amazing is happening at this small institution and the higher education community at large should take notice.

Claflin is similar to many small, Black colleges and as such, other Black colleges should look very closely at what is working at Claflin in terms of leadership, academics, fundraising and student recruitment. It’s time to let go of strategies of the past and move toward emulating those that result in success.

An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions (SUNY Press, 2008).

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Should HBCUs take a Page from Obama’s Notebook on fundraising? Yes!

 

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman

 

Liberals and conservatives alike have raved about Barack Obama’s innovative approach to fundraising.  In recent months, I have seen article after article lauding Obama’s campaign for using technology in new ways and paying attention to the small donor.  After careful review of the Obama campaign’s strategies, I’m convinced that Black colleges and universities should follow his lead.

 

Obama’s fundraising success comes from a multi-part strategy. His campaign uses a combination of Google ads, email list generation techniques, a presence on various social networking sites and tailored email messages to garner funds.  Knowing Obama’s captive audience, his campaign strategically places ads on websites that are akin to his kind of politics.  In addition, his campaign targets websites that speak to audiences with which Obama can potentially make headway (e.g., the Latino population).  Perhaps HBCUs should be placing ads on viable websites both for marketing and fundraising purposes.  Research shows that the internet is an excellent way to connect with people under 40 years of age (and this is changing to include those over 40).

 

Perhaps one of the Obama campaign’s most successful and innovative approaches to fundraising is the collection of email addresses.  At small and large campaign rallies across the country, they collected the emails of virtually all attendees, creating a massive database of supporters with whom Obama can be in constant contact.  What if HBCUs began collecting email addresses systematically at homecoming, football and basketball games, and special events?  And, what if HBCUs began to court these constituents – keeping them abreast of their successes, telling them of their needs, and eventually asking them to support HBCUs financially?  The Obama campaign sends regular email messages that inform, inspire, and request support.  HBCUs could certainly do the same.

 

The Obama campaign also makes use of electronic social networks, including Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn.  Individuals who friendObama can download videos and send them to their friends, post Obama quotes on their personal sites, and invite friends to participate in campaign events.  What if HBCUs tapped into these social networks extensively, using them to communicate with alumni and drum up enthusiasm for campus events?

 

And, of course, the Obama campaign doesn’t ignore the small donor.  Even donors who give a mere $5 are courted on a regular basis.  Obama realized that paying attention to the small donor would pay off in the end as small donors give time and time again. They are loyal. Often times, HBCUs place their fundraising emphasis on foundations, corporations, and large donors, neglecting to focus attention on their alumni (i.e., the small donor).  Cultivating alumni in the way that Obama’s campaign has done is essential to the growth and longevity of HBCUs.  And the trick, at least for Obama, is a lot of thank you’s, a lot of information on how the donations are used, and targeted and meaningful solicitations.

 

Check out these articles for more insight on Obama’s fundraising strategies:

 

“Obama’s Fundraising Success May Herald a Whole New Model”

“On the Web, Obama is the Clear Winner”

“Internet Revolutionizes Campaign Fundraising:  Successful Fundraising Efforts Appeal to Average People Online”

 

An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions  (SUNY Press, 2008).

An HBCU Learns the Benefits of Appreciating its Alumni

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman

According to Diverse’s May 1 feature “A Fundraising Blueprint” and most recently Tuesday’s Chronicle of Higher Education daily update, Howard University raised $275 million in a five-year fundraising campaign. Howard’s success surpassed the institution’s expectations and solidified its role as a leader in Black college fundraising. Interestingly, Howard University trustees originally set the goal for $100 million, but the institution’s president, Dr. H. Patrick Swygert, pushed for a larger goal. Throughout history, Black college trustees have underestimated the potential of these institutions, and Swygert should be commended for pushing his university’s leadership to “think big” and not settle for a smaller figure. If you ask for less, you receive less!

Much of the success of Howard’s campaign was the result of increased and systematic cultivation of its alumni. When Howard began its fundraising campaign, the institution’s alumni giving rate was a mere 4 percent, which is slightly below the average for HBCUs; however, today it is boasting a 17 percent rate, which is above the national average for all colleges and universities regardless of racial make-up. During its campaign, Howard’s administration realized how important it is to keep alumni informed of the successes and accomplishments of the institution and, more importantly, the students. In the words of Swygert, “People give to students, they give to ideas, they give to memory.” Swygert’s words are vitally important. For too long, many Black colleges have not kept track of their alumni, have not asked them to give, have not kept them informed of the successes and needs of their alma mater, and have not provided proper stewardship following alumni contributions. The case of Howard University’s success with alumni offers a shining example of how much Black college alumni are willing to support their institution when asked and when appreciated.

One of the best ways to cultivate alumni support is to begin the process when alumni are students. Many institutions across the country are spending time and resources educating their students about the importance of giving back because they see an enormous return on investment when these students graduate. Colleges and universities are instilling in young people the idea that supporting one’s alma mater is an obligation — it’s something that you do because those who went before you gave and that giving contributed to your success. In order to increase alumni giving at HBCUs, it is essential that students learn about giving back the moment they walk on to campus.

Black college fundraisers should study Howard University’s accomplishment, especially in terms of the institution’s success with alumni giving. There are many examples of success in the area of Black college fundraising, including (but not limited to) Claflin University, Spelman College, Tuskegee University and Prairie View A&M University — building on and learning from these successes is essential as Black colleges move forward in the 21st Century.

An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions (SUNY Press, 2008).