Tag Archives: Prairie View A & M University

During an Economic Crisis, Don’t Make Cuts in Institutional Advancement

By Marybeth Gasman, Ph.D.

A few days ago, I was on the phone with a good friend, Nelson Bowman, who works as the Director of Development at Prairie View A & M University.  We started talking about the economic downturn and its impact on HBCUs.  Nelson is amazingly resourceful, and as such, was trying to get some “free” consulting out of me.  He asked, “What are your thoughts on institutions, specifically HBCUs, that cut the budgets of institutional advancement during these difficult economic times?”  This is a great question.

Although I would advise all HBCUs to cut as much fat out of their budgets as possible during this time, Institutional Advancement is the life blood of an institution and should not be cut in any substantial way.  Those in this area are raising money for the rest of the institution — for scholarships, facilities, operating costs, faculty research, and other essential areas.  Some HBCU administrators are cutting travel, event, and staff budgets in Institutional Advancement right now.  In many ways, as my colleague Nelson Bowman reminded me, cutting in this area first is treating Institutional Advancement like an accessory rather than an essential part of the institution.  An accessory is something that you can take on and off depending on your mood or the situation you are in.  Slashing Institutional Advancement budgets during difficult times results in a need to rebuild when times are better. Institutional Advancement should be treated as central to the mission of an HBCU and its activities should, in fact, be bolstered during times of crisis.  Times like these are the best times to be bold and increase efforts to garner monetary support for the institution. 

Even if regular donors cannot give as much during tough times, HBCUs need to stay on the radar screen of these donors.  Donors need to know that the institution is in need and that their support is still greatly appreciated and desired.  They also need to be made aware of the ways that the institution is coping with the economic crisis and cutting spending where necessary.  During tough economic times, donors want to know that their contributions are being used wisely. 

Cutting back on personal visits, public relations materials, and stewardship events will end up hurting HBCUs in the long term. Investing in Institutional Advancement is an investment in the future of the institution.  However, HBCUs must convince their internal constituents (faculty, staff, and students) that the work of the Institutional Advancement staff is essential to the strength of the institution as a whole.

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).