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CEO shares tips on how HBCUs can improve their fundraising game

Collective thinking, individual donations are ‘game-changers’

It’s budget time. You have a shortfall.

We’ve all seen it — regular households, corporations, state governments, universities, especially historically black colleges.

These are tough financial times all around. Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), talked with The Undefeated about Fundraising 101 tailored for black colleges.

The Washington D.C.-based TMCF helps approximately 300,000 students at mostly public historically black colleges with scholarships, capacity-building, training programs and advocacy in the government-based public-policy sector.

We asked Taylor for a five-point plan, some of which may be viewed as controversial.

1. Engage your alumni in giving.

“HBCU alumni are known for not giving to HBCUs,” said Taylor, who attended the University of Miami as an undergrad and earned his law degree at Drake University. “We have got to change the narrative that everyone else is supposed to give to these schools except us. It’s not everyone else’s job to finance your school.”

2. Meet with corporations to discuss donations.

“What do corporations want?” Taylor asked. “They want schools that can help with their diversity issues. The best thing is to be able to provide talent. Tell corporations that we have engineers, lawyers, accountants and students in other professions who can work for them. If you can show this, corporations are more likely to contribute financially to colleges.”

3. Convince state and federal government officials that their funding isn’t a waste.

“When the federal government and state governments invest in HBCUs,” Taylor said, “you have to show them that our kids can graduate. It’s easy to say we have a 10,000 enrollment; anybody can have an enrollment. But the government doesn’t care how many students you have. The government wants to know about graduation rates. The government wants a return on its investment.”

4. Pursue individually wealthy people.

“They have money to give,” Taylor said. “You can go on a black campus and see a Carnegie building. And [Andrew] Carnegie was not black. We have to ask these people, regardless of race or color. Look, Oprah can’t give money to everybody. We have to seek out wealthy people, and not just wealthy black people.”

The steel-industry magnate-philanthropist Carnegie once said: “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” He gave away nearly 90 percent of his fortune.

5. Ask black people to rally around HBCUs.

“There are two institutions that we own or control: the black college and the black church,” Taylor explained. “So whether you went to a black college or not, black people should donate money to our institutions, even if they didn’t go to college at all.”

Then, Taylor, co-author of the book, The Trouble with HR: An Insider’s Guide to Finding and Keeping the Best People, discussed statistics.

“In America, we have roughly 40 million black folks,” he said. “If every one of those 40 million would give just $10 per year, we would have $400 million each year for black colleges.”

With that, he suggested another mathematical scenario.

“If you take every black adult — men and women — and each gives $25 per year,” Taylor stated, “we would have a half a billion dollars each year for black colleges.”

He added, “I’m not prepared to blame the state or federal government if we ourselves don’t donate to the cause as black people.”

Taylor then evoked rapper and entrepreneur Dr. Dre as a case study. Dr. Dre and his longtime business partner, music mogul Jimmy Iovine, announced a donation of $70 million to the University of Southern California three years ago for the creation of a degree program that combined the arts, visual design, entrepreneurship, computer science and marketing, to meet a growing demand in the entertainment industry. Superelite schools, such as the USCs and Harvards of the world, already possess huge endowments or alumni funds.

Suppose Dr. Dre had donated merely half of that $70 million to a historically black college or colleges?

“It would be a game-changer,” Taylor said. “Literally.”

Gregory Clay is an editor, writer and television/podcast commentator focusing on current news events. Based in Washington D.C., he has worked at Newsday and McClatchy and once gave a speech at a convention for the Texas State Bar Association.