I have three suggestions for HBCU advancement departments, national alumni associations and foundations. But first, a little background:
Recently an email was sent out to the membership of my sorority from the national president. The message was about giving back to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has always had a focus on giving back and supporting HBCUs, but this message was urging all of us to support now because of the financial challenges that some HBCUs are experiencing like budget cuts, reduced government funding and even declining enrollments. As an HBCU graduate and an educational advancement professional, I was happy to see this message. I was also thinking about how HBCUs and their affiliates (national alumni associations and foundations) need to capitalize on face-to-face action opportunities that Black Greek organizations have available.
In 2015, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. hosted their national convention in Houston, Texas. During the national convention, time was set aside for individual chapters to host meetups. I decided to participate in my birth chapter’s meetup, Delta Iota chapter in Grambling State University. Months before the national convention, alumni of the Delta Iota chapter were communicating about meeting up in Houston. The meetup was held at an alumnae’s home and it quickly filled, with over 60 women laughing, hugging and sharing stories about their time at Grambling. This gathering was a family reunion and Grambling and Delta was our connection.
During the meetup two major themes were communicated: stay financially active in Delta Sigma Theta (pay your dues) and give back to Grambling State University. The organizers of the meetup shared that they wanted the alumnae members of the chapter to raise $100,000 by Delta Iota’s 70th chapter anniversary. The opportunity to raise money is a wonderful way to help our alma mater, but they will need an advancement professional to help them reach this goal. It’s 2016 and I have not heard about the $100,000 goal. I share this example of the $100,000 goal because when HBCU advancement professionals are not in these spaces great opportunities can be missed.
As promised at the beginning of this post, I have three suggestions for HBCU advancement departments, national alumni associations and foundations:
- Stop hosting your own alumni conventions and have alumni association and foundation leaders travel to various national conventions of Black sororities and fraternities and set up as a vendor. Set up a booth to raise money for your institution and tell your story about the wonderful impact your institution is having. Be equipped to collect donations and collect information on individuals that you can engage as a major prospect and be sure to follow up with everyone.
- Be cognizant of the national events hosted by the various Black Greek organizations and reach out to your alumni who are members of the organization. Find out if there is an event or activity hosted by your alumni and if you can attend or send information to share.
- Have the local HBCU chapter president and other HBCU representatives attend the public events and bring greetings and network.
Many individuals and organizations have the desire to financially support HBCUs, but it will only be the action of people giving that will help our HBCUs. We have to seize the “now” if we want the desire of people to give to turn it the action of giving.
Jessica Elmore is a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at Kansas State University and an assistant director of multicultural Programs at the K-State Alumni Association. She is responsible for the creation and implementation of programs and activities that include engaging multicultural and international students and alumni.