AS THE LEADERSHIP OF HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES POSITION THEIR institutions to meet the growing challenges of the 21st century, I am excited by the potential of a partnership that has the possibilities of transformational empowerment for these institutions.
The partnership I am suggesting is one in which HBCUs partner with Black investment banks and asset management firms to conduct these schools’ capital campaigns.
I considered this concept when I read about Black CEOs and owners of investment banks and asset management firms; these outstanding Black Wall Street power brokers are responsible for billions of dollars at their respective firms.
HBCUs have played and will continue to play a significant role in the production of trained human capital to assist with this nation’s global market competitiveness. However, HBCUs have often been underfunded. The continued lack of private philanthropy to this sector is significant given that institutional endowment growth primarily occurs through successful capital campaigns. Therefore, the challenge for HBCUs is to upgrade their institutional capital infrastructure to do the capacity-building needed to train 21st-century students for leadership roles.
Like other institutions, HBCUs have turned to comprehensive capital campaigns to generate millions of private dollars to fund what simply cannot be achieved via annual operating budgets. Capital campaigns as major fund-raising platforms have become so popular with colleges and universities that it is commonly understood that a college or university is either coming out of or going into a capital campaign. However, the stated goals of the typical HBCU capital campaign are, on average, less ambitious than those of majority institutions. Nonetheless, the resources these campaigns seek to raise are essential as they contribute to student scholarships, fellowships, endowed chairs/professorships, brick-and-mortar projects and endowments.
One of the most important decisions colleges make when planning for a capital campaign is the selection of a banking firm to assist in providing investment vehicles and to act as the campaign’s repository for gifts to the institution during the campaign. How many institutions turn to Black-owned investment firms for this assistance? How many HBCUs look to these natural allies?
President Ronald Reagan, in a 1980 address to the National Urban League convention in Denver, focused on Black economic development. He noted that within the African-American community, the so-called Black dollar is turned over only once in the Black community before moving out to the larger society. Reagan was correct in his assessment of the lack of economic empowerment and sustainability, which creates wealth for individuals and organizations within a community.
HBCU leadership should begin to hold strategy sessions to determine how their institutions can build a level of trust that would allow the transfer of capital campaign funds to rest with Black-owned investment firms.
HBCUs that are conducting or planning capital campaigns should consider these recommendations:
Mary McLeod Bethune, in her visionary last will and testament to African Americans, spoke directly to our need to trust and support Black financial institutions. Dr. Martin Luther King, in his “Mountain Top” speech, made the observation that we have to strengthen Black institutions. People attending that night heard King request that they take their monies “out of the banks downtown” and deposit them in a Black, locally owned bank. The time has finally come to develop an economic empowerment partnership paradigm to benefit HBCUs and Black investment banks and asset management firms. These partnerships have the potential to generate wealth for both sectors.
Dr. John M. Berry is the assistant vice president for development at South Carolina State University.
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