9th Annual HBCU Philanthropy Symposium Bridging Advancement and Student Success

Fundraising and Academic leaders converged in Dover, Delaware for the 9th Annual HBCU Philanthropy Symposium on July 22-25,2019.  This year’s theme, Bridging Advancement and Student Success was the backdrop for their engagement in meaningful dialogue on how to leverage fundraising to support Student Success initiatives at HBCU’s effectively.  The HBCU Philanthropy Symposium mission is to provide a forum for transparent discussions about common challenges and successes regarding philanthropy among HBCUs.  For the past two years the Symposium has grown and now brings together the academic and advancement components of HBCU leadership to ensure student success. “HBCUs can no longer silo their focus on student success from advancement initiatives.  The two must work in tandem to provide a vibrant and robust learning environment for their most valuable asset – the students,” stated Dr. Vita Pickrum, HBCU Philanthropy Symposium founder, Vice President, University Advancement, Delaware State University. 

More than 150 philanthropic, fundraising, academic, and corporate leaders representing over 30 schools and organizations from 20 different states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands convened.  The HBCU Philanthropy Symposium united public and private institutions along with senior leadership from the Thur good Marshall College Fund (TMCF), United Negro College Fund (UNCF),National Association of Community Colleges Entrepreneurship (NACCE), Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Complete College America(CCA), and others. 

The Symposium was highlighted by introductory remarks from Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) Delaware, United States House of Representatives, Dr. Wilma Mishoe, President, Delaware State University, and keynote addresses from Congresswoman Alma Adams, 12th Congressional District of North Carolina, United States House of Representatives, Co-chair and founder of the Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Caucus and Dr.Yolanda Watson Spiva, President, CCA.  The Symposium’s thought leaders, like these, engaged in open dialogue on how HBCU scan better position themselves to ensure student success through philanthropy.

Congresswoman Adams, an HBCU graduate from North Carolina A&T State University, shared that current times are critical for HBCUs and that their history and mission should be supported and sustained to continue giving others a chance at success. “HBCUs are facing falling endowment funds and reduced giving from philanthropic groups — and some problems go farther back,” said Adams.  Many of the leaders in attendance graduated from HBCUs.  They know the importance and value that HBCUs bring and the need for HBCUs to continue to exist for many students from under served communities.

CCA focuses on strategies for under served populations to close achievement gaps,boost graduation rates, and ensure every student can achieve their dreams through higher education.  Dr. Spiva detailed how the student college experience matters in fundraising.  She related through her personal story how fund raising for HBCUs is directly connected to students’ and parents’experiences throughout the entire matriculation period.  Dr. Spiva said, “It was an honor to present at the 2019 Historically Black Colleges and Universities Philanthropy Symposium and share innovative strategies for increasing student momentum and enhancing funding support for minority-serving institutions.  HBCUs play a vital role in creating more equitable outcomes in higher education, ensuring more students of color not only enroll in college, but graduate. The deep commitment to student success by the leaders, faculty and staff of

these institutions will lead to many more degrees and credentials of value for the students they serve, improving social mobility for them and their families.” Dr. Spiva’s address was moderated by Dr. Tony Allen,Executive Vice President, and Provost, Delaware State University, who also gave a presentation on his institution’s journey to be a recognized leader in student success transforming the higher education model at an HBCU.

Since its inception, the Symposium has created an environment to share and exchange big ideas.  One of the added values that participants receive is the targeted focus on professional development for all levels of fundraising roles.  LaShonda R. Williams, director for Annual Fund, Prairie View A&M University, said, “This year was my first conference and I thoroughly enjoyed everything! The sessions provided meaningful discussions about how to further advance HBCU Philanthropic efforts.  I have attended both CASE and AFP conferences in the past, which provide a wealth of knowledge, however, I appreciate the Symposium’s targeted focus.”

Despite budget cuts for many of the schools, the Symposium continues to attract a growing number of Fundraising professionals to the annual event.  Dame on Shaw, Interim Vice President, Mississippi Valley State University, said, “The Symposium gets better and more valuable each year. 2019 was the best one ever.  I’ll be bringing more of my team to the HBCU Philanthropy Symposium in place of other conferences next year.”

 As a result of partnerships with The Kresge Foundation, Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation, Strada Education Network, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United Negro College Fund, and a growing number of corporate and foundation sponsors, the HBCU Philanthropy Symposium offers world-renowned speakers and high-level content and training while keeping registration fees at a significantly low threshold.

As part of the 2019 Symposium, participants had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with senior representatives from national foundations that included Edward Smith, Program Officer, Kresge Foundation, Scott Dalessandro, Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Daryl A.Graham, Senior Vice President, Strada Education Network.  The Funders panel was moderated by Dr. Devona Williams, President, Goeins-Williams Associates, Inc.  For the second year,University Presidents participated in the Symposium.  Presidents Dr. Wilma Mishoe, Delaware State University President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Alabama State University, and Dr. Brenda Allen, Lincoln University (PA) highlighted around table discussion moderated by Mr. David Sheppard, Senior Vice President,General Counsel, and Chief of Staff, Thurgood Marshall College Fund. 

Corporate support continues to be a significant source of funding for HBCUs.  Learning how HBCUs can leverage corporate partnerships is always of keen interest at the Symposium.  This year’s corporate round table on innovative strategies was spearheaded by six major corporations:  Discover Financial Services, FMC Corporation, JP Morgan Chase, Pepco Holdings, Toyota and Wells Fargo.

The 2019 HBCU Philanthropy Symposium offered a powerful list of keynote and session speakers.    However,the breakout sessions may have been one of the most diverse and comprehensive in the Symposium’s nine-year history.  Topics included Annual Giving and Major Gifts, Athletic Fundraising, a new approach to Galas, Campaign Communication, Alumni Relations, and Alumni Association, and Diversity &Inclusion related to young alumni.  Breakout session leaders were selected through a call for presentations.

CASE co-hosted a Pre-Conference with Delaware State University.  The focus was on fundraising for Deans and Academic Leaders and was well received by the attendees.  In addition, the CASE Senior Director for Advocacy, Brain Flahaven, gave a very informative presentation during the Symposium on the Effect of New Tax Legislation on Philanthropy. 

The Symposium wrapped up with several phenomenal sessions to include Edward Lewis-Smith, Director, Career Pathways Initiative, UNCF addressing the myriad of programs available to HBCUs to build capacity towards sustainability; and others from Jeff Smith, Director, NACCE discussing Design Thinking in Advancement.

The HBCU Philanthropy Symposium’s Advancement Award was presented to Felicia Murphy-Phillips, Senior Director for Leadership Gifts, Morehouse College.  The award criteria are for an advancement leader with exemplary service in the industry who has been a longtime supporter of the Symposium.  Previous recipients were Cheryl Hitchcock, former Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Morgan State University (2017) and Rob Henry, Vice President, Education, CASE (2018).

Information will be posted soon regarding sponsorship opportunities and registration for the 10th Anniversary of the HBCU Philanthropy Symposium in 2020 at www.hbcusymposium.com. Please contact Mr. LaShawne Pryor at lpryor@desu.edu for any inquiries.

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