By William Broussard
As Director of Athletics at an HBCU who oversaw fundraising efforts for the department, I learned many important lessons about HBCU fundraising culture. Perhaps none is more important than this: HBCU have plenty of fans. What they need are more supporters.
In non-profit fundraising, we spend a great deal of time identifying, cultivating, and soliciting donations, often over unintimidating, nondescript lunch and coffee meetings, at tailgating parties, and fish fries.
Everyone enjoys friends regaling us with stories of championships won, and narrowly lost, great athletes and coaches, filled stands, brimming pride, and rich traditions passed from generation to generation.
One hopes, eventually, that the conversation will pivot from yesteryear to visions for the future.
As a career institutional advancement officer, no sweeter words can be uttered by a prospective donor than “How can I help y’all?”
An important element of discussion with prospects is the notion of what individuals and groups believe they can do to help (which often indicates both capacity and ability to give).
When discussions pivot toward this topic in HBCU circles, many are inclined to share the ways that they “support” our institutions proudly. Some of the more common claims include:
1) I’ve never missed a game—including road games
2) I pay my booster club dues annually (~$100/year)
3) I pay my university alumni dues annually (~$50/year)
4) I organize fundraisers (crawfish boils, fish fries, and raffles)
While all of these are important determinants of who has capacity to become strong supporters of our institutions, they are not always indicators of substantial support.
It’s important to note that passion such as this can easily be converted from fanaticism to strong institutional support, but this process requires collaboration and education, and that is the responsibility of institutional advancement officers.
Never missing a road game means that individuals are purchasing tickets from host institutions, buying their fuel and tailgating supplies from companies that may or may not support their institution, and spending dollars supporting businesses in other towns/cities.
For example, supporting the great cultural hallmark The Bayou Classic means that one weekend every year, Grambling and Southern fans pump over $30 million into the city of New Orleans, and yet bring fewer than 4% of those dollars back to their foundations and institutions.