Delaware State Philanthropy Symposium Gains Momentum Within HBCU Community

Delaware State University’s Division of Institutional Advancement hosted the sixth annual Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Philanthropy Symposium July 19-21, 2017 in Dover, DE.

The HBCU Philanthropy Symposium was supported by a three-year grant from The Kresge Foundation.  The symposium brings together key fundraising professionals from HBCU institutions to discuss relevant challenges and solutions regarding private fundraising support.   

This year’s symposium achieved the largest attendance in the history of the event, with more than 130 fundraisers taking part in the conference. Thirty-eight schools attended representing 19 states, including Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For the first time, private HBCUs were among the participating institutions.

The opening session keynote speaker was Dr. Phillip Clay, who is well-known for his extensive research on HBCUs and is the author of Facing the Future: A Fresh Look at Challenges and Opportunities. Dr. Clay is also a member of The Kresge Foundation Board of Trustees.

Several panel discussions highlighted the 2½-day symposium.  Moderated by CASE, the Strada Education Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation joined The Kresge Foundation for a discussion on present and future perspectives on funding in the 21st century.  The Andrew Mellon Foundation was also present at the symposium. Thursday’s session featured a president’s panel that included Dr. Harry Williams of DSU and Mr. Ronald Mason, Jr. of the University District of Columbia for a president’s view of Advancement’s role in HBCU sustainability.

This was also the first year of a discussion regarding alternative sources of funding.  Panelists included representatives from the Gates Foundation, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.  Altria Client Services, Exelon, Toyota, and Walmart anchored the panel discussions on Friday as they provided insight on the strategic initiatives for creating an HBCU and corporate partnership.  The symposium concluded with a luncheon featuring an address from Johnny C. Taylor, president & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Several breakout sessions were also included in the supporting areas of Alumni Relations, Annual Giving, Athletics, and Campaign Leadership.

The HBCU Symposium is gaining momentum as the must-attend event for Advancement leaders from HBCUs for several reasons.  

The first is cost.  The symposium is always moderately priced for registrants to attend.  At other industry conferences, registrants would pay $400 – $1,000 per participant.  This is one reason HBCUs are not well-represented at many of these international conferences.

Dr. Vita Pickrum, the symposium’s founder, said, “We understand the budget challenges HBCUs face and the need to get training and additional industry knowledge for staff.  While many larger conferences offer great information and opportunities, oftentimes they are just not affordable for our institutions to attend.  It is our focus to make sure cost is not an obstacle for our peers to attend the symposium every year.”    

The second reason HBCUs should plan to attend the symposium every year is relevancy of content. As the host institution, Delaware State University, has done a tremendous job leveraging partnerships with The Kresge Foundation, CASE, Thurgood Marshall College Fund and others to deliver high-level presenters with relevant information to the HBCU space.  

The big difference with the HBCU Philanthropy Symposium is that discussions are confined to its name – philanthropy.  The topics are all centered around how to better raise funds for HBCUs, an extremely important discussion that must be continued on a consistent basis.  

Finally, a consortium is being developed from the HBCU Symposium.  The symposium concept began because major foundations and corporations began to change how they supported causes financially, moving from single sites to supporting larger causes that are more united to increase their impact.  In other words, the days of a major funder supporting DSU and Morgan State University (MSU) individually are rapidly diminishing.  Instead, funders are now more inclined to support DSU, MSU, Bowie State University, Morehouse College, and North Carolina State A&T University, for example, for a STEM or educational program that they have in common.

The HBCU Philanthropy Symposium is a great start to these conversations that needs to be held by our institutions to survive and thrive in the future.  If your HBCU was not represented this year, please make sure you attend next year.  

What did some of the attendees from this year have to say:

“I found the HBCU Philanthropy Symposium to be extremely beneficial to me.  The information shared was extremely helpful as we look for new and innovative ways to increase the philanthropic support of Kentucky State University (KSU).   I also found the networking opportunities to be very helpful as I grow relationships with other professionals facing the same challenges we face here at KSU.” – Rick Smith, Interim Vice President, Institutional Advancement and Alumni Relations, Kentucky State University

“The 2017 HBCU Philanthropy Symposium was well-planned with great funders forums, interactive sessions, and networking opportunities!” – Felicia Murphy-Phillips, Senior Leadership Gifts Officer, Office of Institutional Advancement, Morehouse College

“The 2017 HBCU Philanthropy Symposium was a richly rewarding experience because of its high-caliber presenters and participants.  Further, the meaningful memories I developed with colleagues new to the field of fundraising and seasoned experts alike positions me to develop partnerships for the benefit of my students for years to come.” – Walter T. Tillman, Jr., Ph.D., Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Southern University Law Center  

“I really enjoyed the networking and collaborating with my colleagues from both state and private HBCUs.  Together we share, together we empower, together we uplift, and together we will all thrive!” – Marcus Burgess, Vice President for University Advancement, Florida Memorial University

The dates for next year’s HBCU Philanthropy Symposium will be July 25-27, 2018, in Dover, DE.

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