In recent years, U.S. corporations and foundations have increased giving to HBCUs, the Associated Press reports.
During the pandemic when most colleges were shut down, Dominion Energy in Virginia donated $500,000 towards laptops and hot spots for students at Wilberforce University. Natalie Coles, who leads fundraising efforts at Wilberforce, explained the impact of this growing trend of additional funds on HBCUs.
“It was like manna from heaven,” Coles recalled.
In addition to the technological upgrades, the gift from Dominion supports scholarships and a lecture series on racial inequality. In accordance with their modus operandi, HBCUs have mastered the art of making money stretch.
Other schools such as Delaware State University also received funding. In 2020, the school was gifted $20 million from MacKenzie Scott. In total, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has given $560 million to HBCUs.
Spelman College's increase in donations resulted in the school launching a center for Black entrepreneurship and the expansion of financial aid for students. Jessie Brooks, senior vice president for institutional advancement at Spelman, said the racial justice movement that emerged in 2020 was a golden opportunity for HBCUs to attract potential donors and to exemplify why their schools are good investments.
“If a donor gives you the resources, and you can show impact in terms of how their gift made a difference, they will continue to give,” Brooks argued.
Giving to HBCUs has also increased because of the presence of Black employees at corporations. Danielle Robinson, head of community engagement and partnerships for beverage company Diageo North America, gifted HBCUs with almost $12 Million in scholarships at 29 schools to help Black students with student loan debt.
Robinson noted that she had conversations with prospective donors about some of the issues that Black institutions encounter.
“We talked about a lot of different things, but one of the things that kept coming up was the generational wealth gap,” Robinson said.
Coles expressed her gratitude to Black corporate workers who use their influence to advocate for HBCUs.
“I would really applaud my fellow African Americans for really pushing things within corporate America to make certain that the George Floyd incident was a movement, a long-term movement, not just a one-off,” Coles added.
Michael Lomax, CEO of the United Negro College Fund, argued that HBCUs should receive more philanthropic support because Black graduates often outperform their counterparts as teachers, nurses, and other professionals who come from bigger, well-funded colleges.
“I want to see more of American philanthropy recognizing that those are important,” Lomax said. “That they’re going to help us ensure that those jobs and those positions are filled because they are the positions which will ensure a healthy Black America, but really, a healthy America.”
The recent uptick of U.S. companies and philanthropic organizations giving more funding to Black schools is desperately needed due to the long history of white institutions receiving more financial support than HBCUs. Traditionally, HBCUs often have smaller endowments in comparison to other universities, and support for HBCUs dropped by 30 percent between 2002 and 2019.
According to a study conducted by philanthropy research nonprofit Candid and the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), HBCUs were given “178 times less funding from foundations” when compared to what the average Ivy League school received in 2019.
Per the study, nine HBCUs only received $45 million, but the eight American Ivy League schools received $5.5 billion from the 1,000 largest foundations in the U.S.