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Alumni giving grows at black colleges
ETTRICK, Va. (AP) — Making money, administrators at Virginia State University have learned, takes money.
The majority black school has spent millions of state dollars renovating buildings, in part, to heighten school pride among alumni they hope will respond with their wallets.
It’s working: Alumni support has risen from 7 percent five years ago to 10 percent, and individual gifts have increased from hundreds of dollars to thousands, said development vice president Robert Turner as he showed off libraries and academic buildings recently.
“This,” Turner said, surveying the hilltop campus, “obviously converts to good will.”
Black colleges are refreshing outdated efforts to solicit former students, adding specialized staff, crafting personalized “asks,” improving campuses and increasingly using Internet outreach to augment shrinking state and private funds with alumni dollars.
They’re targeting a wider base — more blacks are graduating — and younger alumni who’ve moved into a broader range of careers from what are no longer mostly teachers colleges.
At VSU, efforts as subtle as adding a donor recognition dinner have heartened alumni like Anthony Spence, 41.
“If I’m going to give my money to a university, I want to be sure that it’s used for the very best,” said Spence, a Miramar, Fla., entrepreneur who’s given about $60,000.
Administrators plan computer network upgrades allowing for more targeted online giving at Atlanta’s prestigious Morehouse College, where alumni contributions dipped from about $3.1 million in 2006 to $1.3 million last year.
And at Wiley College, in east Texas, officials will use a nearly $840,000 grant from the United Negro College Fund to help scout 200 major gift prospects a year, create new online giving opportunities and beef up staff.
The school, featured in Denzel Washington’s 2007 film, “The Great Debaters,” has nine staffers focused on institutional advancement.
“At some of the larger, predominant institutions, they may have an advancement staff of say 20, 30, 50 people,” said Karen Helton, vice president for institutional advancement. “That’s how the Harvards and the Stanfords and the UCLAs generate billions.”
The measures are commonplace at some mainstream institutions.
But they represent a major investment at the nation’s more than 100 historically black colleges and universities, where resources often are stretched.
It foreshadows an expected slowdown in levels of state higher education funding, which averaged a roughly 8 percent increase nationwide in the past fiscal year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
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