Increased Alumni Giving at Public Historically Black Colleges and Universities: The Case of Morgan State University

04/17/2015 05:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2015

In 2010, when David Wilson became president of Morgan State University, the public, historically Black, institution in Maryland had an alumni giving rate similar to most public HBCUs, and in fact, similar to most public, regional institutions -- 6 percent (Gasman & Bowman, 2010). Today, in 2015, Morgan State boasts a 17 percent alumni giving rate, which is above many private HBCUs and also larger than many public, regional institutions in the U.S. overall.* Given the small infrastructures that most HBCUs have in the fundraising area, Morgan included, and the fact that the nation has just come through a recession, I wanted to dig a bit deeper and find out what Morgan did to have such an impressive alumni giving increase. Here is what I found:

• Morgan communicates the impact of alumni giving percentages on the health of the larger institution to its alumni. The fundraising staff makes sure that alumni know that their giving has an impact on the institution's U.S. News & World Report rankings, on Moody's and Standard & Poor's assessment of the institution's financial strength, on the way the institution is viewed by corporations and foundations wanting to invest in the institution and on the way that parents view student satisfaction with an institution.

• Morgan emphasizes how strong alumni giving helps the institution to attract talented faculty and excellent students -- both in terms of providing direct scholarship dollars and demonstrating the strength of the institution overall to all constituents that are interested in giving to scholarships and supporting faculty (Gasman & Bowman, 2010).

• Morgan educates its alumni on their giving trends, patterns and success. Discussions of alumni participation are frequent and prominent at events, including National Alumni Association meetings, Morgan's Annual Scholarship Luncheon and Alumni Day. Alumni giving success is also highlighted in Morgan's alumni magazine. The institution also makes sure that the strong alumni giving rate is talked about to the state legislature, the board of regents and to faculty and student gatherings (

• Morgan incentivizes alumni giving through matching opportunities. For example, alumni are invited to make multi-year pledges that are matched by lifetime members of the National Alumni Association. This initiative has resulted in many multi-year gifts that have helped to boost the institution's annual alumni participation.*

• Morgan hosts alumni giving class competitions on its annual Alumni Day. This strategy helps to education alumni about the need to give every year to their alma mater (Gasman & Bowman, 2010).*

• Morgan created a new position to work with young (up to 10 years out) alumni and future alumni (students). These constituents are encouraged to give through programs, special events geared toward their age group and education about giving. Morgan has had significant success working with current students; they communicate the value of an investment in their own degree to other potential student givers.*

• Morgan initiated a student-run phon-a-thon, which builds upon the school's traditional phon-a-thon. Not only does the phon-a-thon increase alumni giving, the students placing the phone calls learn about the importance of giving back once they graduate.*

• Morgan capitalized on the fact that its alumni wants to support scholarship funds for new students and is giving its alumni many opportunities to do so.*

Morgan State University provides an important example for other public HBCUs that want to increase alumni giving, better communicate with alumni and showcase their strength to all institutional constituents.

*Data and information courtesy of Morgan State University Office of Institutional Advancement.