We launched the I Love Howard Campaign, a grassroots fundraising effort led by a small group of Howard University alumni, in February of this year. As we have committed to raising $20,000 for the university’s endowment, we believe that this simple call-out to Howard alums will change the game for HBCU fundraising at schools across the country. Here are a few reasons why:
1. The I Love Howard Campaign is sexy: Howard University is the epicenter of talented young thought leaders who arrive on campus ready and willing to take the world by storm. Using a popular digital media tool known as a meme, the I Love Howard campaign put the the beauty and brilliance of the Howard University community on display. A simple photo emblazoned with four descriptive words serves as a provocative reminder for why it is incumbent upon all alumni to give back.
2. Fundraising efforts are transparent: Large-scale capital fundraising campaigns driven by high profile universities can sometimes be hard to follow. Where the money is going, who it is coming from, how much was actually donated and how much was pledged can get lost in the excitement of a new campaign. The focus of the I Love Howard Campaign is to be as transparent and as accessible as possible. It’s pretty easy to see who is donating to our campaign and how much. Truth never damages a cause that is just.
3. The Campaign addresses endowment disparities: Harvard University has the biggest in the country, $32.33 billion. The University of Virginia has the biggest among schools in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia — $5.17 billion. Howard’s endowment stands at $513 million, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Commonfund Institute. Endowments typically represent funds or assets invested for the purpose of generating revenue to support a school. Such revenue might be channeled into student financial aid, research and innovation or athletics.
4. Love is our motivation: So often HBCU students and graduates are scolded for not giving instead of being empowered. Our campaign is heavy on nostalgia. We want you to remember those special days at Howard: on the yard, in the dorms, at the games, homecoming etc. We know that once you remember all of those good times, the fact that someone else deserves those same experiences will tug at your heart string. With few exceptions, I've never seen an alumni community cherish, represent and promote their school as much as Howard University graduates do. So our thinking is that if you love something, you will invest in it. The campaign is about putting your money where heart love is.
5. The I Love Howard Campaign is a template: This model for HBCU fundraising can be easily replicated by grassroots fundraisers or university development offices. First research existing fundraising efforts to make sure that you are doubling efforts. Get a team. Notify your alma mater about your plans. Carve out an all encompassing goal that the entire university can rally around. Get your friends involved. We can change the narrative on HBCU giving. Decades from now, when I take my grandchildren to 2400 Sixth Street NW, there won’t be a sign saying an amazing university once stood here. Because we made an investment today, there will be a thriving center of intellectual inquiry and knowledge waiting to embrace them tomorrow.
Michelle Janaye is chair of the I Love Howard Campaign and co-founder of The H.O.P.E. Scholarship Initiative