Factors That Impact Alumni Support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities October 12, 2018 – Posted in: Order Custom Essay Paper

Factors That Impact Alumni Support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background to the study

The governance system of a college determines the order of responsibility when it comes to financing. Holmes (2009) noted that as a school system advances from early childhood level to the university level, its financial responsibility and obligations become enormous. This makes it impossible to think of the financing of colleges and universities being left in the hands of only a few individuals or the government alone (Anteby, 2013). This is the reason that many colleges and universities in America look to philanthropic activities.(Factors That Impact Alumni Support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities)

In the estimation of Touré-Tillery and Fishbach (2017), even though philanthropic activities come in different forms, one of the most common types  from which a college or university can benefit is Alma Mater philanthropy. This refers to former students and graduates engaging in philanthropic activities a college. The concept of Alma Mater philanthropy has been interpreted from various perspectives. Whereas some see it as a form of social responsibility on all students matriculating at a particular college (Bradshaw, Mitchell & Leaf, 2010), others debate that it is purely an act of charity which is made based on the personal conviction of the donors (Touré-Tillery & Fishbach, 2017).

La Salle et al. (2017) observed that regardless of the form by which a person sees Alma Mater philanthropy, there are very important factors that serve as determinants in knowing how well a person will be dedicated to this form of service. Two such determinants  are school spirit and school climate (Bradshaw et al., 2014). This refers to the degree of school spirit and school climate a person experienced while attending a college, which affects their overall perception about the need to give back to the college after they graduate (Wang &Degol, 2016). The extent of a person’s emotional attachment for his or her college refers to be school spirit (Devine & Cohen, 2007). Gruenert (2008) observed that all institutions have their own climates  that affect the interactions, conduct and perception of the college of attending students. In order to define school climate, it is first important to see the school as an organization and define organizational climate. In the view of Drezner (2018), organizational climate represents shared values, beliefs and assumptions governing the way people behave within an organization.

Langley (2014) added to the notion of school climate and spirit to engage alumni giving. A culture of philanthropy has to have three foci, including appreciation, affiliation and agency, to help create the institutional conditions necessary to engage alumni to give, according to Langley (2014). Langley (2014) discussed that whether one feels they received the education they expected for the tuition they paid,  they get invitations to participate in various events after graduation.  ,  Langley (2014) also believes that one’s giving helps to create global well being, and are in the minds of former students and college graduates when they are courted to share with and give back to their Alma Mater.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities

            The U.S. Department of Education (2018) listed Historically Black Colleges and Universities, established prior to 1964, in the Higher Education Act of 1965, as institutions whose primary focus was the formal training of  Black Americans and are known by the acronym HBCU; also HBCUs. The first HBCU founded was Cheyney University (CU) of Pennsylvania, in 1837, by Philanthropist Richard Humphreys because he saw the struggles and needs of  Black students. Humphreys’ donated a tenth of his estate to establish CU, a trade school, to train Black students so they would have a trade skill. CUwas originally named the Institute for Colored Youth and has had a continual rivalry with Lincoln University (LU), also located in Pennsylvania, because LU was noted as the first HBCU that was degree seeking and granting (Gallardo, 2013). Both are still vibrant and operating.

According to the Digest of Education Statistics (2016) there are currently 102 HBCUs, of which 51 are private and 51 are public institutions. By the 1930s, there were almost 130 and the now 26 defunct HBCUs financially collapsed, in large part (Digest of Education Statistics, 2016). There were global economic factors that accounted for this situation, particularly the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a global economic crisis in the 1930s. As part of the economic hardship at the time, there were several schools that failed due to poor funding (Drezner, 2018). There have been recent initiatives to encourage alumni to save their HBCUs, including requests to sign petitions like H.R. 1123 (Brat-pac, 2017 and Congress.gov, 2017).It has been noted that many former students and graduates of HBCUs are first generation in their family to graduate from a college, which often challenges engaging alumni support (J. Perkins, personal communication, August 7, 2018). A model HBCU for alumni giving is Central State University (CSU), which seeks to reclaim former students and alums to participate in the various activities as well as giving to their university (CSU, 2018).

Central State University

Central State University (CSU) is located in Wilberforce, Ohio. CSU (2018) was founded in 1856 under its parent institution, Wilberforce University, in honor of the abolitionist philanthropist William Wilberforce. CSU operates under the auspices of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church (CSU, 2018). CSU has been actively engaging their former students and graduates during the last decade to give back to their Alma Mata. One of their primary foci is improved communication with alumni (CSU, 2018). CSU has attempted to improve the rate and frequency of giving among its alumni by initiating a program targeting each graduation year.

During the fall football season, CSU invites alumni back for homecoming to celebrate their former years at CSU and fellowship with former and current students and leadership (CSU, 2018). CSU maintains a national alumni organization and local alumni chapters. CSU encourages former students and graduates to actively help reclaim other students and graduates as well as engage in various goings-on of their local chapter or initiate a new chapter, to be an integral part of the successful outcomes of the university. There are 19 national local CSU chapters (CSU, 2018).

One such chapter, Everglades of Central Florida, hosts a yearly scholarship golf tournament and celebrate dinner dance each February to encourage alumni support (C. Nevels, personal communication, August 6, 2018). Nevels shared that the Everglades alumni chapter of CSU has steadfastly worked to send over a dozen students to CSU via their volunteer and giving efforts, under the leadership of Dr. Yvette Coursey, their chapter president. Dr.Coursey recruits alums to donate charitable items for their various auctions, raffles, door prizes, and other fundraisers, to additionally raise scholarships funds (C. Nevels, personal communication, August 6, 2018).

CSU alumni director, Perkins, shared their various initiatives to help CSU remain solvent and stated that they are most proud of their CSU Believers campaign, where one can establish a team and challenge former students and graduates to give their year or donations to support their ongoing of believing in CSU. The campaign is slated to end in year 2020, however is being so wholly successful that it has already been deemed to be futuristically ongoing (K. Perkins, personal communication, August 7, 2018).

Perkins further noted that CSU giving initiatives include 100% campus giving, corporate gifts, individual donor bequests, planned giving, trusts, and endowed scholarships, along with the ‘Give Your Year’ campaign. Top fundraisers and campaign teams are showcased on the CSU website. CSU is officially a land grant institution of higher learning, which is assisting in their various giving and endowment initiatives (CSU, 2018).

Research problem

According to Lindstrom et al. (2017), one of the main activities in a college that sets the most desired college climate and fosters school spirit in students is sports. Interestingly, Harris (2017) identifies Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) as a segment of higher education in the United States with extraordinary performance and output when it comes to intercollegiate sports. By inference, HBCU scan be said to greatly prioritize sports and, hence, expect to have unique school climate and school spirit, necessary to yield as much alumni support as possible. The problem of the study is the lack of sufficient support to Historically Black Alma Maters by former students due to low school spirit and bonding. The task of the study is to query former students and graduates to discern their required factors to become regular and lifelong donors of their Alma Mater.

Aim and objectives

The purpose of this research study is to discover factors that encourage yearly alumni support for HBCUs. The objectives of this study are:

  1. To find the extent to which sports-dominant colleges and universities have advantage with school spirit and school climate to motivate former students and graduates to give back to their Alma Mater;
  2. To find the current trend associated with alumni support among former students and graduates of HBCUs;
  3. To identify the factors that motivate alumni to offer as much support to their former colleges as desired; and
  4. To determine the factors that inhibit the former students from giving back to their Alma Mater
  5. To determine best practices used by the HBCUs to engage alumni in supporting their Alma Mater.


The  purpose of this study is to  determine the factors that impact alumni support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The study hopes to increase awareness amongst college leadership regarding how various American colleges and universities can create donor loyalty in their former students and graduates (Pony & Alexander, 2015).  The researcher hopes this study will lead to more follow-up inquiry as needed to determine why students, upon graduation, decide to become loyal givers to their Alma Mater or why they fail to do so (Loyd, 2010).

Allen, Eilert and Peloza(2018) maintain that private individuals give to people rather than to organizations and there is a pathway to transformational giving. The approach to achieving HBCU transformational giving may therefore be discovered from the study when the necessary factors of former students and graduates to regularly donate money and time to their Alma Mater are explored and understood (Anteby, 2013). Through this study, the researcher takes the position that colleges very likely have a role in creating the needed college climate that deeply instills the best form of school spirit among students to merit loyal philanthropy after matriculation.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

School Climate and School Spirit

Freeland, Spenner and McCalmon(2015) defines school climate as being synonymous with the quality and wide-ranging disposition of all activities as far as the daily administration of the college is concerned. According to Allen, Eilert and Peloza(2018), all of the activities that bestow direction to the essentials of the school climate reflect all engagements, both formal and informal, for which the school may be responsible. In a bid to exemplify the real components of the school climate, Bradshaw et al (2010) encompasses the goals, standards, values, interpersonal relationships,and conduct of teaching and learning activities as well as organizational structures of the school as embodied in the experiences of stakeholders being the students, teachers, parents, and governments, among others. Therefore, school climate may be explained as that which echoes every part of the experiences and expectations of all persons that matter or play an active part in the college management (Novak, Spirit‐Jones & Morgan, 2017). Other areas of school experience such as recruitment, guidance and counselling, registration, interaction with professors, class formats, and availability of financial support also form part of school spirit (Diem, 2015).

Brooks (2014) asserts that a positive and sustainable school climate is one that inculcates the working together of the different stakeholders with the goal of nurturing and propagating the vision and aspirations of the college. This is in agreement with McEvoy & Welker (2000)who maintain that the school climate is comprised of the total activities of every person that contributes to the school and its operations. Kuperminc et al (2001) discusses that a wide-ranging examination of the school climate may yield the vitals of the most pressing school life values of former students and graduates to give back, including the teaching, learning outcomes, relationships, safety, and environment of the organizational structures that dictate and define the pace of the college. These, however, are underlined by the values and aspirations of the college which may positively contribute to the psychological, physical, emotional, and social needs of former students and graduates to give back of their time and dollars to their Alma Mater.

Gruenert (2008) maintained that the constituents of a school climate may differ among societies due to differences in the sub-consciousness underlining the aspirations and needs of every society. Gruenert (2008) also noted that pertinent issues such as effective learning structures, safe environments and the measures that promote development of individuals are key components of a positive school climate and students developing deeply imbedded school spirit that may lead to future yearly giving back of money and time to one’s Alma Mater.

Alma Mater Philanthropy and School Development

Some research  found  one of the most effective means by which schools and other institutions accelerate developmental projects aimed at facilitating the agenda and vision of the school are through Alma Mater philanthropy. A survey conducted by Clinton (2007) indicates that grants from individual students or past graduated groups that come together to give back are used to commission approximately 40% of developmental projects in the various schools. Bradshaw et al. (2014) looks at examples of developmental projects that these philanthropy works seek to address and cites construction of infrastructure, scholarships for needy but brilliant students, donations of relevant teaching and learning materials, and cash donations among others as some of the key considerations that Alma Mater philanthropy explores.

Cash donations from former students and graduates contribute to facilitate the progress of a college. Personal donations also assist with college operations when corporate giving is down (Seltzer, 2018). Therefore, a lack of these donations could expose colleges to major developmental deficits since the resources of a college are not always substantial enough to supply all of its financial needs (Anteby, 2013). To illustrate, scholarships offered to needy but brilliant students give enormous support to students with low socioeconomic backgrounds, thus allowing them to access high quality education equal to their higher socioeconomic counterparts. Personal giving is essential to supplement any financial aid and college foundation resources (Charles Koch Foundation, 2018).Many colleges lack the infrastructure to implement many of the activities of their college,and alumni donations enhance the resources of a college (Holmes, 2009).

The degree to which Alma Mater philanthropy is palpable, according to Eicher & Chevaillier (2002), is warranted as colleges resolve to change their names or the names of departments or buildings after persons that offer continuous support to the college.Clinton (2007) also explored the motivation that underpins Alma Mater philanthropy and stated that many donors view their Alma Mater as contributors to their successes in life and consequently rally around their former college to give back as their show of gratitude to better the standards of continuing students and to help raise the standards of their institutions.

Bekkers & Wiepking (2007) added that schools and educational institutions thrive basically as a result of the level of support rendered to them by former students and describes it as selfless gestures purported to raising the standards of the school.  Holmes (2009) stated that most institutions have endowment funds that past students as well as other donor agencies are motivated to periodically increase and such funds are used to address the pressing needs of the college.  In 2011, the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) acknowledged that there was in excess of thirty billion dollars donated to universities across the United States. This partially illustrates the extent to which giving back to one’s Alma Mater is somewhat fixed in the lives of former students and college graduates (Anteby, 2013).

Research has found that there is a profound relationship between sports and school spirit, to engage greater alumni giving (Gao& Wang, 2017). Freeland, Spenner and McCalmon(2015) found that colleges and universities known for their sporting excellence have stronger school spirit bonds (Brat-pac, 2017). HBCUs participate in two historical black athletic conferences under the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1, which are Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and South-western Athletic Conference.

Research questions

  1. To what extent does an alumni’s bond with their Alma Mater’s impact on their likelihood of donating to their Alma Mater post-graduation?
  2. What do alumni of HBCUs do to support their former colleges?
  3. Which factors have impeded alumni in offering as much support to their former colleges?
  4. What can the HBCUs do on their part to attract more support from alumni?

Chapter 3: Methodology

Research design

The study involves a mixed research method comprising both quantitative and qualitative methods. As part of the quantitative method, the researcher will use a mathematical and statistical survey in the form of Likert scale questions to measure variables that emerge from the study’s concept (Becker, 2017). The qualitative component will on the other hand have open-ended questions for respondents to freely express their opinions about specific questions pertaining to the research objectives. The main concept of the study is to find the factors impacting the support that former students and graduates of  HBCUs offer to their Alma Mater.  Variables will emerge from the collection of data.  The variables will then be described and measured  using various statistical methods. A major advantage that will come from the quantitative analysis will be that the researcher will be able to collect data from many persons, which will  increase the reliability of the study’s results.

Population and sample

The intended population of the study will be former students and graduates of HBCUs. The researcher selected this population mainly because she has experience with HBCUs, earned degree from a HBCU, and desire to assist HBCUs with remaining solvent. Among the population, a sample will be offered to HBCU former students and graduates involving a convenience sampling method. A sample of at least 200 alumni will be targeted from these two conferences using the official social media pages of the alumni groups. The sampling will be based on convenience sampling method of all people who experience interest to be part of the study.


As part of the quantitative method, a questionnaire will be designed for data collection. Becker (2017) identified the questionnaire as a very effective data collection tool for quantitative research, especially for the fact that it allows researchers to set closed ended questions, which can easily be analysed, using statistical methods. Because of this form of analysis, researchers can engage as many respondents as possible without being worried about the rigor or effectiveness of the analysis. The questionnaire will reflect the foci of the research questions. The researcher will reframe each research question or specific objective into a theme, under which a number of closed ended questions will be asked. Most of the questions will be scored using a Likert scale from 1 to 5 and have responses such as strongly agree (5), agree (4), neutral (3), disagree (2), and strongly disagree (1).

There will also be open ended questions to take care of the qualitative aspect of the study. The questionnaire will have four main themes with two themes dedicated to quantitative data and other two for qualitative. The two quantitative themes will be extent of alumni support for Alma Mater and forms of support given to Alma Mater. There will be a total of 14 questions under these two themes. The two themes for qualitative questions will be factors that impede alumni support and what HBCUs can do to attract more support from alumni. There will be 8 questions focusing on the two qualitative themes. The researcher will undertake a mock data collection exercise to test the validity and reliability of the research instrument.

Data collection procedure

The researcher will perform data collection through the use of a survey. The survey  will seek to collect the views and opinions from alumni of HBCUs, representing the population(Collis & Hussey, 2013). The researcher will get access to the respondents by contacting recognized alumni unions of HBCUs. Once the researcher gets access to the respondents, the survey will be administered online, where the researcher will post the questionnaire through Survey Monkey and invite various persons to complete the survey via email, text and social media. The link to the survey will then be made available to the respondents. There will be an established time frame of 20 working days, within which to complete the questions and submit. During the survey time, reminders will be sent to the respondents to ensure a very high respond rate.

Data analysis plan

The only variable for the study is the factors that impact on alumni support of HBCUs. A univariate analysis will determine which factors impact alumni support of HBCUs. The uni variate analysis will be mainly descriptive in nature. The researcher will present a descriptive analysis of the various factors that will be tested through the survey. The descriptive analysis will be done  utilizing the SPSS program and will make it possible to understand each factor independently, regarding how the factors positively or negatively impact alumni support. Other quantitative methods to use for the Likert scaled questions are graphs and charts. The graphs will be interpreted with the use of percentages and mean as part of the quantitative analysis.For the open ended questions, the researcher will use content analysis in analyzing them. The researcher will thoroughly read each response and try to identify keywords that will serve as codes. The researcher will then interpret the codes in relation to the themes of the study and also use other existing works of literature to discuss the findings that emerge from the content analysis.

Ethical consideration

Premium will be placed on ethical practice when collecting data. For example, participation in the study will be strictly based on voluntary involvement. Those who agree to take part in the study will be given a consent form, explaining the purpose of the study, as well as the roles expected from them.The researcher will protect respondents through the anonymous collection of data. Respondents will not identify themselves in anyway while answering the questionnaire. Data collection will also take place in a state of confidentiality because respondents will answer the questionnaire privately. After the study ends, the researcher will delete the survey from the internet to protect it from unlawful usage.


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