1/3 of HBCUs Have Received Their Largest Gift Ever Since July 2020

Of the 102 HBCUs in operation, 34 HBCUs (33%) received their largest gift in school history since July 2020.

Our annual refresh of the HBCUs' Largest Gift Database has revealed astonishing progress for HBCUs across the country

The historic donations at the beginning of the pandemic prompted our creation of the HBCUs' Largest Gift Database during the Summer of 2020. During the introduction of the Database, we wrote more in-depth about the Database and the history of philanthropy to historically black colleges and universities. As 2021 wraps up and we have updated the Database, we have found significant progress across the board. Of the 102 HBCUs in operation, 34 HBCUs (33%) received their largest gift in school history since July 2020. Additionally, this March, Prairie View's $50 million gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott was the largest gift ever given to an HBCU. Lastly, a gift by Morgan State alumnus Calvin Tyler to his alma mater in February 2021, valued at $20 million, was the largest gift we have ever seen from an alum of an HBCU to an HBCU. It has been a historic run for HBCUs, so let us dive into the numbers.

Diving into the numbers:

During the first iteration of the Database, we found that although HBCUs have been around for almost two centuries, only twelve schools or 11% of HBCUs had ever received a donation or gift worth $10 million or more. That number dwindled to 10%, or 9% of HBCUs if we excluded a $30 million debt cancellation to Cheyney University and a $20.5 million building donation to Jackson State University.

As of today, we have found that twenty-nine schools, or 27% of HBCUs, have now received a donation or gift worth $10 million or more. The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis kicked things off in July with a $40 million donation to LeMoyne-Owen that quadrupled their endowment. MacKenzie Scott is responsible for fourteen schools' first gift of $10 million, and fellow billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is responsible for two schools eclipsing the $10 million gift mark.

8 figure donations to HBCUs since July 2020

Table charting all donations of $10 Million+ since July 2020

Scott has quickly become the most prolific donor in HBCU history and likely higher education history. She is now is the largest donor at 21 HBCUs. Wealthy philanthropists donating to HBCUs is not a new phenomenon. Historically, large donations were earmarked for specific purposes, and often philanthropists created stipulations that would ensure they could impose their will on HBCUs. The fact that Scott and others are donating large amounts of money whose use is unrestricted is exactly the autonomy our institutions need.

HBCUs where MacKenzie Scott is the Largest Donor:

21 Schools where MacKenzie Scott is the Largest Donor

When large donations have previously been given to HBCUs, our HBCU community is well-conditioned to the recipients being the wealthiest HBCUs. While the most well-endowed HBCUs have indeed received swathes of donations over the last eighteen months, there has never been this much private philanthropy flowing throughout all of our institutions. Indeed, much more work is still necessary to close the wealth gap amongst HBCUs, but the wealth is being spread further than it has ever before. After our first iteration of the Database, we reported that "a gift of $2 million would be the largest gift to 78 HBCUs." Presently, a gift of $2 million would be the largest gift to only 49 HBCUs(we include schools where $2 million would tie the largest gift, the number is down to 41 without the inclusion of those schools). Many of Scott's known HBCU donations are in excess of $10 million, but she has given three HBCUs less than that. There is another anonymous donor around that some have speculated is also Scott. The donor has been making donations of $250,000 and subsequently $2.5 million. This anonymous donor has contributed to 7 schools thus far in the same exact manner.

Schools Receiving an Anonymous Donation in Excess of $2 Million

Schools Receiving a Gift from this Anonymous Donor

Scott has made it known that she would not continue to release a list of organizations she has donated to as she believes that it takes the focus off the organizations and onto her. Additionally, the fact that these donations have been spread across different institutions has made people wonder if this is her latest round of funding. However, looking further into evidence of Scott's known donations and matching it with the pattern of these donations can also lead to skepticism that is indeed her. Tougaloo and Morgan State were both known recipients of Scott's philanthropy and have received money from this anonymous donor. Additionally, all seven schools have been using the money in similar ways, ensuring that there are scholarships available to students who may otherwise be unable to finish, which leads you to wonder if this money has been earmarked somehow. If so, this would be the exact opposite of what Scott has been doing. Lastly, this press release from Morgan State makes it seem like these are two different individuals; however, you could argue that is by design.

Anywho, this anonymous donor has spread their wealth to some of the smaller HBCUs and has shown that these $2.75 million gifts can have an outsized impact on these institutions.

All in all, as we wrap up 2021 and reflect on the past 18 months, HBCUs have experienced an unprecedented surge of philanthropy. It was not that long ago that 8 figure donations were a relatively infrequent occurrence reserved for only the wealthiest of HBCUs. In 2018, Spelman received HBCUs' only 8 figure donation from the Stryker Family. In 2019, Morehouse would receive HBCUs' only 8 figure donation from Robert Smith's pledge to pay off their graduating class' debt. For the first time in modern HBCU history, the most significant gifts to an HBCU do not belong to Morehouse, Spelman, Howard, or any other private institution. Instead, two public institutions, Prairie View A&M and North Carolina A&T pace the field. And while private philanthropy can never be the only solution to HBCUs' problems, it is a great supplement. For the sake of our institutions, let us hope that our current momentum does not dissipate and our institutions continue to flourish. HBCUs have spent their entire existence doing more with less, and we can only imagine the heights our institutions can reach with equitable funding.

I encourage you to use and manipulate the data below to spur discussions. Feel free to message us if you have any insights into a school's donation if it is asterisked.

Largest Gift/Donation by HBCU Database

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