St. Augustine's University Finds Fundraising Success

Jan 17, 2019

St. Augustine's President Everett B. Ward, center, chatting on campus with Frankie Jones, Phoenix One Enterprise, Inc. and Malcolm Nightingale, Regional Manager, Rooms to Go.
Credit Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh reports raising a record amount of money for the school at the end of 2018. University officials say much of the support had to do with the effort by the small, historically black institution to regain full accreditation. But the news comes at a time when another HBCU in the state is struggling to meet fundraising goals.

St. Augustine's fundraising goal for the 2018-2019 school year is $2.7 million. Officials say they expect the university will surpass that and hit the $3 million mark.

One event that brought in some cash was Everett B. Ward’s 60th Birthday Party. The president of St. Augustine’s charged admission to get in. The goal was to raise $60,000. Ward said the party served two purposes.

"My love of St. Augustine’s and people coming to celebrate, but also to make a donation to St. Augustine’s," said Ward. "This is beyond measure.”

And the people and the money kept pouring in, with donations as small as $6. St. Augustine's National Alumnae Association presented a check for $15,000.

Ward’s 60th Birthday Party was a month before the university got news from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges that they were no longer on probation and the school’s accreditation would remain in-tact.

“Last year was a great year for us," said Steven Hairston, vice president for Institutional Advancement and Development at St. Augustine’s. "But we had to put the pedal to the metal. We knew we had a job we had to do to help the university. It was an all-out effort, all hands on deck.”

Alecia Ward Hardy photographs St. Augustine University President Everett B. Ward during his 60th Birthday Party celebration. The president charged admission to get in and helped raise more than $62,000 for the university.
Credit Leoneda Inge / WUNC

In 2014, the donor list at this small, historically black university had about 900 names on it. By 2018, the list more than doubled to 2,300 names. And Hairston says in 2014, their December end-of-year push raised less than $5,000. Last month, the school raised $309,000.

“We did not rely heavily on mail and postage this time. We did everything electronically," said Hairston. "We did a special email blast to our alumni chapters and asked them to send it out to their family and friends. And we’re seeing that that really paid off.”

For state schools the size of UNC-Chapel Hill and private schools the size of Duke University, these numbers may sound like pennies. But to a St. Augustine’s or a Bennett College, these dollars could mean the difference in a HBCU remaining open, or closing.

Not far away, in Greensboro, Bennett College remains on probation because of lack of finances. The school is trying to raise $5 million by the end of the month in hopes of impressing its accrediting agency. Hairston says he has faith in Bennett.

“We support our sister school down the road. And we have through some of our other efforts really encourage some of our alumni, some of our friends to donate to Bennett College," said Hairston. "We stand with Bennett.”

Meanwhile, St. Augustine’s is more than half way to its end-of-fiscal year goal. Administrators say it has a lot to do with the university securing its accreditation. As for President Ward’s 60th birthday fundraiser, the party brought in more than $62,000.

The President of Shaw University, another HBCU, was there to celebrate and wish St. Augustine’s the best. Paulette Dillard knows the struggles.

“As goes one HBCU, goes all of us. And so it is always a grave concern when one is challenged,” said Dillard.

Ward said he is overjoyed with the outpouring of support during challenging times.

“Sometimes the administrative challenges that we deal with can be extremely challenging," said Ward, to the audience at his party. "But when we walk out of our offices and see these young scholars and look into their eyes and see the hope and aspirations that they have in front of them, it makes it all worthwhile.”