HBCUs and the Creative Giveback Opportunity

By Donald Thompson


“H-U—you know!” “AGGIE PRIDE!” “I’m so glad, I go to TSU.” “The Rattlers will strike, and strike and strike again!” “Behold the Green and Gold!” These chants exemplify the feelings of well-being that graduates of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities take through life, as they build careers, families, and communities.


There’s nothing—and I mean NOTHING—that compares to the school spirit personified by the students, faculty, alumni, and fans of our HBCUs. The attachment is real. HBCUs hold a special place in our hearts for many reasons. For some, they represent the climb up the social ladder that only an education can provide to an individual. For others, they symbolize togetherness to defeat marginalization.

A recent Gallup survey revealed with precision why our HBCUs are so special—graduates cite nurturing professors, validation of black identity, and alumni networks who look after each other in the professional world as reasons African-Americans from HBCUs have a higher affinity for their schools than their counterparts at predominantly white universities.

These attributes of the HBCU experience left grads feeling a greater sense of well-being in five key areas of life—purpose, social, financial, community, and physical—than their friends who’ve graduated from non-HBCUs.

But our HBCUs need us—the people—to continue to support them at this critical time in our history., with our wallets. These colleges and universities, located primarily along the East Coast, Southeast, and Southwest, from Hampton to Prairie View, face funding pressures at every turn.

And for all, our HBCUs stand for making us not just relevant, but laudable  in whatever field we choose, whether it’s the academic power of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, the sporting grace of Walter Payton and Alice Coachman, the business excellence of Oprah Winfrey and Ursula Burns,  or leading the race for space with Ronald McNair and Katherine Johnson.

Our HBCUs consistently face budget headwinds due to disparities in federal research grant funding, as well as similarly unbalanced funding allocation of matching dollars at state level when compared to historically white institutions. As larger state universities, as well as private colleges and universities continue ramping up their recruitment of young black scholars, many of our HBCUs struggle to hit enrollment targets, and miss out on critical funding as a result.

When the going gets tough, the tough get creative!

To get creative, you need to create community. And the bigger you can build the community, the better. The community begins locally with students, faculty, staff, and administration and spreads nationwide—even globally—to alumni, fans, and corporations that benefit from the leadership and perspective of HBCU interns, employees, managers, and executives.


Creativity means different methods from smiling-and-dialing or wining-and-dining.  A great place to start is with technology, and I’m not talking about email solicitations. One notable venture, Star Bright Donations, married online donations to HBCUs with auctioning products that celebrate HBCUs and the black experience (anyone for a signed Taraji P. Henson photo?).  A small group of Howard alumni ran a social media fundraiser in conjunction with Valentine’s Day called “I Love Howard Day,” coupling online donations with submissions of photo and video valentine’s where grads could express their love for the venerable DC institution.

A company I’m proud to be a part of, Creative Allies, has joined the cause of creating opportunity for people of color, as we engage with the HBCU community to create innovative funding opportunities. We recently launched a new social impact brand, Ally Originals, a place where we will feature stunning art pieces designed by our global community. Much in the same way others have partnered with HBCUs and their global communities, Ally Originals facilitates the giveback through celebrating our Jazz Collection, inspired by the musical genre started in New Orleans by African-American musicians 100 years ago.

Take a look at the moving work in our Ally Originals Jazz Collection. We hope that it will move many to partner with us, as we re-invest in our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. With each purchase from our Jazz Collection, a celebration of the black contribution to the American music mosaic, Ally Originals will donate 20 percent of the purchase price to HBCUs.