Dillard People of 2020: #2 The Givers (Where The Money Reside!)

December belongs to Durell Smylie, a 23-year-old car salesman from Baton Rouge who went viral for his promo video offering a deal to potential customers. Hopping out of the trunk he says “We goin’… where the money reside.”

I love people here in Louisiana. The creative use of words is simply unmatched (Big Freedia is the Queen, but you already know), and now Durell has everyone making plans for 2021 to be where the money reside. I expect at least one sermon tonight for Watch Night will be “Where the money reside!”

Well, in 2020, a lot of philanthropy found its way to Dillard University. Despite a pandemic, we had a tremendous fundraising year and we want the money to continue to reside here in 2021. Here are a few of the examples.

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One of the first surprises was from a Facebook group. Let by Lawrence Ross, author of The Divine Nine, he challenged the 100K+ members to do weekly challenges raising money for HBCUs. The goal was to help students during the pandemic. He started with Dillard because (1) we’ve known each other for 20 years (2) I responded quickly to his inquiry and (3) we were able to quickly set up our vehicle to handle gifts. I wrote about the backstory this summer:

Well, we ended up raising over $55,000 from this campaign. A lot of alums participated, but lots of people with no Dillard connections chipped in as well. We in fact had the most successful campaign (a lot of that was being first when the energy was high).

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Again, RELATIONSHIPS are important, especially in fundraising.

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Before this year the vast majority of folks wouldn’t know who this is. Heck, most still probably don’t. But for the organizations that received almost $6 BILLION from her — in the past 6 months alone, know this is MacKenzie Scott.

She made it rain in such a way that I think Fat Joe and Weezy have to retire their song.

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Her HBCU gifts really stood out as she single handedly gave record gifts to all 23 schools she gave to — over half a BILLION alone to HBCUs. Reading the stories and talking to colleagues we shared a similar amazement that out of the blue you get an e-mail saying you’re going to get a gift, you have a call where the number is dropped on you, a few weeks later they tell you once the paperwork is completed you’ll have the money in days…

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… and days later on campus is where the money resides!

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Her $5 MILLION gift to Dillard was the largest private gift in our history. It literally came out of the “bleu” if you will. Her insightful Medium blog post offers lots of nuggets for how she made decisions about where to invest. I think everyone should read it, and then govern yourselves accordingly.

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And while not the biggest amount for the year, I am very proud of our advancement team for our Giving Tuesday campaign. It started with a $270K challenge grant, maybe the 3rd or 4th year we’ve had a six figure gift to start the day. Add in another six figure gift coordinated by a trustee. Sprinkle in a couple of five figure gifts, and a liberal dose of gifts from $5 and above, and you end up with $780,000 raised in 24 hours. When we first did Giving Tuesday in 2015 as an experiment we raised $30K. Being strategic each year we have increased giving each year.

Our goal was $500K; almost $800K was awesome! These three events, along with a number of grants awarded this year and a few in the pipeline for early 2021, we’re glad that some of the money resides at Dillard. And with a student population that is 75% Pell eligible, strong academically but lacking financial resources, finding ways to offer more aid is critical to their success.

As mentioned, a huge shout out goes to our advancement team, led by Dr. Marc Barnes, who helps us make the case that this is where philanthropists’ money should reside. All of our alumni and friends who serve as brand ambassadors are important as they make sure those with the ability to give think about Dillard. And we have other major gifts we received in 2020 as well as some we’ll announce in 2021 as we continue to make our case for the institution.

Despite a pandemic that has done significant damage both physically and fiscally, especially to Black communities, 2020 will go down as a record year for HBCU philanthropy. We hope this isn’t simply a moment when America has a post-George Floyd consciousness, but it becomes movement where philanthropy is redirected to places with the greatest need, that serve the communities with the greatest need.

And that’s on Mary had a little lamb…

The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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