Giving “Friendraising” A Whole New Meaning

In the development world, known as fundraising, there is a companion term.


It recognizes that organizations need friends, people who care about the organization and will support it, including financially. So many times people complain that organizations, especially HBCUs, don’t do a good job of fundraising. Maybe that’s because we can’t always just ask for things because we need something. We need to also friend raise- develop a network of relationships of people who are excited about the organization and want to be part of the work.

As author Hildy Gottlieb writes:

“The only road to sustainability is to engage the community in your work, to turn that community into an army of friends achieving something amazing together, spreading the roots of ownership of your mission and vision throughout the community, so the community would not dream of letting that mission die.”

National Black Greek Leadership Conference, October 2004

In 1999 I was invited to Cal State Long Beach to talk about Black fraternities and sororities. I gave my first national presentation in 1989 right as I was about to graduate from the University of Georgia. By 1999 I had completed a dissertation on Black Greek life, several articles, and done a number of presentations.

At this particular presentation I met Lawrence Ross, Jr. He was about to release the book, The Divine Nine. It was our first time meeting but it was important. After I spoke he convinced me that I needed to write a book. Three years later my book Black Greek 101 was out. These were the first two major books about the Black fraternal experience.

Albany State University, December 2004

So for the past twenty years we have had lots of conversations, mostly about the state of Black Greek life. We have presented together, and at the same conferences too many times to count. We both presented at a conference in Indianapolis this past February.

Lawrence has been to speak at my last three campuses (he may have spoken at ODU too but I don’t remember). At his visit to Dillard, he talked about issues of campus racism based on his book, Blackballed.

Philander Smith College, February 2007

Lawrence is a true creative. He always has new ideas he wants to test out. So I wasn’t surprised when he contacted me this week with an idea for a crowdfunding campaign to assist Dillard University students. We’ve been successful with our own efforts, raising over $500K last November for Giving Tuesday (which is a hell of a lot of money for a school our size!).

Dillard University, April 2016

But this was different because we had a friend of the university initiating the campaign. So I connected him with our advancement team. We set up the giving site using the platform we use for #GivingTuesday, and within hours over $20,000 was raised. A number of schools just completed #GivingTuesdayNow on May 5th, so maybe this was our version.

The funny thing was some people were worried this was some sort of scam. It was funny to me because I have seen folks do Go Fund Me for all kinds of stuff that is pure fiction, and no one says anything. There was a major story about one that raised over $400,000.

Heck, I’ve seen students raise money for schools they had not been admitted to!

I did a short video to let people know we were supportive, but thought I would write something first to show people that Lawrence and I go WAY back. But more importantly, organizations like Dillard need friends. We need people who have no obvious connection to us but want to support what we do because it has value, and they believe in what we do. Those of us in leadership and responsible for advancement have to become better FRIENDraisers, because friends often provide a range of support that a one time donor never will.

“Friends” by Whodini, July 1984

Whodini’s question is still relevant today.

Lawrence is my fraternity brother. Lawrence is my friend too (those two are not always the same and you know I am telling the truth!).

And today, Lawrence showed that he is a friend of Dillard University, a friend that is actively raising money for the university.

The Prez

7th president of Dillard University