Indiana University has a long-standing history of supporting Black students—from the establishment of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center (NMBCC) to programs and services that facilitate and promote academic excellence, community building, and personal and professional success.
Indiana University’s Black Philanthropy Circle (BPC)—the first Black giving circle connected to higher education in the nation—is the perfect reflection of this spirit. In November 2020, a $200,000 anonymous matching gift challenge to the BPC went into effect. Any pledge, donation, or membership made to the BPC on or before June 30, 2021, doubled the gift’s impact.
With 40-plus donors, the BPC met this challenge expanding the program’s influence and creating new synergy around the BPC’s work, generating national and local attention and increasing member recruitment in terms of diversity, age, race, sexuality and gender identity.
Created in 2018, the BPC came together on the premise that a diverse group of committed individuals can positively impact the future of young, Black students. Through programs, funding, and one-on-one support, the effort speaks to the potential of what can happen when a group of passionate individuals from across IU work together with one goal for a common cause.
“The Black Philanthropy Circle is one of the gems of development for IU,” says James C. Wimbush, IU vice president for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA), dean of The University Graduate School, and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership.
“It speaks to the commitment of a group of diverse, dedicated individuals who are passionate about addressing the needs of the Black community so we can have more Black students at IU who are successful when they begin their careers,” he says.
Collaboration and partnership are the foundation of the BPC. Louis Jordan, IU Kelley School of Business alumnus and a BPC founding member, explains:
“The Black Philanthropy Circle is really the result of a series of meetings five or six of us had over the course of a year as we were trying to develop ideas around what we as African American graduates of IU could do to have more of an impact,” he says.
The BPC works in partnership with OVPDEMA, the IU Foundation, and the Indiana University Alumni Association to support programs and provide funding and other opportunities to boost recruitment, retention, and degree attainment of Black students and the quality of life for faculty and staff on each of IU’s campuses.
In developing the BPC, the group’s founding members focused on positioning the BPC as a national exemplar for the Black higher education community in several key areas, which includes:
- Building a leadership pipeline.
- Enhancing research and academic engagement.
- Fostering donor investments.
Today, the BPC has firmly established itself as a leader in improving the higher education odds for deserving Black students. Higher education institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and others regularly look to the work of the BPC for insight on how they might incorporate components into their fundraising and philanthropic efforts.
In February 2019, the BPC announced its first gift of $150,000 to the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy within IUPUI’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The gift, allocated over three years, furthers the strong relationship between the Mays Family Institute and the Black Philanthropy Circle in understanding, supporting, and advocating for philanthropic giving in historically underserved communities.
“I truly believe the BPC has been successful because of the group’s shared thinking about what they can do together,” says Wimbush. “Their commitment to the communities from which they came and their commitment to philanthropy shines.
“When you talk to members, you can’t help but want to give whatever you have. It may not be amounts that signal a major gift, but whatever you give makes a difference because you understand the importance and impact that all giving makes.”
In 2021, the BPC raised $336,878; since its initial launch in August 2018, the initiative has raised more than $800,000.
“You want to put your money where it is going to count for something. So when I first heard about the Black Philanthropy Circle, I wanted to be a part of it,” explains Penny Gaither, an IU School of Education alumnus. “The BPC demonstrates that, together, we can indeed lead by giving back.”
Lacy Johnson, an IU McKinney School of Law alumnus and a BPC founding member, echoes those sentiments.
“Every day, we are becoming a more inclusive and diverse society and world. Indiana University is a microcosm of that. In the last graduating cycle, the university graduated more African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and self-identified LGBTQ students than ever before. As our university changes, just as the world changes, this is the new pool of individuals we can target,” Johnson notes.