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UNCF Celebrates 80 Years And Remarkable Comeback Campaign

The nonprofit brought in $345 million in private donations during this fiscal year.

Ahead of its 80th anniversary, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has found itself back amongst the nation’s top-ranked and most charitable organizations thanks to the efforts of CEO Michael L. Lomax.

According to Forbes, the nonprofit brought in $345 million in private donations during this fiscal year, earning it the No. 58 spot on the 2023 list of America’s Top 100 Charities.

This marks the first appearance on the list by the UNCF—which is based on the value of private donations received and does not include government support, fees for services, or investment earnings—since 2016.

Lomax, who has served as CEO for the past two decades, spearheaded the organization’s growth through a six-year, $1 billion capital campaign aimed at increasing scholarships and reinforcing the finances of the 37 colleges included in its membership. UNCF distributed over $20 million directly to the institutions in 2022 and gave an additional $68 million in scholarship aid to over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students at nearly 700 institutions, Forbes reports.

More than half of the scholarships were awarded to private and public historically Black colleges and universities. The average grant amount was nearly $7,000, and monies were distributed largely to Black students, though some scholarship recipients were also from Hispanic, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander backgrounds.

“These institutions are engines of economic mobility,” said Lomax. “We don’t ask about race.” According to Forbes, the UNCF does not know the ethnic background of nearly 30% of scholarship recipients.

The UNCF boldly claims the six-year undergraduate graduation rate for its scholarship recipients is 70% compared to less than 60% for all U.S. college students. The organization’s funding was largely made possible by a $190 million gift from Fidelity Investments and a $19 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at supporting the presence of minority students in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Despite an increase in vested interest in HBCUs, Lomax believes there is still work to be done to ensure the institutions have what they need to continue to excel.

“HBCUs have done more with less for years, and this is, I call it, an investment, because we have to produce different outcomes, we want to increase enrollment, we want to increase our retention of students, (and) we want to have increased graduation rates,” he said, according to CNN.

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