Luncheons for Learning, Galas for Graduates: How UNCF Events Fund HBCUs

A UNCF event is where the key parts of our mission intersect, bringing together fundraising and advocacy and inviting a local community to take part. The events themselves vary widely. Last month, local UNCF offices commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day by raising awareness about HBCUs and their students’ needs today. Our events, including Masked Balls and “A Mind Is…” Galas, bring in star-studded crowds and generous donations across the country. Thanks to big-name sponsors and thousands of participants nationwide, our Walks for Education have helped us provide crucial scholarships for brilliant students in need. Our Leaders’ Luncheons have provided a platform for some of today’s foremost leaders and philanthropists to share their ideas and insights. But across the board, our events all have one thing in common: They help us support HBCUs and the first-generation, low-income African American students who attend them. We look forward to another year of spreading the word and raising funds.

Several local offices celebrated this year’s MLK day by highlighting local leaders, educators, writers, performers, students and alumni from HBCUs and by raising awareness for UNCF’s fundraising efforts. This not only provided a platform to share about UNCF’s mission, but also gave us the chance to direct support toward our 37 member HBCUs and their students. The 2019 Annual MLK Breakfast in Minneapolis, for example, brought in over 2,000 attendees whose contributions enabled the local office to provide four-year college scholarships to low-income students. The event featured Emmy® Award-winning news anchor and journalist Don Lemon as keynote speaker.

We’re currently presenting this year’s formal events, usually held in the spring, which are some of the most exciting and impactful. “A Mind Is…” Galas raise funds and honor leaders who have made an impact through their education advocacy. Last year’s New York gala, for example, raised nearly $900,000 while celebrating HBCU alumna and White House correspondent April Ryan, Tony® Award-winning director Kenny Leon, and the Oracle Corporation, a UNCF contributor. This year’s New York event honored Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael L. Bloomberg and Delta Airlines. Last December’s sold-out Atlanta’s Mayor’s Masked Ball was attended by prominent business leaders, dignitaries, influencers and  celebrities such as Ludacris, 2Chains, Edwin Moses and Ambassador Andrew and wife Carolyn Young. Even more impressive is the fact that the ball raised over $1.35 million for HBCUs and deserving students.

Walks for Education usually fall between May and October. Last year included one of our most exciting walks of all timeUNCF Detroit hosted a walk that, by attracting 550 walkers and raising more than $125,000 in sponsorships, became the most successful walk in UNCF history. Leaders’ Luncheons, conducted anywhere between the late summer and February, typically highlight student successes and include panel discussions with local leaders. The December 2018 luncheon in Jacksonville hosted more than 400 attendees, including Peabody® Award-winning journalist, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, “Champion of Education” honoree Drayton Florence, Edward Waters College President Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr., and Jacksonville’s community and international affairs director, Dr. Charles Moreland. Sponsors included AT&T, Wells Fargo and Publix.

Because UNCF events move our mission so effectively, they are the perfect opportunity to get involved and make a difference. By participating in an event, you join forces with UNCF in spreading awareness and providing support for HBCUs and the students who attend them. Check our events page and see what’s coming up near you or check in with your local office. It’s our sincere belief that helping more first-generation, low-income African American students attend and graduate college is something worth celebrating.


Do you believe in supporting HBCUs? Attend a UNCF event!

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