Adventist Philanthropy . . . in the Black

By Tim Allston
The Year of Championships
To many, 2008 was Oakwood’s “year of championships”—

  • At midnight, January 1st, “Oakwood University” became its official designation;
  • In March, its men’s basketball team won its first national title; and weeks later,
  • Its Honda Academic All-Stars bested 63 other Black colleges and universities, to win its first national academic championship.

More importantly, however, on May 9th, with several children, grandchildren and friends present, the Burks and Elline Holland Hall was dedicated – arguably Oakwood’s first building naming opportunity from Black Adventist philanthropy. 
A Sweet-16 Family Affair
Prior to the Hollands’ $1M+ gift to Oakwood – where all 16 siblings attended! – the Indianapolis-reared family had benefitted metropolitan DC’s Sligo and George E. Peters Elementary Schools, and Takoma Academy with their philanthropy. Their first-generation Adventist parents “were able to pay tithes, have a house and cars, and send their kids to college – on one income,” Harvey told the Columbia Union Visitor in its November 2006 cover story, The Holland Brothers: Making Money, Giving Back. As one sibling would complete college, they’d help the next one, and so on, until everyone graduated. They also sent other kids to college!”
Following a “natural analysis done by our development team, . . . it was determined that the Hollands had the characteristics of a major gift donor,” explained Mrs. Jacqueline Gates Shipe, Oakwood’s then “architect” of the Holland family project. “They debunked assumptions that wealth doesn’t exist in the Black community overall,” she added.
Debunking the Myths
“From the beginning of their history in North America, particularly in the U.S., African Americans have maintained a rich tradition of philanthropy,” cited Dr. Lilya Wagner, CFRE (certified fund raising executive), executive director of Philanthropic Services to Institutions, and the author ofDiversity and Philanthropy: Expanding the Circle of Giving.
“Benevolence has always been a part of Black culture,” echoed OU’s development chief Miss Kisha Norris, CFRE, the first Black Adventist CFRE. “Our early history shows benevolent societies in our churches.”
A Word to Pastors
Norris encourages pastors to “Remember: capital fundraising is different from an offering call.  When churches are ready to raise funds for capital projects, it is better for churches to seek counsel and seriously put time and thought into how they will approach their congregations on their investment in the future and betterment of the church. PSI can assist you, with great resources and counsel.”  
Philanthropy 101 = 10+10+10+10?
While shivering, beaming and cutting the ribbon for Oakwood’s Leroy & Lois Peters Media Center on Sunday, December 6, 2015, Lois Peters paused to educate future (Oakwood) philanthropists:
“When you graduate and get your first job, before you spend a dime!, take out 10% tithe,10% offering, 10% savings and 10% to be given to your alma mater – whether elementary, high school or college. Then make your budget from 60%.
“Ask God to be your business manager. You will see how you will find the right housing, transportation and food; and the next year, you will be able to give more. The principles are biblical. Try it and trust God, you will see.”
Tim Allston is a freelance writer, living in Huntsville, Alabama