Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Administration

Major Professor

J. Patrick Biddix

Committee Members

Jimmy G. Cheek, Dorian L. McCoy, Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon


Philanthropy has shaped American higher education. Historically, colleges and universities were created for White men, and philanthropy has fallen into the same pattern of privilege. Often seen as invisible, African American alumnae and their giving motivations, influences, and capabilities are untapped and unrecognized at historically White institutions (HWIs). Led by the fundamental research question of what factors facilitate or impede giving behaviors of African American alumnae to HWIs, the purpose of this two-phase, transformative exploratory, sequential mixed methods research study was to understand how the attitudes, motivations, and behaviors of African American alumnae, in consideration of the intersections of race and gender, relate to student and alumnae affinity, sense of belonging, and engagement impact of philanthropy at HWIs. With Black feminist thought and intersectionality as the theoretical framework, the study, accomplished in two phases—semi-structured interviews followed by a survey—was comprised of 1,016 African American alumnae of HWIs, including 12 interviewees. The findings and results established race and gender matter in higher education philanthropy, while marital status was not a predictor of giving. African American women are one of the most altruistic communities, not only with their treasure, but also their time, talent, ties, and testimonies, which should be counted in the equation of philanthropy. Further, based on statistical and thematic analysis, the inferences revealed African American alumnae give more to other nonprofits, including historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) than to their alma maters. While the reasons are nuanced, overall, it is apparent that the Anglo-historical fundraising model must be decolonized, and purposeful attention must be given to the African American woman’s connective and enduring journey as a student to an alumna.With sense of belonging and campus dynamics highly influential, African American alumnae give based on relationship and to affect change, not to see her name on a building. The conclusions and implications of this study are significant enough to warrant a paradigm shift centered on belonging, connecting, and relating. African American alumnae are not simply a new donor source, they are influential, with voice and authority to ignite change and ameliorate the financial stature of institutions.

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