After COVID-19 hit our country in March and forced United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to close offices, cancel its remaining special events, while also closing out the fiscal year, the special events team swung into gear and began reimagining its fundraising events. Understanding events that annually take place in Indiana such as the UNCF Golf Outing couldn’t take place, they began brainstorming how to conduct virtual events. Partnering with UNCF area offices across the nation and its D.C. headquarters, the National Virtual Walk was born. With a local original goal of $25,000, which increased to a final $75,000 because of the excitement, UNCF Indiana and its dedicated partners set out to do its part to raise the $1.5 million unrestricted dollars to fulfill its mission.
On Sept. 19, supporters across the county came out to help the UNCF raise unrestricted funds to empower thousands of deserving students to earn college degrees at the inaugural UNCF National Virtual Walk for Education. This first-ever event featured a live show with performances by Anthony Hamilton and Questlove with appearances by Shaquille O’Neal, Lynn Whitfield, Jonathan Slocumb, Wendell Pierce and others.
The Indiana Statewide UNCF Walk surpassed it $25,000 goal more than one month out, prompting a new goal of $50,000, which again was exceeded two weeks before the event! The area office has raised over $65,000 and still counting. UNCF is pleased to report that the outstanding development teams from across the country have generated over $2.5 million and we’re still counting. The statewide campaign will continue to accept donations through Oct. 30 in an effort to reach their stretch goal of $75,000!
A big “thank you”to all the communities, individuals, corporations, clubs and organizations across the state of Indiana that participated to ensure UNCF’s success. Indiana sponsors include Salesforce, Eli Lilly and Co., Ally Financial, Teachers Credit Union, Ascend Indiana, Zink Distributing Company and Honda Manufacturing of Indiana. Across the state of Indiana there was a huge grassroots push to form teams and raise the critical dollars in support of UNCF’s mission. Organizations statewide such as General Motors Indiana, Power and Sons Construction, Salesforce, Ascend Indiana, Teachers Credit Union, the Office of the Mayor of Gary Indiana and UNCF’s Inter-Alumni Council of Indianapolis formed walk teams to raise money for this pivotal campaign.
In Gary, the Office of the Mayor along with the UNCF Northwest Indiana Leadership Council built a strong grassroots effort that included a Radiothon hosted at the WLTH radio station during the virtual show and collected donations all afternoon the day of the walk.
Every year, UNCF awards more than 10,000 scholarships worth more than $100 million to African American and minority students. “For more than 76 years, UNCF has fueled HBCUs with vital resources to educate generations of African American and other minority students,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF. “During an unprecedented time in our history compounded by COVID-19 and racial disparities, our students and institutions are faced with enormous challenges now more than ever. We are at risk of washing away a generation of talented and deserving African American and minority students. We need as many donations as possible right now because the students we help now will be our next generation of doctors, nurses, biologists, virologists, epidemiologists, teachers — the pandemic frontliners of the future. We invite everyone to join our new National Virtual Walk for Education to help ensure better futures for us all.”
A UNCF survey of more than 5,000 students across 17 HBCUs found that many were dealing with difficulties such as sick family members, trouble paying bills and general stress from the ongoing pandemic and recent protests against police brutality.
As the excitement around the new fundraising event continues UNCF Indiana surpassed its initial $25,000 goal and is working to achieve an increased goal of $75,000. The local area office will continue to collect donations statewide in the online portal as well as the area office by mail-in, until Oct. 30. All are encouraged to support this effort with a donation by visiting UNCF.org/IndianaWalk.
Tiffany Thomas is development director of United Negro College Fund (UNCF).