“My own experience convinces me that the easiest way to get money for any good work is to show that you are willing and able to perform the work for which the money is given.” -Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Hear this repeatedly. Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University is world-renowned for his many signal accomplishments during his 34-year tenure. However, none were more significant to the mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory-of Tuskegee University than his accomplishments as a fundraiser. (The man Booker T. Washington was not merely a great President and fundraiser for a historically black university such as Tuskegee University. He exhibited the two greatest 9-letter words: integrity and knowledge.) Arguably, his documented successes recording his fundraising activities involving his direct leadership and involvement are comparable to the greatest presidents in the history of all American higher education. Among the many letters documenting how he accomplished this-including but not limited to–good business practices, speeches, writings, selecting competent personnel, personal and professional ethics, fiscal management and utilizing in the late 19th Century what we now term, “tuition discounting” or “work study” to assist deserving students who worked in exchange for these “scholarships,” he offers an additional stratagem for his success: “My own experience convinces me that the easiest way to get money for any good work is to show that you are willing and able to perform the work for which the money is given.” Note the simplicity of Mr. Washington’s suggestion: Properly and effectively utilize the money for the purposes for which they were given. “Stewardship”-one of the greatest 11-words-is quite indispensable in fundraising. Booker T. Washington understood then what many are coming to understand now in 21st Century Philanthropic studies. Wealthy organizations, donors and corporations were made wealthy in part due to stewardship and contrary to popular-and often uninformed-sentiment about the work of university presidents and the work of fundraising, persons and entities are not required to give solely because they are asked. As successful stewards of their own resources and their own stakeholders themselves, they GIVE to what is GOOD. Further, those that give, first earned it to give it. For they have already learned the very principles of success, one of the greatest 7-letter words, that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University suggests here. These persons and organizations are successful and they give to organizations that will utilize these resources to contribute to the institution’s own on-going, continuous success and improvement. And in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since the passing of Booker T. Washington, there is no better university to give to than Tuskegee University and her students-the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee and the sons and daughters of Booker.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.