United Negro College Fund

  • Education
  • 1944

Originally formed to establish a reliable flow of donations to America’s historically black colleges and universities, the United Negro College Fund later took on the added mission of distributing individual scholarships to minority students attending any college. The most important early supporter of the UNCF was John Rockefeller Jr., who became chairman and sat on its board until his death in 1960. He contributed $5,250,000 to the fund during his lifetime. The fund’s largest single gift was a $50-million donation made in 1990 by philanthropist Walter Annenberg. In 2014, industrialist Charles Koch offered a $25-million gift to support entrepreneurship programs. In addition to appealing to large donors, the fund began in the 1970s to direct broad fundraising appeals to black Americans, especially graduates of the historically black colleges, and this became another major source of annual funding. Today, the fund supports 37 member colleges, while also awarding 10,000 scholarships and internships to needy students attending 900 different institutions of higher education. The UNCF has added Native-American, Hispanic, and Asian students to its target audience, a shift accelerated when it was named administrator of the Gates Millennium Scholars program (see 1999 entry). Since its founding, UNCF has raised more than $3.6 billion in private donations to help over 400,000 students receive college degrees.