Once she joined the council, Ericka realized that an ongoing challenge was to encourage alumni to become annual donors to their alma mater. According to Ericka, many African-American UGA alumni don’t feel as strong a connection to the university as others and therefore don’t feel compelled to donate.
“I’ve found that there are tons of African-American alumni who had great experiences at UGA,” said Ericka. “But many have not considered becoming an annual donor to the university–they often think that only really large gifts make an impact on campus.”
Ericka and the Black Alumni Leadership Council brainstormed how to tackle these challenges.
The council first focused on Homecoming. For Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Homecoming is a signature event to foster connectivity and collegiate pride for African-American alumni and current students. The BALC wanted to recreate that same sentiment at UGA in an environment of inclusion during this time for all African-American graduates. They wanted alumni to feel so welcome and connected to their alma mater that they would become donors. It was during that planning period that Ericka had a great idea.
“I woke up one morning with an epiphany that we needed to start a club for the 14,710 African-American alumni out of the more than 300,000 living alumni with the purpose of honoring the legacy of those who opened the doors and broke down the barriers to inclusion and diversity at UGA.”
After months of planning with the UGA Alumni Association, The 1961 Club soft launched during Homecoming. Attendance at the tailgate was higher than ever. “It was truly amazing how many people came back [to campus] for the tailgate,” said Ericka.