This past weekend, a group of young alumni raised over $4,300 during their first of a short series of virtual day parties in efforts to support student scholarships at Bethune-Cookman University. The young alumni group known as WHOE was established in 2016 by 2012 graduates Jeremy Mercer and Damian Thompson to create a lane for the young alumni of B-CU who wanted to provide an elevated homecoming experience for them and their peers.
“During homecoming the students had events and the older alumni had their events while the younger alumni, ages 22-35, were in the middle with not much geared towards us. There was not much of a reason to come back for homecoming if you weren’t a part of a sorority, fraternity, athletic team, or something to create a strong tie to the university while in college,” said Mercer.
Rather than looking for someone else to produce the experience they were looking for; Jeremy and Damian acted and have now curated premium branded events for young alumni during homecoming and they are coming up on their fifth year. “The same mentality went into the recent fundraising event we presented over the weekend,” Mercer added.
The “millennial” age group of young alumni desire to make fundraising captivating, innovative, and competitive. “When President Chrite put out the call for the alumni of Bethune-Cookman to help close the projected gap of our operating deficit, the young alumni felt a particular responsibility to do what we could,” Mercer explained. “We knew that not all of us could donate $100 a month for six months, but we collectively had unique talents, treasures and time to think of how we could help.” The WHOE group brainstormed on how they could make an impact and simultaneously the group was approached by B-CU’s Office of Alumni Affairs to participate in a phone-a-thon.
“We agreed to help in the alumni fundraising efforts, but as young alum we decided to do a virtual party with the goal of raising funds, particularly from our peers. Considering the influence WHOE has on the young alumni, that was the vehicle we needed to engage our counterparts. We wanted to stick to the roots of WHOE (fun, creative, exciting, and acting freely) to connect with our existing audience and help shift the mindset of giving back. During the week leading up to the virtual party, we exceeded our initial goal of $2,000. By the day of the event, we needed to increase our goal thus raising over $4,300 from nearly 150 donors.”
Mercer added, “It was important for us to be successful in this first event to show the university we could help and to show our peers the difference we can make.” Among HBCUs the average alumni giving rate is at stagnant 12%. “Our main goal was to increase the alumni giving rate through new and current donors. It didn’t matter if you gave $1.50 or $100, we want B-CU to be above the average.”
Raising the Expectations of Getting It Done
“We really want to let B-CU and the older alumni know that the younger alumni have a lot to bring to the table if given the opportunity. To the young alumni and students, we want you to know that you can step out on faith to create the change you want to see around B-CU and when you depart to serve your communities. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you permission to help your university. If you see a way you can help, there is enough support in the Wildcat family to pull it off.”
“We want to help create a culture of giving and instill that in the upcoming generation of Wildcats.”
The Virtual Day Party in April was the first of four that will be hosted through July 2020. The next one will be held on Saturday, May 16th to celebrate the Class of 2020 graduates. From there, you can look forward to an event in June and July, where the WHOE group will release their schedule of events for homecoming. “We are just getting started with giving back to B-CU. We are never content and we’re always trying to improve everything we do so you can look forward to us hosting job fair(s) and really pouring into the students of B-CU in the very near future,” Mercer concluded.
The WHOE creators thank young alumni fundraising committee and sponsors Ashanta Williamson, Ms. Black Sunshine State International Ambassador for logistics, execution, and sponsorship of the first virtual fundraiser, DJs Andre Channel and Chris Smith, Antoinette Noelien Office of Alumni Affairs Giving Coordinator and sponsors, Kaye Consults, The Flourish Kollection, iBrow N Beauty, The Straight and Narrow Project, and Daytona Beach Commissioner Quanita May of (Zone 3) for her support and contribution.
About the Founders
Jeremy Mercer is a 2012 graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Damian Thompson is a 2012 graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. During undergrad, Jeremy was the first Mr. Senior. Jeremy and Damian are Spring 2009 Delta Beta initiates of Alpha Phi Alpha. Since graduating, Jeremy earned a master’s degree in data mining from University of Central Florida in spring of 2015 and Damian earned his master’s degree in business administration from Webster University in the spring of 2014. Damian currently lives in Miami Gardens with his wife of three years and their two children. Damian is a manager at a Hyatt branch hotel in Miami. Jeremy currently resides in Durham, North Carolina with his wife of five years and his two children. Jeremy is a Statistical Programmer at the Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of North Carolina.