The goal of the ‘250-In-5’ Gift Campaign was simple, says campaign co-creator Penn alumnus David P. France C’89: “Our goal was to raise $250,000 in five years, primarily from black Penn alumni.” However, in the end, he and co-creator Lolita Jackson ENG’89 helped lead an extraordinarily successful gift campaign that galvanized their entire class and continues to support current undergraduates over 20 years later.
This important campaign started following the engagement effort around the Class of 1989’s 5th Reunion, which, Lolita explains, “was poorly attended by our black classmates.” She and David realized they needed to think out of the box to boost interest in their class’s 10th reunion, so they came up with the rather unconventional plan to resurrect one of David’s famous “Black to School” parties. Being that he threw one every year as an undergraduate, that got people’s attention. More than double the number of David and Lolita’s black classmates attended their 10th Reunion.
“We then wanted to do something with that energy,” Lolita explains, so she and David launched their ‘250-In-5’ gift campaign. One of the campaign’s keystone events was “Penn Black Out,” a collection of parties all held on one Saturday in October 2000 in cities across the country. Because of their monumental efforts, David, Lolita, and their dedicated classmates were able to raise approximately $980,000 for the DuBois College House Scholars Fund. “The funds were raised from a diverse group of Penn alumni, not just black alumni,” says David.
This critical fund, which counts as part of The Penn Fund, is now worth approximately $1.4 million – and the names of those individuals who contributed even $100 to the campaign are memorialized on a plaque on campus. Financial support is provided to four undergraduate students with demonstrated need every year. “Maybe this fund helps them stay in school,” says Lolita.
Much like Lolita and David did for their 10th Reunion, they encouraged friends and peers from across the Class of 1989 to come back and give back in honor of their class’s 30th Reunion last May. Because of their efforts and those of others on the outreach and giving committees, the Class of 1989 broke both the 30th Reunion attendance record and the 30th Reunion record for the number of Benjamin Franklin Society leadership donors. The class also took home the prestigious David N. Tyre Award for Excellence in Class Communications given their incredible success with reaching out to their peers.
“The funds were raised from a diverse group of Penn alumni, not just black alumni.”