UNCF Launches “Better Futures” at Essence Music Festival

By | July 2, 2013

UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the nation’s oldest and most successful minority higher education assistance organization, will introduce audiences of this year’s Essence Music Festival (July 5-7) in New Orleans to Better Futures, a national multimedia public service effort that builds on the organization’s 41-year-old campaign to help African American students get to and through college. It encourages Americans to make an investment in educating African American students as segue to improving the “futures” of all Americans. It also evolves one of the most iconic brand tag lines in advertising history from “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”® to “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste, But A Wonderful Thing To Invest In.”®

Better Futures builds on the iconic “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”® campaign first launched in 1972 – by UNCF’s then-Executive Director Vernon Jordan, the Ad Council and advertising firm, Y&R. Since its inception, “A Mind Is…” has generated $3.5 billion. The new campaign will make clear the high rate of a return a donor generates from an investment in the UNCF scholarship program. New Better Futures PSAs transform the idea of donating to a cause to a more powerful idea of investing in the future, including the introduction of a stock for social change, where people can see the direct social return of their investment. Economists were consulted for the campaign and developed an algorithm to show the social return of donating just $10 to UNCF, including the impact on earnings, crime savings and health savings. The campaign includes new television, radio, print, outdoor and digital PSAs featuring students who have personally benefited from UNCF sharing their poignant stories of success.

“Support for UNCF and its students is not charity but an investment in better futures for our students and—because the entire country benefits from increasing the number of college graduates—for all of us,” said Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF. “The students who graduate from college as a result of receiving UNCF scholarships represent the return on our investment. They are our—and our contributors’—dividends.”

With the African American college completion rate at 21%, compared to the national average of 30%, UNCF’s Better Futures will focus on closing the college completion gap so that African Americans complete college at the same rate as the rest of the country. This aligns closely with President Barack Obama’s goal for college completion, which would “ensure that America’s students and workers receive the education and training needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and provide greater security for the middle class.” The President and his Administration have committed to “working to make college more accessible, affordable, and attainable for all American families.”

“For more than four decades, the ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste’® campaign has been the engine that has helped more than 300,000 students earn college degrees. This new iteration represents a new kind of philanthropy, one that doesn’t urge a gift, but an investment in our country’s young people,” Dr. Lomax said. “Our new PSAs use real stories from real UNCF students to show how that investment will play dividends for all our futures.” These stories were captured by an elite group of African American creative partners, including TJ Martin, who’s co-directing efforts (with Dan Lindsay) on the 2011 film “Undefeated” led him to become the first African American to win a Best Documentary Academy Award®. Delphine Diallo, a graduate of Académie Charpentier School of Visual Art in Paris, was the principal photographer for the campaign’s ads.

The campaign launches at a time when a college degree is now what a high school diploma was to previous generations – the minimum entry-level requirement for almost every well-paying career. According to UNCF, the high cost of college and the lack of financial assistance are the major reasons that students don’t enter or complete college. UNCF plays a critical role in enabling more than 60,000 students each year to attend college and get the education they need, and the nation needs them to have.

Better Futures PSAs also align closely with Building Better Futures: The Value of a UNCF Investment, the latest report from UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. The report is based on extensive research that compared the educational outcomes for students who received UNCF scholarships with those who did not. Its conclusion is decisive: recipients of UNCF scholarships are, as a group, significantly more likely to graduate than non-recipients. In fact, if the impact of UNCF scholarships were extrapolated to all African American college students, the annual number of graduates would increase by almost 16,000. UNCF African American scholarship recipients have a 60 percent five-year graduation rate, five percentage points higher than the national average and 25% higher than the average for all African Americans. For every $5000 that UNCF provides to an African American freshman through a scholarship, their likelihood of graduating increases eight percent.

Better Futures coverage: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/business/media/college-fund-tinkers-with-its-slogan-to-stress-investing-in-students.html?_r=0 and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcus-bright/arne-duncan-headlines-lau_b_3453436.html. The campaign has also been endorsed by the US Department of Education. http://diverseeducation.com/article/53928/#.

The Essence Music Festival, held at the Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, provides an opportunity to bring attention to the remarkable strides the New Orleans has made and the on-going challenges it faces following Hurricane Katrina. UNCF will illuminate its role in those strides as well as those facing African American communities across the country.

As the nation’s oldest and most successful minority higher education assistance organization, the United Negro College Fund’s mission is to provide financial support to its 39 member institutions and increase minority degree attainment by reducing financial barriers to college. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 25 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarships, leadership training, internship and fellowship programs, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 65,000 students at more than 900 colleges and universities nationwide.