Alumna Marion Key (MS '21) Commits to HBCU Sustainability

Marion Key

Bethune-Cookman University alumna Marion Key (MS ‘21) wants to help more people understand the importance of celebrating, supporting, and preserving historically Black institutions.

As the new development officer for the HBCU Library Alliance, she knows first hand how the climate is shifting around the sense of urgency to continue to direct time and money to Black colleges and universities and their directly related entities.

“With the dissolution of DEI [diversity equity and inclusion initiatives around the country], support for minority-serving causes is rapidly decreasing,” she said recently via email. “Having an understanding of the issues facing our communities and being ready and willing to help support these causes is critical. Higher education, especially HBCUs, are important to the academic integrity of our culture and must be preserved for the future.”

“Black fundraising professionals are needed to assist with the financial sustainability of causes that impact Black students and Black institutions,” she continued. “I always wanted to support education and to be deliberate and community focused. Development is a creative field that not only centers on raising money, but it also includes strategic planning, financial management, and building business partnerships.”

Key enrolled at B-CU during the pandemic in order to further her skills in fundraising.
“I chose B-CU for my master's program because of the legacy of Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune and the pride of the students,” she said. “I always knew there was something very special about the culture and that I would always be connected to my experience. The timing was perfect, because I completed my degree requirements during the pandemic when the world was on lockdown. Concentrating on receiving my master's degree at this time allowed for more focus and attention to the details of research and writing my thesis.”

Key grad photo

After receiving her master’s degree, she won a tuition-free scholarship contest Bethune-Cookman University held in collaboration with the American College of Education. Key is currently pursuing her doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction, which she hopes will help her to address curriculum representation in marginalized communities.

She has the following advice for others who are looking to make a difference through fundraising:

Learn about the industry and earn additional certifications. “To progress to higher-level positions like a manager, director, or executive, getting a bachelor’s degree in a relevant course and passing the Certified Fundraising Executives (CFRE) exams is essential,” she said.

Volunteer. “Volunteering at nonprofit events and with organizations is one of the easiest ways to get into a fundraising career,” Key advised.

Develop transferable skills. “Many jobs can help you develop skills that are useful in a career in fundraising. Work on developing skills like communication, public speaking, database management, and budgeting. Marketing skills are also incredibly valuable,” she said.

Find a cause you care about. “Passion for the cause you’re fundraising for can be a powerful motivator and can make your work more fulfilling,” said Key.

Stay up to date with fundraising trends. “The fundraising landscape is constantly evolving, so it’s important to stay informed about the latest trends and strategies,” she said.
Network. “Building relationships with professionals in the field can open up opportunities and provide valuable insights,” said Key.