FUNdraising Good Times: Saluting a Black Fundraising Pioneer – James Alston

Please join us in saluting our dear friend and professional fundraising pioneer Mr. James “Jim” Alston. Known across the country to so many people who worked tirelessly to raise funds for UNCF, Alston left us to join the great fundraisers in the sky.

 Born and raised in Society Hill, South Carolina, Alston rose through the ranks of the United Negro College Fund for 39 years, retiring in 2012 as the senior Vice President, Northern Field Development. A member of the first generation of fundraisers for our country’s historically Black colleges and universities, Alston engaged and directed staff and volunteers raising tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis. Over the years he led regional and national efforts that raised more than $1.1 billion for UNCF. One of the things that put him – and UNCF – on the map was his work in developing and producing the “Lou Rawls Parade of Stars.” For years he teamed with Mel Shaw as one of the show’s producers. He was a member of the trio who convened in Galveston, Texas to create the original framework for what became affectionately known as “the telethon.” He co-developed the community campaign fundraising model and stimulated what is known as “individual giving” to UNCF at the local and regional levels.

 Alston was a consummate fundraiser. He participated at a leadership level in UNCF’s capital campaigns: one had a goal of $50 million and concluded with $62 million; the other had a goal of $250 million and concluded with $280 million. Each year he worked with staff throughout the country to identify and engage corporate leadership at the local level resulting in significant financial growth as well as gifts in-kind. He worked directly with the senior management team to create local UNCF offices in 11 cities across the country, expanding the UNCF brand and measurably increasing fundraising at the local level.

 Prior to joining UNCF Jim served as the Director of Alumni Affairs at his alma mater Benedict College, and as a teacher of secondary mathematics at Long High School in Cheraw, SC. He received a master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina, Columbia; completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University; and received an Honorary Doctorate from Benedict College in 1994. He served on the board of the Blue & Gold Scholarship Fund in Hackensack, NJ and on the NJ State Advisory Board of the Salvation Army. He was a life member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and an active member of the Benedict College National Alumni Association. A deeply religious man, he served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Union Baptist Church in Passaic, NJ.

 Alston was a Vietnam veteran, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He leaves behind his wife Diane, daughters Melanie and Alisa, son-in-law Erlangga, grandson James, and granddaughter Serena. He was a great dresser and a fabulous orator who could hold a group spellbound. He loved cowboy movies and soul food with a passion. His word was his bond – he embodied the word commitment. He mentored generations of fundraisers and will forever be cherished in our hearts.

 Copyright 2022 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Let us help you grow your fundraising. Call us at (901) 522-8727.

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