The fund began in 1944 in an effort to help struggling HBCUs in the South, hoping to raise visibility for member schools and create more financial stability. In that time, the name has not changed, even as language has evolved from terms used by the WWII generation.
Over the years, the fund has garnered the support of lawmakers, presidents and wealthy donors. Over the years, the organization grew to include 37 HBCUs.
The UNCF provides support directly to schools and also endows scholarships for students. All scholarships come in the form of grants, not loans, and the majority of recipients attend HBCUs.
While many of the scholarship recipients are Black, the UNCF says it does not consider ethnicity for much of its aid; Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders have all benefited from the fund.
While the UNCF does take a stance on racial issues, the group stresses it is nonpartisan. Supporters have included those from both parties, including major conservative donor Charles Koch, whose foundation endowed a $25 million scholarship fund.