Monday, March 26, 2012

Why Greeks for Good? Issues Within Greek Philanthropy That Have Led to the Development of the Program

Written By Steve Good, Founder of GrassrootGive

Philanthropy. The term is one that you’ll hear over and over when you to talk to members of fraternal organizations around the world. It is a term that has become synonymous with Greek life, and it is a feather in our caps when we discuss what we do to non-members.

Our favorite definition of the term is as follows:

Philanthropy is about giving of yourself. All you have to do is care about something – an organization, a cause or a mission – and give something of yourself to support something that has touched your heart.

As mentioned, philanthropy is something we do. But could we do it better? This past summer, Mark Koepsell and I began a conversation about Greek philanthropy that covered such questions as “Why do we do it?”, “What are the issues?”and “What could we do to solve the issues?”

Personally, I had fallen in love with the power of grassroots fundraising through the development of Phi Delta Theta’s Iron Phi program and had recently created GrassrootGive to bring grassroots fundraising to other non-profits. Mark, being the Executive Director at the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values, an organization that prides itself on being the showcase for cutting-edge fraternity/sorority programming, technology, thinking, and concepts, offered community-wide thinking about how to address the subject on a larger scale. It was through the progression of these conversations that we decided to commit ourselves to tackling the issues within Greek philanthropy that are present. With the gracious commitment of the AFLV board, the Greeks for Good concept was created.

Concepts are great, but all of us involved knew that the development of the program had to begin with the question “Why?” This one-word question first led to the development of the top five issues within Greek philanthropy.

1. Having charities of choice but not putting anything behind developing these relationships.

99% of our fraternal organizations have named partner charities for their members to support. The concept is a great one but only if our organizations are committing time, resources and energy to develop these relationships. The reality of the situation is that most of our organizations are not doing this or could do better. One has to believe that the reason for this comes down to business decisions. While it’s great that our members are supporting our partner charities, leaders of our organizations have to ask the question, “How does this enhance our mission AND our bottom line.” If that question can’t be answered positively, the business decision is made to not spend time, resources and energy to enhance these relationships.

2. Trying to convince our members about what they should care about rather than understanding what causes are important to our members.

One of the downfalls to naming a partner charity for our organizations is that it immediately turns away our members who would rather support a different cause because of a personal connection in their lives. For example, an individual who has lost a parent to cancer may not have the desire to support a non-cancer-related cause that his/her organization has deemed its partner cause. By naming a partner cause, we’re turning off a large percentage of our membership bases.

3. Not understanding philanthropy, the cause that we’re trying to support and how it affects others.

No matter what causes our members are supporting, we have a great deal of work to do to educate our members about the cause and why they are supporting it. Do this: Ask a group of your members about philanthropy on your campus, within your organization, within their chapter, or in their personal lives. Nine out of 10 responses will result in these members talking about a philanthropy event rather than the cause or the outcomes of their fundraising efforts. This is a problem. To most of our members, philanthropy has become an event or a requirement for other things rather than a solution to the world’s problems. To solve this problem, we must educate our members about philanthropy in general as well as the causes they are supporting. Events can become the platform to make that connection, but many times the connection is left out. It’s like recruitment; events themselves do nothing to recruit new members. The connections made at these events are what brings in new members.

4. Non-effective fundraising for causes. Heavy expenses.

Many of our fundraising practices are archaic. The number one issue is that some practices are not modernized to the way our members communicate. If you’re not fundraising through a web-based tool, you’re missing out. In 2001, 4% of people gave online. In 2011, it was 65%. If you’re not capturing the power of social media, you’re missing out. Social media is creating “free agents” or people who want to raise funds outside of the 501c3 domain. It’s given each of us a voice to scream what we are passionate about and show others that we have an identity of “social good.” If the organizations that they are passionate about are not providing an opportunity for them to raise funds, they will go elsewhere. Now, I’m not saying that traditional approaches must be left behind, rather, a well-rounded plan that includes many mediums is the best route. The benefit to web-based fundraising practices is that they are affordable and keep expenses down. Lower expenses result in more dollars that can be applied to outcomes that help further the cause.

5. We ask our members to give, but we don’t relinquish control and ask our members to raise funds for our missions.

Our organizations’ fundraising efforts should not be limited to how many paid fundraisers we have on our staffs. We all have thousands of members who love our missions. Why aren’t we equipping these members with a tool that allows them to show their pride? Doing so results in a very large fundraising staff and a larger pool of potential donors (the networks of our members). Many organizations are afraid to ask their members to raise money for them. Why? Members want to give. We polled 200 students at a recent AFLV conference and asked, “Would you raise money for both a cause of choice AND your fraternal organization if you were given the opportunity?” 77% of these students said yes! Only 23% said they would only want to raise money for an outside cause. Simply put, allowing our members to raise money for us in conjunction with an outside cause helps us strengthen our organizations, which in turn will help us strengthen our outside causes.

So how will Greeks for Good solve these issues?

1. Having charities of choice but not putting anything behind developing these relationships.

Two of the first goals listed for the program are to: 1) Strengthen the relationships between fraternal organizations and their philanthropic partners and 2) Raise money and support for the missions of fraternity and sorority foundations and their partner charities. Simply put, we want to help our fraternal organizations strengthen the relationships with partner causes. We understand the limitations of time and resources within your organizations or communities. That’s why we want to help build your external fundraising core. We’ll do this by mobilizing more of our members to raise funds for our causes as well as our organizations. Remember, stronger organizations mean stronger relationships with our causes.

2. Trying to convince our members about what they should care about rather than understanding what causes are important to our members.

We provide options for members to raise money for a variety of causes, but we’ll also give every individual the opportunity to raise 50% of their funds for their fraternal organization’s foundation. If an individual interacts with the main Greeks for Good fundraising platform, s/he will have the opportunity to raise funds for a plethora of causes. If an individual interacts with Greeks for Good through a campus-sponsored sub-platform, s/he will have the opportunity to select from a list of causes supported by fraternal organizations on that campus. If an individual interacts with Greeks for Good through a fraternal organization-sponsored sub-platform, s/he will have the opportunity to raise funds for his/her fraternal organization’s foundation and its partner cause. We want to provide every participant with the opportunity to raise funds for a cause that is important to him/her.

3. Not understanding philanthropy, the cause that we’re trying to support and how it affects others.

At the heart of Greeks for Good is philanthropy education. We want to teach members of fraternal organizations what it means to be philanthropic, why it’s important and how our organizations and their causes rely on philanthropic support. We’ll do this through self-guided curriculum that is built into the program. As participants reach fundraising milestones, they will be fed email-based curriculum that teaches them about philanthropy and challenges them to complete exercises that will help process the education. Through campus-sponsored sub-platforms (their own Greeks for Good fundraising website), campuses will have the opportunity to tailor pieces of the curriculum. For example, we could teach your students about why it’s important to give to your school’s foundation. Through fraternal organization-sponsored sub-platforms (their own Greeks for Good fundraising website) we’ll customize the curriculum to help an organization’s members learn about what its foundation does and why it’s important to support it.

4. We ask our members to give, but we don’t relinquish control and ask our members to raise funds for our missions.

Greeks for Good is grassroots fundraising. Grassroots fundraising allows the masses to raise funds for what they’re passionate about. It will enlarge fundraising staffs, enhance a campus’s philanthropic activity, and open doors to new donor pools. More than 80% of donors reached through participants will be first-time donors to the cause and the organization that the participant is supporting. It will free up time and resources for your campus or organization to tackle other issues.

5. Non-effective fundraising for causes. Heavy expenses.

Greeks for Good will provide a web-based, social media equipped platform that is cost effective. Every participant will be given a personal fundraising page to tell his/her story and to discuss the causes that he/she is supporting. Individuals will raise funds while completing personal athletic goals, in conjunction with individual or group philanthropy events, or by setting up tribute pages that allow the individual to celebrate others through memorials, dedications, anniversaries, or by giving up birthday gifts. Individuals will also have the opportunity to raise funds to support their attendance at an AFLV service immersion experience. Participants will be able to upload contacts, send emails, facilitate donations, track donations, thank donors, share their progress via Facebook and Twitter and see how their efforts are comparing to their peers. They will receive incentives as they reach fundraising milestones.

AFLV and GrassrootGive do not benefit from donations through the system. 5.5 cents of the dollar go to our software provider that powers the system and ~2.2 cents of the dollar is taken to process credit card gifts. AFLV and GrassrootGive revenues are through participation fees. Individuals who interact with the main Greeks for Good platform are charged $5 to participate. We’ll refund that amount if the individual raises $300. For a campus to create a Greeks for Good sub-platform (their own Greeks for Good fundraising website), the cost is $1.50 per Greek student within its community (minimum cost of $2,500 and maximum cost of $5,000). The first five to join us will get a rate of $1.00 per Greek student ($2,500 minimum cost). For a fraternal foundation to create a Greeks for Good sub-platform (their own Greeks for Good fundraising website), the cost is $1.00 per undergraduate member within the organization (minimum cost of $5,000 and maximum costs of $10,000). The first five to join us will get a rate of $.75 per undergraduate member ($5,000 minimum cost). Included in this fee is the ability for alumni and alumnae to participate as well.

We’re very excited about the potential that Greeks for Good has. We truly believe that we’ll be able to address the key issues that are present within Greek philanthropy. In turn, we’ll create stronger fraternal organizations, stronger relationships with our causes, loyalty from our membership bases, a greater number of philanthropists and many opportunities to do good.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Remember Integrity?

Since becoming president of my chapter, I have witnessed many amazing things. I have also, however, witnessed many things that I wouldn’t consider to be amazing.

When taking the pledge to become a member of my fraternity I was well aware of the visions and values it represented. I was also aware that many of the members in my chapter didn’t always live up to those values. But, I was just a new member and didn’t feel comfortable speaking up. I knew things that were happening were wrong but I never did anything to change or challenge it.

I grew up in a small town where I was taught to always stand up for my beliefs and values. My parents taught me to speak up when something was wrong. This is why I loved my fraternity so much, or at least the values that it represented.

My fraternity stands on the values of Love and Respect. Okay, I know these words are very broad but I understand them as loving and showing respect to everyone no matter who they are.

By now, you may be asking, "I thought this blog was going to be about integrity." Exactly. My chapter, along with many others, has been lacking integrity with our fraternal values.

In my mind, integrity means being the same person Monday morning as the person you are Friday night. My best analogy of NOT having integrity is holding the door open for a woman but looking at her a** as she walks through. Yup, I said it.

Integrity means living up to your values no matter the situation or time of day. My chapter was great at portraying Love and Respect to sorority women when they would come into chapter meetings or when volunteering at a local nursing home, but they were not great at living up to their values ALL the time. I am just as guilty as the next person. Values congruence is extremely hard to do.

The point I am trying to make is that we, Greek students, are the leaders on campus. Whether we like it or not, we are always in the public eye. I am concerned with the integrity of Greek students. We portray ourselves as being these amazing citizens who do philanthropy work and study hard and get good grades, but we also don’t always live up to our values. Each one of our organizations has their own set of values they uphold. I encourage everyone to look deep inside ourselves and really think if we are doing all that we can to live up to those values. And, at all times - not just when we think people are watching.

This is why I ran for president of my chapter. I saw that things were not going as they should. I didn’t want to be a part of an organization that acted that way. Since quitting wasn’t the answer, I knew I had to foster the change that I wanted to see. This isn’t easy. I struggle every day with members who are not willing to change. My entire executive team has been working hard to support and live up to our values and hold members accountable when they aren’t. Over the past semester I have seen amazing growth in my brothers. Fraternities were created on the values of building better men. I can actually say that now my chapter is getting back to that mission.

None of us are anywhere near perfect, and I know we never will be, but I am simply asking for the Greek community to try and actually practice what they preach. Stand up for your values and don’t let others disrespect them. Have some integrity to stand up for what you believe in.

We all joined an organization for a reason; maybe it’s about time to actually find out what that reason is.

Guest blogger: Addison Ellis, AFLV Intern. Addison is a student at Colorado State University and is president of the CSU chapter of Alpha Tau Omega.

Monday, March 5, 2012

National Ritual Celebration Week

In one of the many conversations I’ve had with my father about his fraternity experience, he said this about his initiation ceremony from 1968: “I don’t really remember much. I couldn’t tell you what every symbol stands for, but I will never forget how incredible it felt.” I would bet the same goes for most fraternity and sorority members.

Every member has their own journey in understanding their Ritual, but we need to do more to incorporate how to translate the ceremony into daily lives. We know that values congruence is the key to fraternal relevance and we cannot talk about values without talking about Ritual. The juxtaposition of this is that because we take vows to “never reveal the secrets of the Fraternity,” many members are scared to talk openly about the concept.

The first time I read Edward M. King’s essay “Secret Thoughts of the Ritual,” my mind was officially blown. One of many parts of Mr. King’s essay that stands out is when he writes, “If non-members found out what I stood for, they might expect the members to live by it.” I find this to be the key to this conversation. We must balance the idea that certain ceremonies are secret but our values are not. While teaching this subject for a fraternal leadership experience, I converted some of the key messages from this essay in a video*, with the intention that members use it with their own chapters in reinforcing the importance of putting #valuesinaction.

Ritual Appreciation Week is a great time to reflect on your own journey about understanding your Ritual and how you incorporate those values into your life. It’s not the ceremonies that make us different than other organizations; it’s living those values for the rest of our lives that make us different.

Written by guest blogger, Cara Jenkins. This video was created by Cara to be used as an educational teaching tool. AFLV is sharing it with her permission.