In fraternities, fundraising is a fact of life.
While you might be tempted to think of brothers’ membership dues as the most important financial resource for a chapter, maintaining healthy and consistent fundraising engagement is often just as crucial, if not more so.
Don’t get us wrong. Brothers who pay their dues on time help maintain the day-to-day chapter functions.
But dues can’t pay for a major, expensive project to expand or enhance the chapter. So how do you cover the cost?
Simple: You need a capital fundraising campaign.
Undergraduate chapters can use recruitment to expand organically. Yet even this is limited, and the increase in dues collected from a growing brotherhood won’t cover such resource- and time-intensive projects as chapter house renovations, builds and purchases.
A treasurer might find himself managing a fraternity budget of $100,000 or more. Sure, that might make him feel like Scrooge McDuck diving into a pool of gold doubloons—until you remind him that most of the money’s already been spent on every single chapter project, initiative and event for the semester.
A major housing project can reach over a million dollars in total cost.
The only realistic way to achieve this is for alumni and brothers to work together toward annual fundraising and major campaign engagement.
Many alumni happily give during the year when properly engaged by their chapters.
Alumni want to see their chapters succeed, and they want to play a part in that success.
And, realistically speaking, alumni will always be a chapter’s primary donors for capital campaigns. Even so, are there other untapped donor bases chapters are missing out on?
Pennington & Company feels lucky to have worked with so many Alumni Who Give to Fraternity Capital Campaigns. But when you’re looking to pad your campaign contributions, Who Else Might?
Reaching out to Parents on the Capital Campaign Trail
Some parents of undergrad brothers may be chapter alumni themselves, in which case you have a fertile fundraising opportunity.
But what about parents who have no ties to the chapter except through their sons?
That’s a little trickier. Some are already paying brothers’ tuition, fraternity membership dues, housing costs, or other expenses.
Parents may be willing to give to fraternity capital campaigns, but they’re unlikely to be a primary source of donations. On top of that, it’s harder to sell parents on the benefits of investing in a campaign. They aren’t as actively engaged in chapter fundraising year-round, and they aren’t as dialed in to the fraternal organization’s broader goals for growth on the chapter level.
When soliciting donations from parents, target their interests—brothers’ academic success and quality of college experience, mainly.
Engage them throughout the year with updates about their sons’ academic progress and achievements within the chapter. Send them chapter publications that you think might draw them in.
Build parent fundraising into an existing structure of engagement, just as you do with alumni-chapter relations.
Is Your Fraternity House a Historical Landmark? Who Cares?
No. Really. We’re asking.
Who is likely to take an interest in historical landmark buildings in your community? If you’re planning a house renovation or restoration, there may be individuals or groups with a vested interest in historical buildings being maintained.
Check for national, state or local grants available to help preserve or restore buildings with historical landmark status.
Even if your house isn’t considered a landmark, it might still qualify for grants based on its importance to the local community and university architecturally.
Know your house’s history. Was it built by a famous architect of a certain era? Does the architect’s family own a foundation that might be willing to donate? What about general architecture foundations?
Could winning an architecture prize help broaden community interest in donating? What about being featured in other media and publications?
Also consider whether the university is the title holder for the property you’re renovating, or if it’s owned privately. If the former, depending on the university’s level of involvement in the renovation, find out if gifts are tax deductible. This could encourage donors both in and outside the alumni base.
In short, just because alumni are your primary donors doesn’t mean you can’t cast your net for outside donations.
Many fraternity houses are decades if not a century or more old. They offer unique architectural styles, which are historically important to their host universities and local communities.
When you can show real community value like that, you’d be surprised who might chip in for your capital campaign.
Your National Fraternity Wants Your Campaign to Succeed. Don’t Believe Us? Ask Them.
Your national organization benefits immensely from a successful campaign project. When a house renovation or an endowment fund help a chapter grow, brothers are putting their letters on the map.
When someone wants to know why to choose them over another fraternity, they can point to the various beautifully renovated chapter properties. They can point to the fruits of fundraising success and say: We get things done. We go out and accomplish the tough goals.
Being able to point to growth, in brotherhood ranks and financially, builds a fraternity’s prominence in the Greek world.
Your national fraternity may have a reserve fund for chapter projects like house renovations. It’s not something to count on, but worth discussing with advisors.
Check to see if your fraternity foundation can offer a grant of some kind. Under certain circumstances, these grants may be extended for renovations used for educational purposes.
If the national fraternity can’t offer direct financial assistance to your chapter’s campaign, they can certainly offer resources and promotion of your project. They want you to succeed as much as you do, and they’ll offer whatever guidance and assistance they can to see that happen.
Besides alumni, who’ve you found willing to give to a fraternity capital campaign? What potential donors would you add to our list? Let’s strategize in the comments below.