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Here’s the Honest Truth about Fraternity Fundraising: Your Expectations vs Reality


As the fraternity treasurer of your alumni association, it’s easy to believe that progress will come quickly and easily.

You’ve got a plan, a willing support structure, and the system in place to bring you results.

Simple, right?

Not quite.

Unfortunately, the first lesson you’ll learn about fraternity fundraising is this:

Our expectations are rarely reality.

The banquet event you created to encourage donations had unanticipated costs and lower attendance than you expected–now you’re barely breaking even.

The campaign you launched that was supposed to help you hit your fundraising goal in a few weeks has slowed to a crawl after a few days.

The broad participation you thought you’d receive at a fundraising event has appeared as a small trickling of your closest supporters.

In short, things won’t always go the way you expect, and it’s important to recognize that in advance, so you can better prepare yourself and your organization for success.

Here are a few truths to keep in mind.

1. The fundraising timeline is much longer than you think

Picture this scenario:

You want to create annual academic scholarships for undergraduate members of your fraternity.

The amounts will vary with ten $5,000 scholarships, ten $3,500 scholarships, and three $1500 scholarships.

Great, you have a clear goal in mind: Raise $100,000.

However, the vote to create this scholarship fund was approved in May, and you want to raise the money before the Fall semester, so the undergraduate member can have it for the new year.

You’ve got two months to raise the money, but you have a few affluent members that should be able to contribute a good portion of it. All you need to do is shoot out a few emails and make a few calls.

That should be enough time, right?  

Don’t count on it.

Those brothers that you were depending on to donate big might not have that kind of flexibility on such short notice. Maybe they donate half of what you expected. Perhaps they don’t respond to your emails or fail to return your calls. These things happen, and when you add in the pressures of work, family, and their own lives, getting a brother to give isn’t always so simple—or timely.

What to do instead:

Take the time you think you’d need in the best case scenario, and double it.

If you think you’ll only need a month of correspondence to meet your fundraising goals, give yourself two. If you don’t need it, no harm-no foul. But if you do, you’ll be glad you gave yourself the extra time to plan and execute.

Also, a scholarship fund should be looked at (at least partially) as an endowment. Your goal should be to raise a large sum so that you can guarantee the long-term success of your scholarship program, not just a one-shot-one-year approach. 

2. Donation contributions aren’t equal

Another common misconception is that hitting a fundraising goal is simply taking your total donation figure, dividing it by the number of potential donors, then asking for that amount.

Unfortunately, this approach is incorrect.

Here’s why:

Not all of your donors will contribute the minimum donation.

Some will contribute more, but many will contribute less. And though it’s easy to think that this will even out in the long-run, more often than not, it won’t. Donors who recognize what the goal amount is, and how much is being asked of them, will notice your attempt to split the costs evenly and may refuse to donate as a whole.

What to do instead:

In some cases, it’s better not to have a listed goal at all.

Although this decision depends on the type of goal involved (raising money for a family affected by cancer vs renovation plans for the fraternity house) the benefit of asking for donations without a set goal is that people will often give what they can.

This can mean less money being donated, but can often mean more.

When you present a minimum donation amount, you risk two things:

  • Asking for too much and offending the donor
  • Asking for too little and missing out on a larger donation

So, err on the side of allowing your donors to make their own call. If the cause of fundraising is a good one, allow goodwill and support to guide your donor’s actions—they may surprise you.

3. You will need help


You can’t do it all.

Nearly every leader will experience this problem in some form—an inability to delegate.

As the fraternity treasurer or fundraising coordinator for your alumni association, it’s impossible to be effective in your role without the support, cooperation, and participation of your fellow alumni.

Whether it’s seeking donations from them, contributing manpower to an event, or simply voting in favor of your next fundraising initiative, you’ll need their help.

What to do instead:

Make it a point to build strong connections with key figures in your local association. This means your fellow board members as well as influential brothers in the larger voting body.

The key to gaining cooperation in leadership is to first listen to what your members want. If they don’t tell you, ask them. Then, when you find out what they want, work to create a solution that gives BOTH of you what you want at the same time.

For example, if you want to fundraise to make a charitable donation to a local youth organization, and your general chapter would rather raise money for an undergraduate scholarship for brothers, find a place of compromise.

What are the commonalities?

Both you and your general members want to help the youth.

Instead, why not donate time to the local youth organization (building something, teaching something, or just playing a game with them) and save the financial donation for the undergraduate scholarship—now you’re killing two birds with one stone, and making the most out of your shared intentions.

4. It won’t always be easy asking for money

Asking for money without exchanging a good or service doesn’t always come naturally. In this sense, fundraising is distinctly different from sales.

It can be uncomfortable to ask brothers, friends, and family to give money to a cause that may not interest them. And for many, this challenge can prove harmful to reaching one’s bottom line.

What to do instead:

Like sales, asking for donations is a numbers game, and the best way to get good at it is to remove your ego.

Good salesmen arms themselves with more knowledge about their product and the problem it aims to solve than the customer has. Similar to this level of preparation, to be a good fundraiser you need to know as much as you can about the cause you’re championing and how the money will help.

What is the donation for?

How will the donation be used?

And most importantly, why should a potential donor care?

These are questions you must answer if you expect to convince others.

Purchase decisions are nearly always emotional ones, so appeal to the emotion of the potential donor you’re speaking to. In short, you want them to believe they’ll be closer to the “best version of themselves” by supporting you, because if your cause is just—and it should be—they will be.

If you want to learn how we can help make your fundraising process more efficient
Call 1.785.843.1661 or Contact us directly here.


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