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Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Sorority Fundraising from the Eyes of Your Alumnae


Let’s be honest here--if you aren’t looking at your sorority fundraising campaign through your alumnae’s eyes, you’re probably doing it completely backwards.

That doesn’t mean you are alone, though. We’d guess that it’s pretty common to think of a fundraiser in terms of what your chapter needs and not as much about the preferences of the women giving to meet those needs.

Since the whole point of a fundraiser is to build capital for some sort of chapter project, such as an endowment, or a sorority chapter house purchase or renovation, it’s natural to place all of the focus on that project and how it benefits the sisters of your chapter. After all, your project will only succeed with diligent, dedicated efforts on all fronts. More often than not, a large-scale chapter project ends up being a multi-year effort, with a hefty price tag attached. Getting it wrong is not an option.

Yet, despite the fact that your project’s success depends wholly on your fundraising success, a sorority chapter might easily neglect the perspective of their most crucial donor base: alumnae.

Alumnae give a lot, and they don’t ask for much in return. However, without a baseline of respect and understanding of where they’re coming from, it’s hard to get alumnae excited and engaged with your fundraiser. After all, if you don’t care, why should they? That’s why Pennington & Company wants you to Put Yourself in Their Shoes and look at Sorority Fundraising from the Eyes of Your Alumnae.

Do You Have a Plan in Place for Your Sorority Fundraising?

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Letting your alumnae know too soon about your sorority fundraising campaign, before you have the proper research and planning in place, can be a huge mistake. From their perspective, you aren’t giving them the information they need to give the proper amount toward your goal. You’re leaving the onus on them to figure it out.

You definitely don’t want to add these kinds of roadblocks to alumnae when you’re asking for their help.

For instance, if you tease your fundraiser in your sorority chapter newsletter, you will have alumnae who are eager to give but are going to donate what they are guessing is a good amount for a general donation. If it turns out once you itemize your costs and complete your feasibility studies that you will need more, alumnae are going to feel taken advantage of. You’re unlikely to be able to approach alumnae who have already given an amount they’ve budgeted for and think is fair and get them to give a second time.

If you want to avoid your alumnae feeling as if you’re syphoning money out of their pockets like gas out of a car in a dark alley, approach them with your fundraising campaign only when you have a strong plan in place and a feasible goal identified.

One way to achieve this level of planning and foresight is by hiring a professional sorority fundraising company.

Is Your Sorority Chapter Listening to Alumnae or Just Asking for a Check?

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Whether or not you’re listening to your alumnae’s needs and ideas relating to your sorority fundraising project makes an ocean of difference. If alumnae don’t feel heard, they’re unlikely to be motivated to help. If they’re unmotivated to help--seeing as alumnae are typically going to be your top donors for these kinds of chapter projects--you’ve failed before you’ve even gotten started.

Alumnae are just begging to be engaged in meaningful chapter projects where they can feel like they’re giving back, but it’s easy to lose their interest. It’s not because they don’t care, but rather it’s a failure on the chapter’s part to make things easier and more logical for alumnae. They’re likely to be leading their own busy professional and home lives, and it’s unfair to ask them to give, and then make them work for it, too.

Alumnae may have ideas for your project that are worth hearing out. For instance, maybe they have knowledge about your chapter house that can save you a bit of money on a renovation project. They may be interested in volunteering or helping out in other ways behind the scenes, and their experience may prove invaluable.

Are you listening to what your alumnae are telling you? Are you hearing what motivates them to give? If not, don’t expect your words to carry much weight when it comes time to solicit donations.

Your Alumnae Donate to Your Sorority Fundraiser as Individuals

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Consider a fictional example here: You’re Sally, an alumna. Your chapter is looking to fund the purchase of a new chapter house on campus, and sisters have turned to you for help. You’re happy to play a part in helping the chapter thrive, but they seem to be treating you as a generic alumna they’re targeting for donations. But you’re Sally. You’ve put a lot of yourself into this chapter, both when you were an undergraduate and now that you’ve graduated. You’ve worked your way up in your law firm to full partner, and you take pride that you did all this as a sorority woman.

So what gives?

More than likely, the chapter is so focused on their fundraising numbers that they forget to consider the human element and sisterhood that goes into these projects. Yet to Sally, it certainly feels like a bit of a diss.

So how do you show alumnae that you see them? Well for one, engage with them more often than when you need something. Spend time with local alumnae and keep in touch digitally with others. Offer options for giving, such as automated and recurring digital donations, understanding that not all alumnae will give the same amounts at the same times. Show them you want them involved and that you’re grateful for their support.

Without sisterhood and a strong, lasting bond between each new generation, a sorority will fail, and so will its fundraising efforts.

Now that you’ve seen sorority fundraising through the eyes of alumnae, has your perspective changed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.