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The Test: Should you start a sorority capital campaign for your house renovation?



It takes more than an out-of-date sorority house to justify a sorority campaign for house renovation.

Perhaps the carpet is dingy and the wallpaper needs to be stripped. Maybe your roof is leaking, the plumbing is out of date, and the air conditioning is constantly on the fritz. Maybe your chapter house is simply no longer competitive with the other sororities on your campus. You need to attract new sisters, and whether you like it or not, the state of your chapter house is a deciding factor. You need more space. You need more amenities.

To fulfill any of these needs, what you really need is cash.

You and your sisters have a vision for updated shabby chic with shiplap walls, or perhaps a modern, edgy vibe that better suits your members. Regardless of your plans, it takes more than the need for updates to justify a sorority capital campaign for house renovations, because at some level, the house will always need updates.

It’s a balance of timing, economic factors, and need that can make the difference between a successful capital campaign and one that fails to reach its mark.

There are three primary factors to consider before embarking on a capital campaign, especially for one as large as a full house renovation. They are the climate for giving and the donor appetite for a large fundraising initiative, the needs of the organization, and the data you have to properly gauge your alumnae and their giving capacity.

By asking a series of discovery questions, you can best determine as a chapter if now is the sweet spot in time for embarking on a capital campaign. It won’t be easy. It won’t be completed quickly. But done properly, the payoffs can be substantial.

Is now the right time to begin a capital campaign for house renovations?



Start with the list of needs and back into the data to support your ask. Assess and prioritize the problems with your existing house.

  • Is the house structurally sound? When was your last major renovation?
  • Are your facilities comparable to those in your peer group on campus?
  • How does your house compare to other residential housing facilities on campus? What about in comparison to off campus housing options?
  • What percentage of your budget is allocated to leadership investment and scholarship? What percentage is available for wear-and-tear maintenance?

Do the work to prioritize needs and wants, and get adequate estimate of what the cost will be for the renovations. Get more than one estimate so that you can present a range of options and pricing. Once armed with the right data, you can have a realistic view of what’s to come.

We’ve got the cost estimate for house renovations. Where do we start?

Take the numbers and float them by a capital campaign committee. From there, explore your chapter’s history to find answers to the following questions:

  • When was our last capital campaign?
  • Is there room in our current donor pool to fund the renovations we need?
  • If this is above and beyond our annual capital campaign, can we realistically hit our goals?
  • What alumnae and existing donors have expressed an interest in contributing to a capital campaign for house renovations?

You know that you have needs, but do you have donors interested in helping you meet those fundraising goals? Are they prepared to dig deep to help the chapter for the long run, or are they one-time donors? Do they have the capacity to get you where you need to be? If not, how, and where, will you find new donors who can?

Now, compare the data.

With the right database of donors, records, and history, you can predict certain things about your donor base, but not everything. You’ll need to follow trends of your alumni and insure that you data is current.

  • How many alumnae emails, cell phone numbers, and mailing addresses do you have? You’ll need them to properly execute a sorority capital campaign for house renovations, for sure.
  • Which classes of alumnae are reaching the peaks of their careers and earning power? These alumnae will be more likely to give. When people have more money, they donate more money, especially to causes they are personally connected to.
  • Where are your donors? Local alumnae are more likely to be present and personally involved in the chapter’s activities. But don’t write off the gift-giving capacity of alumnae who no longer live nearby. They may be just as emotionally attached to your chapter as those nearby.

You’ve got a goal, you’ve got the needs, and you’ve got the data. Now, use psychology to understand your donors.


Is now the right time to begin a capital campaign for house renovations

Women are on pace to not only make as much as men, but their giving often surpasses that of men. Don’t underestimate their decision-making power in a household, or their emotional ties to their alma mater.

Some tips and information regarding women donors:

  • Women control 51% of personal wealth and 84% of household consumer decisions.
  • Women care about leaving a legacy.
  • Tell the story of their gift. Follow up via newsletter and e-communication.
  • Show women the investment of their gift will further connect them to the chapter.
  • Women’s giving takes time. Stay connected to alumnae while they make their decision to give.
  • Donors need to know that the stewards of their money are running an efficient organization--stay in communication with donors so that they trust you.
  • Aligning a donor’s values with that of the organization encourages them to give more.

More than anything, Women see power in multigenerational giving and young women look for role models in giving habits. Help cultivate those connections between different graduating classes of your alumnae to foster those relationships. They’ll pay off in the long run!

Pennington offers professional solutions for Greek letter chapters for capital campaign fundraising. Learn more about our services or call direct at 785-843-1661.

Leave your questions or comments about sorority capital campaigns in the comments below!