Eight years ago this month, I summited Mount Kilimanjaro with two fraternity brothers. The five-day climb was grueling, and when we reached the 19,340-foot peak, it was 40 below and challenging to breathe. The top of the mountain was inhospitable, but our team still took 25 minutes to celebrate and reflect on the climb.
When you complete challenging tasks, it’s important to celebrate and reflect, too. As I look back on our industry’s journey over the last year, I see three key takeaways that give me hope for the future of the fraternal movement.
The value fraternities and sororities provide is more relevant than ever.
In the new book The Lonely Century, Noreena Hertz states that 80 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds report feeling lonely. Social distancing over the past 12 months has reinforced the value a strong social network and true connection brings to one’s life. The friendships, relationships and support structure fraternities and sororities provide add tangible value to members.
Fraternities and sororities provide students an anchor in their community, a place to belong, and a network of peers invested in each other’s personal success. As many college students experience stress, loneliness and depression, fraternities and sororities offer critical connection and a sense of community, and research shows members report higher levels of positive mental health than their unaffiliated peers because of it.
Going quiet during a crisis shows neither confidence nor value in your organization.
Throughout the pandemic, alumni have told us that they are eager to hear how their chapter is weathering this storm and how they can help. When chapters and organizations aren’t sharing updates, some alumni will create their own narrative. Alumni are asking their organizations to share news, plans and progress and to connect them with the chapter they love.
According to the 2020 Foundation for Fraternal Excellence survey conducted by Cygnus Applied Research Inc., only 30 percent of the 128,000 alumni respondents were satisfied with the amount of communication from their local chapter. By launching a mail and digital alumni engagement program designed to share these chapter updates—weaving in important national messages and even findings from recent research on fraternities and sororities—organizations will build a stronger affinity for and drive awareness about their fraternity programs.
There has never been a better time to strengthen the tie between the fraternity or sorority (starting with the local chapter) and alumni. Over the past year, the need for connection has been critical to our well-being.
If you have a need, you need to ask.
While the pandemic has brought new challenges, a history of affinity and giving in uncertain times shows us that many alumni will not be deterred. Donors believe in the fraternity and sorority experience, and they will give to support it. The past year has proven this once more. When campuses sent students home and the world shifted into sheltering in place, we began having virtual donor visits. Last year, we conducted over 3,600 donor visits (2,900 of them virtual!) and raised more than $53.5 million in support of fraternities and sororities.
As many of us have been advised that we can’t time our investments in the stock market, you also can’t time the need for capital campaigns and fundraising. People with wealth are still giving, which is evident as Pennington & Company’s fraternal clients received 1,086 gifts of $10,000 or more in 2020. If you have a need and are providing value to your members, you must continue to communicate and ask for support.
Whether your need is big or small, we care about you and are here to support you in reaching your financial and fundraising goals. Click here to learn more.