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What's a Sorority Scholarship Fund and How Do You Raise Money for One?


Money can be a tough subject for some sorority sisters. Some have more resources than others. While it’s fantastic to see parents or other family members supporting the young collegiate women in their lives, it’s important to acknowledge that some sisters struggle to find funding for tuition, sorority membership dues and other expenses.

Student loans are always an option, but this level of debt can be a heavy burden for graduates. According to a Forbes study, roughly 44 million students have borrowed about $1.5 trillion, and as of 2016 the average student owes roughly $37,000. Tack on graduate school tuition and expenses and that number skyrockets.

Does the struggling sorority sister really want to be saddled with that kind of debt? The answer is probably not. Yet it’s the reality for many around the country.

What if membership in a sorority chapter could help? It’s the very thing you’d thought of as a drain on your account--worth every penny, but a drain nonetheless. However, sometimes chapters are able to actually help sisters by offering scholarships. The criteria differ from chapter to chapter, whether these are centered around academic merit or otherwise.

Sometimes a sorority chapter would like to offer this type of scholarship, but they aren’t quite sure where to begin with setting one up.

Sisters may ask themselves, “What’s a Sorority Scholarship Fund and How Do You Raise Money for One?”

It means engaging alumnae in your fundraising efforts, but there’s a lot more to it.

Pennington & Company understands that sorority scholarship funding can be a daunting task, so let’s start from square one.

With a Sorority Scholarship Fund, Get to the Heart of It

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Sororities offer a variety of scholarships for a variety of purposes. Some may have national impact, and some may be on a chapter-by-chapter basis. There may be one or many scholarships in a given chapter. Scholarships may be based on academic achievement, chapter involvement or can be restricted to certain professional degree paths.

Sororities offer these scholarships to active undergraduate members, alumnae seeking additional education or other collegiate women. Social, professional and even non-collegiate sororities are known to provide these types of scholarships.

As you can see, sisters have a broad, flexible range of what they can do with a scholarship fund. 

You might wonder what these scholarships have in common. What mutual goal ties them all together? The answer is simple: educating and empowering young women.

You can find these values at the core of most sorority chapters. Sororities thrive on principles like learning, service to others and leadership.

When deciding what kind of sorority scholarship fund you want to set up, let your chapter’s core values guide you. If your chapter values charity, offer a scholarship to a sister who’s always donating her time and effort for philanthropy events and other causes. If your sorority prides itself on its bonding and empathy for one another, offer a needs-based scholarship to a sister who goes above and beyond in service of the chapter, but struggles with paying membership dues.

If you’re a professional sorority, you can award a scholarship based on academic aptitude in a specific subject.

Sorority scholarships can also empower historically marginalized minority women by broadening their opportunities.

However you choose to shape and define your scholarship fund, it should always come from the heart.

Once You Know What You Want out of a Sorority Scholarship Fund, How Do You Get It?

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Once you’ve decided on the nature of your sorority scholarship, it’s time to fund it. While the scholarship chairperson may influence how scholarships are awarded, sisters’ membership dues more than likely won’t fund these scholarships. That means you’ll need to fundraise.

As with other long-term chapter fundraising projects, sisters should target alumnae donors, as opposed to more traditional fundraising methods used for one-time goals.

Alumnae want to know that you have a strong plan going in.

Consider your national sorority’s scholarship trends and guidelines. Seek feedback when your chapter is considering which direction to go.

Talk with national advisors and do some research into what scholarships and grants your sorority has funded in the past. Look at what types of scholarships they currently offer. It could also be useful to coordinate these efforts with the National Panhellenic Conference, if your sorority is a member organization.

Focus on the finer details of planning. Build documentation and a vision around your scholarship fund. Then develop programming to promote your ideas about the new fund, bringing alumnae to any related events to discuss and engage directly about gifts. To keep interest in donations by alumnae fresh, hold a banquet reception in honor of the sisters who’ve received scholarships and invite your esteemed predecessors. Always offer flexible options to ease alumnae giving.

You might even consider bringing a strong scholarship idea to advisors with the hopes of applying it on the national level, but that’s not your primary goal in the beginning stages of setting up a scholarship--focus on your chapter, and then build from there.

Sorority scholarships vary widely, and chapters have many options when it comes to providing funding to their sisters. When there’s a pressing need, scholarships can ease sisters’ financial burdens so they can focus on school, sisterhood and enjoying their once-in-a-lifetime college experiences.

Figure out what kind of scholarship you’re setting up, coordinate with national advisors and the NPC, and possibly bring in some fundraising professionals to streamline and optimize your efforts. Decide what your fundraising goals are to reach your target, then take aim.

Is your chapter considering raising capital for a sorority scholarship fund? Do you feel prepared? What questions do you have about scholarship fundraising? Let’s discuss in the comments below.