For sorority chapters, engagement’s the name of the game.
Alumnae and sisters must foster engagement and communication throughout the year. If they do, success is inevitable.
And if they don’t? Unfortunately, sorority functions will suffer.
At no time is weak or nonexistent chapter engagement more evident than during capital fundraising campaigns.
The problem arises when you try to summon up chapter-alumnae engagement at will, especially when you fundraise infrequently. Like rubbing a magic lamp, the idea that you can have your fundraising wishes granted with little to no effort is a fairy tale.
Chapters need consistent engagement and communication, not just when they need something.
An alumnae-focused sorority chapter newsletter is a great start, but it’s only a baseline of a broader engagement effort. Newsletters can help alumnae catch up on accomplishments of their colleagues, university and undergrad sisters. If there are major philanthropy or other events they can volunteer for, that info is right at their fingertips.
However, you can’t communicate with your chapter once per semester and expect to succeed.
That said, what other kinds of communication can help alumnae engage with their chapter? What can both sisters and alumnae do to stay on the same page year-round?
You’ve Got a Great Sorority Newsletter, and Pennington & Company is proud of you. Now it’s time to talk about what comes next.
Fundraising Engagement 101
Between major fundraising campaigns, there are plenty of ways alumnae and their chapters can stay engaged.
For starters, chapters should maintain annual fundraising efforts when possible. Studies suggest that chapters that engage in fundraising throughout the year, with long-term commitment by alumnae donors for recurring gifts, raise more overall than those who fundraise infrequently.
Some ways to communicate with alumnae donors about annual fundraising include:
- A page on your chapter website detailing specific fundraising goals.
- A tiered alumnae donor list.
- A chapter blog on current and upcoming events and projects.
- A voluntary alumnae email list (don’t spam; keep emails brief and not too frequent).
- Team up with an alumnae advisor, and distribute an educational “white paper” about the benefits of annual fundraising to potential alumnae donors.
- Hold presentations on campaign fundraising.
- Forge a constant communication between the undergraduate alumnae engagement chair and a designated alumnae volunteer. This alumna should take on an engagement management role.
- Executive officers should oversee and be a leading voice in all official communications.
GINSystem is a great software tool for sorority chapters and alumnae to communicate amongst themselves and coordinate tasks.
The goal is to keep these communications precise and engaging. It’s also to bolster meaningful, lasting relationships with those who’ve come before and maintain a sustainable annual fundraising effort.
You need to talk more than once per semester to achieve that.
Sisters Print the Sorority Newsletter, but What about Alumnae Communication?
The onus for general engagement is on the chapter. Yet when it comes to a major sorority capital fundraising campaign, alumnae play a decisive role in managing and contributing to the goal.
It’s also key that alumnae volunteers clearly communicate with their chapter to keep everyone informed about the costs, planning and progress of a fundraising campaign.
Campaigns for large-scale projects, like sorority house renovations, require a lot of research on the front end, which includes marketplace analysis and itemizing costs.
A pre-campaign feasibility study is another common research step. This includes assessing engagement levels and strategizing how to solicit top donors to reach your fundraising goal.
Between these early steps and managing the campaign itself, major fundraising can be quite involved, and it’s easy for sisters and alumnae volunteers to end up on different pages.
Don’t forget that sisters’ main job is to be university students, not to carry the heft of a long-term campaign effort that could last years and aims to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Besides, with turnover at officer positions, placing that responsibility on the chapter will lead to inconsistent results at best, and a collapsed campaign more likely.
It’s up to alumnae to keep official communication about the campaign progress consistent, and even to facilitate engagement among their peers.
If possible, bring in an executive officer as a chapter liaison to housing committee meetings, and give her a voice in the meetings. Help her understand the ins and outs of a campaign so she can relay this to the rest of the e-board and chapter.
Putting the Social in Social Sorority
There are enough ways to discuss official chapter business to keep you plenty busy and give engagement the kick in the butt it needs.
However, how engaging can discussing the chapter day in and day out actually be? Sure, it’s important to work on sisters’ success and represent the sorority to the best of your ability, but you aren’t robots, either.
Keep in mind that the entire goal of communication is to build relationships, not simply form hives and complete tasks.
Think back to your early undergrad days, when you were forced to take part in those teambuilding exercises. Back then, you thought that ropes course was pretty lame. In retrospect, though, you recall how certain teambuilding activities were less about getting blisters on your hands and more about getting to know your sisters.
Even though sorority newsletter engagement is a great first step, you aren’t even up on the ropes until you really get to know each other.
Use social media, texting, email, shared events and house visits to keep in touch not only as sisters, but as friends. Build compassion and empathy into your relationships. When the next newsletter edition hits the presses, sisters and alumnae will understand where the other side is coming from, and you’ll be ready to get to work.
Between sorority newsletters, what does your chapter do to communicate and keep alumnae and sisters engaged? Let’s discuss in the comments below.