As some of you may know if you follow my Instagram account (bsquared.website) I am heavily involved in my fraternity and was the head philanthropy chair this academic school year. Fortunately, I survived the hectic week and came out the other side with ideas and suggestions to improve our philanthropy efforts for the years to come.
I was elected head philanthropy chair a year ago with two assistants at my side, several things happened that caused my assistants to drop the position or get pulled out of the position, but I ended with Dalton and Drew at my side by the end of it. We decided our goal was to raise $10,000 for Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Sigma Chi’s official philanthropy. This was an extremely ambitious goal considering our previous best was about $5,300 raised. We also had to revamp the whole Derby Days week to make it more competitive between the participating sororities and women’s organizations and try to incorporate new events into the week. Our first step in the revamp was to collect information from the previous year, we needed to know what everyone liked, disliked, what they were not allowed to do due to national’s rules etc. While there was some effort in the past to gather feedback about the previous years events we took it to a new level and made sure everyone’s voice was heard and tailored the week-long competition to allow everyone to compete on a level playing field.
We added an event in the Fall semester of 2017, known as Brats ‘n tots. Just as the name suggests it was a food fundraiser hosted at the fraternity house featuring premium brats and unlimited tater tots. This turned out to be our most profitable food fundraiser to date and raised over $500 in profit. Mind you that at that point we had never done a food fundraiser let alone hosted one. This was an incredible success but of course there were hiccups and ways to improve for the next year, as with anything the first time is always difficult, and we will get to a failure at a first-time event here soon.
Brats ‘n tots serving crew
Next event we added to the line up was what we are going to coin as Dead Week Wendy’s, again as the name suggests it’s a food fundraiser at Wendy’s during dead week which is commonly known as the week prior to finals at my university. Unfortunately, we register the event early enough and it was pushed back to the Wednesday of finals week which wasn’t the most optimal timing. Despite that issue we still managed to raise $113 from the event mainly due to the high % of proceeds donated (30% of revenue for that night with the flyer we promoted).
Next new event on the calendar was a similar food fundraiser just at Buffalo Wild Wings which we also did in conjunction with a recruitment dinner at BWW. In the past we would always take some potential new members to BWW for dinner during the recruiting process and we decided to piggy back that event with a food fundraiser. A two birds one stone situation which you will see come up again in this overview. With this event we raised $212 or so, we were better able to promote this event having learned from our mistakes with the Wendy’s fundraiser, it also helped that BWW has a higher average ticket price than Wendy’s despite a lower % donated but still a solid 20% excluding sales in alcohol or gift cards.
At this point my committee and I were feeling like we were doing well at just shy of $1,000 raised before getting to the philanthropy week. We had the strongest start of any Derby Days committee to date, but our success wouldn’t last long. Our spring semester is quite busy with our huge St. Pat’s celebration, Spring break, spring career fair, Greek sing and various other events happening. In addition to being bogged down in other school and fraternity related activities we were also running into bad luck with our women’s organizations. Two organizations of our smaller women’s organizations declined to participate in our week-long competition due to the time commitment, even after offering to combine the two to give them more people to work with. We also had a large sorority that has failed to participate fully in the past three years decline us again despite our massive effort to accommodate and inform them. In hindsight we could have done more to inform them and attempt to get them more involved but again our schedules were packed. Those were some large blows to our committees moral since in addition to our monetary goal we also wanted to maximize participation across the board.
Despite the setbacks we continued to push forward and do what we could to redeem ourselves, but the bad luck and poor execution continued to disrupt our previous successes. I had assigned an assistant to obtaining t-shirt sponsors, thinking he was the best man for the job. Well about 2 days before spring break at our weekly meeting I realized that we had maybe 2 of the 9 t-shirt sponsors we were going for with no contact established with other potential clients. The t-shirt design was due the Monday we returned to school and seeing as we were running out of time and options for obtaining sponsors I took it upon myself to execute the task. I spent the better part of my Friday and Saturday going into the Spring break talking to local businesses to obtain sponsors. I then came back to town for 2 days to further confirm sponsors and attempt to obtain more. Luckily, we ended with our goal number of sponsors but the way we had to reach that goal was far from optimal. The opportunity cost of my time and travel expenses to finish the job took quite a toll on me mentally and to my external efforts to succeed such as this blog and my investments. Anyhow that small crisis was adverted or was it?
Cheesin through it
That’s right! When it rains it pours and oh did it pour. We were having issues with liaisons knowing what to do and getting their organization to participate, we got the t-shirt order in late, we over ordered the koozies and then they had a printing error that forced us to have them reprinted and took more time than we anticipated. We got the wrong shirts printed, we did not get the number of orders we anticipated. Issue after issue kept coming up and this was before we even got the philanthropy week underway, this was just the prep work!
We had another new event to kick off the week, it was a gala at a local event/banquet center. Not only did we not get our first or second choice for venue, but we also were lied to on price, overestimated our attendance, therefore over estimating the needed food, and the event turned it into a very dismal sight. All in all, we lost about $400 on that event and rattled us all. It was under advertised, overestimated, not well defined, and did not serve a strong purpose or give a strong reason for people to be there. The idea should have probably been scraped but we decided to follow through with it anyhow. Perhaps next year they can bring it back and turn it into a successful event but until then despite what my peers said and how successful they thought it was I’ll chalk that one up as an L.
Pie-a-Sigma Chi featuring my temporary mohawk
Moving onto the actual week of Derby Days it went relatively well. Events ran smooth, the new point distribution kept the competition tight until the final event, it did take some extra effort on my part. My two assistants did not live in the fraternity house, so they would leave and go home after the last event of the day or stick around for a little bit to help, but I would be up till midnight-4am to ensure everything was taken care of and ready for the next day of events. It wasn’t always necessary for me to stay up that late and what not, but I felt the extra effort I put in made the week go a little smoother, so it was worth it even if I am bitching about it now. We had several new events including, Amazing race, cooler design, sell-a-Sig, and a drag show. They all went well for the most part and little kinks and issues will get worked out next year.
We finished the week with Delta Omicron Lambda winning for the 4th year in a row. Congratulations to them however I think moving forward it may discourage other teams from trying to participate to take down the reigning champs. At the current moment we raised $3800 including all expenses, not including the 20% payout to the winning organization. This is far far far below what we wanted to raise. We diligently tracked our expenses and revenue for every event and hopefully we can analyze those results to determine what actions are necessary to increase what we raise. We still do have one event to go.
Alex’s pizza is a pizza parlor in town, we always go there after initiation and treat the alumni (I should really say the alumni treat us) to some pizza and adult beverages. As I mentioned in the sneak preview before, I am all about hitting two birds with one stone and making the most effective and efficient events possible, and that is exactly what we intend to do. Since we go to Alex’s pizza once a semester, after initiation then why not host a food fundraiser there while the alumni are paying the bill for it all. So, with that in mind we will get a nice 20% cut of the revenue for that day most of which will consist of our 50-person group’s order, but I am sure we will also get some friends to and other students to come celebrate our new initiates with us.
My committee and I are currently writing up an official transfer document, so the next committee can learn from our mistakes, this is also something new we are trying. Overall I can say that while we did not reach our target we did a lot of new things and took some risks and some paid off and others did not, but the group after us will have all the tools and knowledge at their disposal to reach our $10,000 goal and shed a new light on our philanthropy, social and brotherhood aspects of the fraternity.
To those who are involved in philanthropy or want to be involved in philanthropy and have questions please let me know. I have learned a lot from this position and would love to help anyone who wants to make a difference just like I wanted to make a difference when taking the committee position.
As always please let me know what you think!