April 19, 2011

Philanthropy At Its Finest

Philanthropy is a huge part of being an Alpha Phi. Throughout the school year, sororities market their philanthropic events to college campuses, asking for support from Greek and non-Greek students, faculty and the local community. The question then becomes: how do we promote heart health and our mission so that it appeals to everyone? The Theta Iota chapter was the recipient of the 2010 Martha Mast Award for Outstanding Philanthropy, and today we would like to share four tips for successful philanthropic marketing and event-planning.

Photo courtesy of James Madison University Unions.

The first step in philanthropy planning is to choose events that will attract the maximum number of people that are a part of college life. For instance, events should be non-gender- or age-specific but still incorporate the “Heart Health/Go Red” theme. One of our most successful events during our “APHIASCO Philanthropy Week” was our King of Hearts Male talent show. Sisters asked male friends from various clubs and organizations to participate in the event and recruited others to support the show. Participants performed talents such as singing and dancing, and this was a great opportunity for the James Madison University community to come together and fundraise in an entertaining way. In one night, we were able to raise $2,000 from ticket sales, a raffle and the bidding on hilariously talented gentlemen!

The second step in preparing for philanthropy events is to utilize as many sponsorship resources as possible. For example, a new tactic Theta Iota used to accumulate as many donations as possible was selling advertisement space in a Red Dress Gala auction booklet. Sisters were sent home over winter break to consult businesses in their hometowns and ask for support in our fundraising efforts. We had “gold” ($100+), “silver” ($99-$50) and “bronze” ($49 and lower) levels of donations in which businesses could show support. This was an effective way to increase involvement of organizations outside of Harrisonburg and give businesses the chance to market to a new audience.

Rockingham Memorial Hospital representative speaking at the Red Dress Gala.

Something unique to Theta Iota’s chapter is its relationship with Harrisonburg’s Rockingham Memorial Hospital (RMH). Within the past three years, we have donated over $45,000 to its cardiovascular and heart research center, and in 2010 our donations covered more than half of the heart checks given at the center. The third step in ensuring a successful philanthropy is encouraging other chapters to form a close relationship with a local hospital. Because of our strong bond with the RMH employees, we had a wonderful support system throughout APHIASCO, especially at our Red Dress Gala and “Move Your Phi’t 5K Walkathon.” The Harrisonburg community is enthusiastic about our philanthropy because we give back directly to something that is important to them. We have helped fund equipment and research to maintain heart health and that hits home with our supporters.
In the eyes of Brittney Tardy, our Director of Philanthropy, “A successful philanthropy is when the entire sisterhood works as a whole. What we do with our 164 sisters in one week is incredible. It shows how much we truly care about our philanthropy, our accountability and the zeal we have as a sisterhood. In the words of Clara Bradley Burdette, ‘Be zestful and carry your torch high,’ and this is something I think we did throughout APHIASCO 2011.”


Photo courtesy of James Madison University Unions.

As we hope for participation from students across campus, we expect participation from all sisters. Regardless of class, meetings and social time, each sister must still contribute time and support of the charity we love. Whether we donate, volunteer or attend to spread the cheer, we contribute to the greater good of heart health research and care. We build our sisterhood through collaboration when we come together for one week, and the rest of the year, to make a difference in the lives of others.

Alison Parker is a sophomore at James Madison University (Theta Iota).

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