Chapter Life: Fundraising
Fundraising is a necessary activity for any Sigma Tau Delta chapter. Without money, chapter activities are limited. There are many different ways to raise funds, and successful chapters generally try several different approaches each year.
How a chapter solicits financial support influences the image of Sigma Tau Delta on campus. Fundraising efforts need to be well organized, transparent, and easily justified, or they can actually damage a chapter's campus reputation and undermine getting future support. Getting started:
- Establish specific, realistic fundraising goals for each project or activity. Chapters with multiple and/or ambitious goals may need to prioritize in the event some goals are not met.
- Create a clear plan of action for each goal.
- Set target dates by which money is needed.
- List possible funding sources and projected amounts. Make estimates conservative and have a fallback plan in case funders offer less than the requested amounts.
- Assign individual chapter members specific tasks. Make sure that members are aware of their responsibilities and that all members are contributing in some way.
- Maintain accurate records of the income and expenses associated with each fundraising effort, and periodically assess the effectiveness of each approach.
- Track progress and celebrate milestones to keep members motivated.
- Stay in contact with individuals and organizations that have made large or repeated donations, and not just to ask for more money. Good items to send include:
- Formal thank-you cards
- Periodic progress reports
- Evidence of how their contribution is having a direct impact, such as pictures and testimonials
- Chapter newsletter and/or calendar of events
- Invitations to induction ceremony or other formal events
Chapters may require local dues from members, either on a one-time basis at the time of induction or on a yearly or per-semester basis. Local chapter dues are not to be confused with the one-time international induction fee for new members which must be submitted to the Central Office. Chapters keep local dues in their chapter treasury to pay for administrative costs, chapter activities, etc.
- According to the results of the Chapter Annual Survey, approximately 40% of chapters charge local dues. Of those, nearly 70% charge local dues only one time, and average dues are between $5 and $15.
- Collecting local dues can help ensure that members are committed to active participation because they have "skin in the game," but dues can also be a barrier to entry.
- Many chapters waive local dues for members with demonstrated financial need, and some even maintain a scholarship fund for the international induction fee.
Most chapters receive a portion of their funds directly from their school. School-based funding sources tend to favor projects that benefit students directly, projects that bring prestige and positive media attention to the school, and projects where chapters partner with other campus groups or community organizations.
- Explore all avenues for funding. The English department, college, student government association, honors programs, women's and minority studies programs, and alumni association may have funds set aside for student activities. Some schools also have special foundations to fund certain types of activities such as service or community building.
- Ask members of other on-campus honor societies about funding sources they have found and used.
- Prepare all applications or requests for funds carefully. Provide as much documentation as possible.
- Demonstrate how the money will benefit students and/or the school.
- Outline the efforts of members and other sources of funding to demonstrate that this request is part of a larger, comprehensive fundraising plan.
Many chapters are able to find local businesses and community organizations willing to sponsor activities and events, or to partner with chapters to assist in their fundraising efforts.
- Local businesses are often willing to sponsor events and/or publications in exchange for acknowledgement or ad space in the event program.
- While some businesses will donate money, others prefer to contribute goods, services, or store credit. Consider soliciting any of the following:
- Food or goods that can be sold to raise funds or used as refreshments at events
- Items to raffle or incentive prizes for contests and events
- Giveaways for event attendees or donor gifts
- Supplies for chapter events or projects
- Coupons or discount codes that can be given to donors or attendees
- Many local businesses have established partnership programs. Explore the possibilities in your area, including:
- Organization nights where a portion of all proceeds on a particular night could be donated to your chapter
- Work opportunities where members can serve customers in exchange for tips and/or a percentage of the proceeds
- Club programs where customers mention your organization at the time of purchase and the store donates a percentage of the purchase to your group
- Opportunities to place a collection jar or items for sale near the register
There are a number of grants available to support chapter activities, particularly those with an educational or service focus. Sigma Tau Delta, for example, offers both Project Grants and Service Awards valued at up to $500 each.
Other potential funding sources include school and alumni foundations, community organizations, Arts and Humanities councils, educational foundations, and civic groups.
- Start by contacting the English department chair or another knowledgeable person to see if the school offers any grant writing support or has a grant writer on staff who may be able to help or at least to offer guidance and suggestions.
- Next speak with a school librarian. Many libraries subscribe to databases of grant opportunities and other valuable search tools. The library also will likely carry books on applying for grants.
- Contact the student government organization on campus to determine if it offers any assistance applying for grants. Also ask if the organization knows of any local grants that other student groups have successfully applied for in the past.
- Read grant descriptions and application instructions closely, and before applying, make sure the project fits the organization's mission and grant objectives.
- If there are any questions or doubts about whether a particular project is eligible for a grant, or about the application process, contact the funding source to ask for clarification. These organizations want to give away money to deserving projects, and they generally are very helpful.
One of the most popular ways for chapters to raise money is through sales and donation drives. From books and brownies to custom Valentine's poems and car washes, the list of possible goods and services is endless.
- Instead of setting a price, consider listing a suggested donation. People almost never take something without making a donation, and many will donate more than the "price."
- Don't be afraid to charge a little more. People understand this is a fundraiser.
- Be creative. Cookies and used books are nice, but people can get them anywhere. Funny shirts, creative bookmarks, and other original items can be more of a draw.
- Look beyond the basic table in the English department lobby. Consider selling items:
- In a high traffic area such as the cafeteria or outside of a busy store
- At a large event such as a football game or student conference
- In restaurants, book stores, and other local businesses
- On the chapter's website
- At the annual international convention (request a table by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Find a wealth of ideas and get valuable advice and feedback by chatting with other members in one of the Sigma Tau Delta Facebook groups.
Better World Books campus book drives provide chapters with a great turn-key fundraising opportunity. Better World Books provides everything from posters to shipping boxes, and even pays the postage. For every accepted book turned in, chapters earn money for themselves AND a donation to one of several international literacy organizations. Chapters with the most successful drives can win prizes, and members who participate in a drive can apply for the Better World Books Internship.