Panhel, IFC transition to online philanthropy in light of pandemic

Media Credit: File Photo by Gabrielle Rhoads | Staff Photographer

Many Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council chapters were forced to cancel philanthropic events this spring but began new fundraising efforts for people impacted by COVID-19.

Updated: April 20, 2020 at 2:23 p.m.

Greek life leaders are transitioning their philanthropic efforts to virtual fundraising campaigns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council chapter leaders said they’ve created competitions to raise donations for charities providing relief during the crisis. Panhel and IFC leaders said the transition to online fundraising has been challenging, and some have needed to cancel philanthropic events, but they’ve been able to generate donations for their national charities through social media.

Sophomore Reese Geyer, the Tau Kappa Epsilon philanthropy chair, said he is planning online fundraisers using Venmo and his fraternity’s fundraising page to collect donations from community members for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which the group has partnered with for more than 30 years. He said chapter members have been communicating daily and making social media graphics like “Venmo boards” to motivate students to participate.

“Most of the time you just walk by the fundraiser and you’re like ‘Oh, there it is, let me participate,’ and this is harder to get people to take a few extra steps to actually donate online,” Geyer said.

He said fraternity members launched a social media campaign in collaboration with Panhel earlier this month to raise donations for the Capital Area Food Bank’s COVID-19 emergency fund, which distributes resources to people struggling with food insecurity. Geyer said the groups asked for donations to be sent via Venmo and raised $600, hundreds more than their $100 goal.

“That was a new amazing event that I’ve never done that I’m pretty sure GW Panhel has not done either,” Geyer said.

Sophomore Lizzie Irwin, the Sigma Delta Tau president, said the sorority “went full force” with virtual programming, using WebEx and FaceTime to host chapter meetings, movie nights and study hours. She said the sorority canceled its in-person fundraising events like profit share nights with restaurants on-campus, but members are planning online fundraisers to continue their philanthropic efforts through the spring.

Irwin said the sorority had planned to host events like national Wear Blue Day during April’s Child Abuse Awareness Month in collaboration with  Prevent Child Abuse America, an organization sorority members work with that raises awareness about child abuse. She said Sigma Delta Tau recently held a virtual craft night making pinwheels to put on display in their homes to symbolize safe homes for PCAA’s Pinwheels for Prevention campaign. 

“Our vice president of philanthropy has been working to plan virtual events to raise awareness for the cause and keep in mind our philanthropy,” Irwin said. 

Irwin said the sorority is collaborating with fraternity Delta Tau Delta to raise money for We Are Family, a D.C.-based organization that delivers groceries to homebound seniors during the pandemic. She said sorority leaders set up a Crowd Change page April 7 to collect donations for the organization, raising $160 so far.

“Because of everyone’s different situations across the country, really across the world, it’s just encouraging ways to give back,” Irwin said.

Carrie Kowalyk, a sophomore and the service and philanthropy chair for Kappa Alpha Theta, said the sorority has taken in $2,000 fewer philanthropy funds this spring than last year. She said now-canceled in-person events like the annual Theta Grilled Cheese sale traditionally raised the majority of the sorority’s donations for the chapter’s national charity, Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization that promotes and supports efforts to find safe, permanent homes for neglected children. 

“Since there is nothing in return for donating online, donors have to be very connected to the cause or the chapter in order to donate,“ Kowalyk said in an email. 

She said sorority members have stepped out of their “comfort zone” to boost donations for philanthropy, like making fast-fact sheets about their partner organizations. Kowalyk said members used their social media accounts to attract attention for their April 15 fundraiser for their national charity.

“We have used fast-fact sheets, fun boards to fill out and even did a Q&A with a court appointed special advocate on the Theta Instagram in order for outside communities to understand what we are fundraising for,” Kowalyk. “In the future, we are going to be utilizing the things we have learned and apply them to future fundraisers in order to boost overall donations.”

She said the sorority and Tau Kappa Epsilon planned the Capital Area Food Bank’s crowdfunding campaign in response to the COVID-19 pandemic over email and text. Kowalyk said updating their campaign methods to online platforms has given the sorority a model for future fundraisers.

“It entailed making the fundraising page for the food bank, making Venmo boards, posting on social media (primarily on Instagram and Facebook) collecting the donations and donating directly on the food bank’s fundraising website,” Kowalyk said.

This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Kappa Alpha Theta’s national charity is Prevent Child Abuse America. Their charity is Court Appointed Special Advocates. We regret this error.

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