What if… Wild/Extreme/Revolutionary Ideas (Service/Philanthropy Edition)

by Matt Mattson

As you prepare for next semester’s recruitment, be sure you’re able to answer this question.  How will you change your world this year?

We have discussed on this blog in the past the POWER OF BIG DREAMS when it comes to recruitment.  You can see some of those posts here, here, and here.  If you have a clear direction, a powerful vision, a wild dream to get others excited about, they’ll be more likely to want to join you.   The best leaders don’t just want to join something that is trying to survive.  They will, however, be very interested in a group of people trying to change their world…

change-your-world1Brandon Cutler (Kansas State University) and Matt Mattson (Phired Up) facilitated an educational session at AFA last week entitled, Fraternal Extremes.  This session asked the question, “Considering the vast resources, millions of educated members, considerable money, and significant potential of inter/national fraternities and sororities, what are your wildest ideas for what Greeks could do (imagine no barriers, all ideas are great ideas, think HUGE)?”  This blog post is the first of several posts that will share some of the responses to this question.  Here are some of the best ideas from fraternity/sorority leaders, advisors, educators, and members across the country with regard to SERVICE and PHILANTHROPY.  Enjoy.

African School Supplies (Alex Brown, UW-Lacrosse):  To partner with other organizations in the community to raise school supplies for schools in Africa.  It could be done in a “penny wars” format.  This would be a part of an “International Awareness Week” with different speakers and events designed to get the Greek Community to think and act in new ways and perhaps bring in some diversity to our organizations.  It could be a Greek Life co-sponsorship with International Education and open to the whole campus and community.

GreekServe:  Living Our Rituals, Helping Our World. (Matt Mattson, Phired Up):  The mission of GreekServe is to deliver disaster relief along with life-changing service learning opportunities through the orchestration of collegiate and alumni fraternity/sorority volunteers.

Katrina.  9/11.  Tsunami.  Gustav.  Wildfires.  Earthquakes.  Floods.  Starvation.  Genocide refugees. 750,000 collegiate fraternity and sorority members who have pledged to being active servants to others. 200,000 fraternity/sorority members each year graduate to become active servants in their community. 1 organization dedicated to mobilizing this huge pool of manpower and engaging them in service where it is most needed.

Think… Alternative Spring Break on steroids, year round.  Think… a huge database of college students and Greek alumni who are prepared to be called upon at a moment’s notice to save lives and help those in need – around the world.  Think… the philanthropy of choice for every Greek organization.  Think… a singular cause that we can all get behind that not only uses monetary contributions wisely and for important purposes, but also uses our sheer manpower, energy, and network to get work done.

Ideal World (Mike Berezny, Undergrad, Kettering University):  I believe that Greeks could potentially–and literally–change the world. By not isolating one specific cause or purpose, and by distributing the time, money and effort of each Greek organization, social, scholastic, or other, the world’s communities would see a vast improvement. Imagine for more than a brief second parks cleaned up, run down houses re–built, children educated; elderly visited, homeless housed, naked clothed; hungry fed, ignorant enlightened, and the less fortunate given opportunities beyond their wildest dreams. This imaginary and ideal world may sound impossible, but with dedication and cooperation by the entire Greek Community around the globe, we can make a difference.

Mission & Values Focus (Brandon Cutler, Kansas State University):  What if all fraternity and sorority chapters actually focused on achieving their mission and values beyond all other activities.  What if chapter members spent as much time serving the community as they did in their favorite campus town bar?  What if every Greek nationwide would take all the money they spend on alcohol, drugs, or tobacco for a week and donated that money to their favorite philanthropic organization?     Imagine how much fun chapter leaders would have if they didn’t have to baby sit 80 drunks during formals and house parties.  According to in www.theknowzone.com   the average college student spends $466 per year on alcohol.  That is about $10 a week.  In 1 week K-State Greeks could donate over $32,000 to philanthropic organizations simply by not consuming alcohol for that week.  What if Inter/National Organizations and host institutions created systems that actually assessed chapters’ achievement of their mission?   What is that assessment determined whether or not a chapter would continue to exist.  If everyone went back to the basics, developed systems to assess mission & action congruence, and held chapters accountable according to their performance we’d have a community that actually forces chapters to do what they say they will do.   

How can we be remarkable if we can’t meet the minimum expectations?

Massive Philanthropic Impact (Nick Gilly, Chi Psi HQ):  With our resources, Greeks could engage in philanthropy on a massive scale. Imagine local and national foundations, and organizations with common philanthropy interests, pooling resources and partnering with other institutions to offer their own alternative spring breaks and ‘semesters of service’. Organizations could fly students from chapters across the country to common locations to build entire houses in poor areas. They could raise money to finance the construction of schools in third world countries, and send select students across the world to help build them and in the process learn about a new culture. Service oriented trips could mix with leadership and social excellence training on a massive scale that empowers larger numbers of our members to go back to their communities and engage those service-oriented and social skills. An organization or partnership of organizations could say “this year we financed the construction of 100 schools in third world countries (they only cost about $15,000 each in many places), had drives to provide them with books and school supplies, provided hundreds of scholarships for children in those countries to attend those schools, and sent members to teach in partnership with locals.”? What if we did the same here in our own country? Greek Life should be synonymous with education, philanthropy, and social excellence – not among only ourselves, but everywhere. That would be a revolution.

Engage the World (Scott Woodfill, Undergrad, GVSU):  Greek Organizations offer a vast array of diverse volunteers. With unlimited money and resources why are we not engaging the world? We are students, many of whom are pursuing careers as doctors, teachers, and businessmen. Why then are we not helping the world? What would this world look like if we used our members to educate kids in Africa, or send out pre-med students to perform first aid in 3rd World countries? If we have poverty in the U.S. why are our business major members not trying to help those who are not educated learn about financing and investing to survive today’s economy? If we invested the money into today’s world what many of us have invested in beer and liquor we could easily have changed the public view of Greek life years ago…

Reallocation of Finances (Jessica Gendron, Phired Up):  What if every chapter of every fraternity and sorority across the country forfeited their social programming budgets to one single cause for one year.  Every chapter across the country gave all their money previously marked for parities, decorations, and booze – to the same charity or same charitable fund.  How much money could we give?  How much money could we provide to a worthy cause?  What if the time we had scheduled for social events was then dedicated to providing service to the community.  Not dollars, but time.  How much time would our students give?  How much could we change our communities, campuses, students, and the world…in one year.  What if our students decided to do this on their own…

Adopt a Country (Matt Mattson, Phired Up): Sally Struthers teaches us that for just pennies a day we can adopt a child in Africa and feed them well.  The fraternity/sorority world is flowing with literally hundreds of millions of dollars.  That’s a lot of pennies.

What if in 2011 fifty fraternities and sororities got together and decided to adopt a small country (or town or neighborhood or impoverished region)?  How many people could we feed and serve using our educational foundation dollars, a portion of our dues money, the amount of money we normally spend on national conventions, regional programs, beer, t-shirts, websites, etc.?  Just for one year?

Would they name the country after us?  Would it be Fraternisororiland?  Would they name their children after us?  Would our members benefit from this year of sacrifice?  Would our alumni give to this cause?  Would more people want to be members if we did this?  Could we get communities on our side?

Self Imposed PARTY TAX (Josh Orendi, Phired Up):  Every social dollar we spend is matched with a service dollar.  Simple.  Effective.