Thursday, October 22, 2020

Overcoming Obstacles to Raise Scholarship Funds: Rochester Alumnae Panhellenic

The following is a guest blog from the Rochester Alumnae Panhellenic Association. 

Alumnae welcoming attendees in 2019.

In 2019, the Rochester Alumnae Panhellenic celebrated their 10th anniversary of the annual Fall Fundraiser, our major scholarship fundraiser. For the first time in 10 years, the format was a dinner with a raffle, cork pull and both silent and live auctions. It was always a delightful evening at a local country club — good food, warm, wonderful friendships and, most important of all a goal of raising funds to support scholarships for young undergraduate or graduate women affiliated with an NPC organization. In recent years, Rochester’s Alumnae Panhellenic has been able to award approximately $20,000 each year, usually to six scholarship winners.

Thanks to the help of the full Rochester Alumnae Panhellenic board (represented by 18 different NPC organizations), wonderful and varied donations have been available each year for this event. Along with the donations, most of the participating NPC organizations created and donated baskets for a raffle or for the silent auction. To augment that, many businesses and individuals provided sponsorship funds with 100% of that going directly to the scholarship fund.

Following the same format for 10 years, the planning committee (known as the SOS committee for Support Our Scholars) decided it was time to make some adjustments by switching from a dinner to a luncheon, with the intent of lowering the cost to attend and, hopefully, broadening the audience. Plans were well underway when March hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and the SOS committee needed to go back to the drawing board.

Luckily, this dedicated and hardworking committee rolled up their sleeves and brainstormed how to make things work. There was only one definite at that point - more than ever, we needed to award scholarships for 2020. We felt the financial need would be even greater with many summer jobs disappearing and most campus lives changing drastically.

After a subcommittee did some initial investigation as to how we could manage to continue to engage with donors and sponsors and move towards what now needed to be a virtual event. The subcommittee presented a tentative plan for implementing a fundraising and auction platform, GiveSmart.

GiveSmart provides mobile bidding, online auction and fundraising software that could move our event to a virtual experience. This was not an inexpensive commitment, and we agreed that it was the best way to move forward for a positive outcome. Our lemons have turned to lemonade and we are truly thinking outside of the box and planning for the 2020 event in new and creative ways. Instead of a one-day event, attendees will now be able to preview donation items at their leisure for one week. Bidding will then open and will remain open for two weeks. Another plus - attendees do not need to be local to participate. The software allows for text and email notices to be sent when a person is outbid. No need to go find that auction item on one of the display tables to check on bids. Payments will be done online and financial reports will be readily available. Pickup will be done on a pickup date with safe practices in place (shipping as needed).

Though the final outcome is still to be determined, we feel very positive regarding this reformatting and are already talking about how this might allow us to do things very differently, even if we are able to go back to an in-person event for 2021.

Scholarship recipient, Alexandra Kaplan (right) with a chapter sister.

To learn more about the positive impacts of Rochester Alumnae Panhellenic’s scholarship program, you can watch this video and hear from recent scholarship winner, Alexandra Kaplan, a member of Gamma Phi Beta from the University of Rochester.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

How We Transitioned to a Virtual Recruitment at the University of Minnesota Duluth

 The following is a guest post from Annabelle Paquin, the University of Minnesota Duluth, class of 2021. 

When we got the news that recruitment was going to be entirely online, a brief moment of panic hit

Annabelle at the 2020 College Panhellenic Academy.

our College Panhellenic. “How are we going to do this?” was the question running through all of our minds. Most of us had just started using Zoom a few weeks ago, and the idea of facilitating an entire Zoom recruitment was not one we felt prepared for. We had no idea what we were going to do, but we knew we had to act fast. We quickly held meetings with our College Panhellenic officers, chapter recruitment chairs, chapter presidents and recruitment counselors, to tell them what was happening. We were met with shock, as well as enthusiasm that we were going to figure this out, make it work and make the best of the situation.

Myself, the College Panhellenic recruitment assistant and our advisor began scouring through NPC emails, looking for tips and tricks on how we could make this work. We attended online meetings with other campuses across the nation, tirelessly testing out breakout rooms, and trying to figure out how we could utilize Zoom to try to recreate recruitment in the most realistic way possible. We even held an optional Zoom meeting where we invited all of our fraternity and sorority life members so we could practice using breakout rooms; which helped us in effectively teaching chapters various tips and tricks to make this work.

Meanwhile, on the chapter end of things, everything related to recruitment took a turn. Chapter recruitment chairs and members alike had to quickly learn how to adapt and be extremely flexible. Recruitment training, originally energetic weekends spent learning chants and freshening up on your chapters values, philanthropy and finances quickly turned into testing out Zoom during chapter meetings, discussing how to move from break out room to break out room and learning how to set up Zoom calls. Despite all of this, all of our chapters maintained a positive attitude and spent a lot of time making sure they were experts in Zoom.

Our College Panhellenic recruitment team and chapter recruitment teams were not the only ones who made sure recruitment went off without a hitch. Our recruitment counselors were invaluable to us during this experience. Despite the changes to the job description, not a single recruitment counselor stepped down from their position. Our training still involved learning about being a supportive and empathetic resource to potential new members (PNMs) but also included a lot of technical Zoom skills, ensuring that our recruitment counselors were prepared to help chapters and PNMs troubleshoot, and make sure that PNMs knew where they needed to be when they needed to be there. All recruitment counselor training events were held virtually as well.

Despite all of the last minute changes that needed to be made, and the less than ideal circumstances, everyone involved maintained an extremely positive attitude, and I couldn’t be more proud of our campus’s Panhellenic community for being so supportive during this time.

For campuses who are recruiting in the spring, the best advice I can give, from both the chapter standpoint and the Panhellenic standpoint is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Reach out to other campuses and see what they did. Practice with your chapter, learn the breakout rooms, learn how Zoom works. Stay positive, stay organized and do as much as you can ahead of time. Don’t be discouraged by low numbers, because at the end of the day, these are difficult times for everyone. Smaller numbers also allowed for PNMs to have longer and more in-depth conversations with chapter members, which we received very positive feedback about.

Encourage your Panhellenic sisters to stay positive, and remember, everything is going to be okay. Use your community as a support system. I know for myself, I was so proud of how our entire fraternity and sorority life community stepped up to help us through this challenge. I couldn’t have done this alone, and am incredibly grateful for the help from our community, as well as my advisor, recruitment assistant, recruitment counselors, our Panhellenic president and chapter recruitment chairs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

From the NPC Chairman: Honoring 'Votes for Women' By Exercising Your Right to Vote

Dear friends,

Aug. 26, 2020, marked 100 years since the declaration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting American women the right to vote – a right known as women’s suffrage. The women’s suffrage movement began in 1848, and for the next 72 years, women fought diligently to secure the right to vote. It is these women – including Panhellenic sorority women Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Duer Miller, the Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, among others – who rallied for "Votes for Women" and we have them to thank for expanding women’s rights and creating opportunities for future generations.

At the heart of democracy is the right to vote, and generally speaking, most of us take our voting rights seriously and cast our ballot on election day. It’s part of our duty as community citizens and every vote really does count. If you aren’t registered to vote, this is a reminder that the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) supports and encourages not only our members but all women to pursue economic, social and political equity, along with leadership and civic engagement.

One of NPC’s six advocacy building blocks is citizenship/service showing that Panhellenic women are committed to participating as active citizens to improve both campus and local/state/federal communities. Our goal is to instill the understanding and value that good citizenship is important for caring for others, respecting the law and improving community, and that volunteering teaches women of all ages compassion and understanding. Both citizenship and service ultimately advocate for the causes which we are each personally passionate about. By participating in the democratic process, we are helping to shape the world in which we want to live.

Register and make your plan to vote.

Record turnout at the polls is expected this year in the U.S., and the generational shift of eligible voters continues. According to a study by Pew Research, the youngest Americans – millennials (born 1977-1995) and Generation Z (born 1996-TBD) – will be poised to exercise their political muscle in November, making up 37% of the electorate. Generation X (born 1965-1976) makes up 25% of the electorate. Also, Gen Z is set to surpass the Silent Generation (born 1945 and before) in the size of the electorate for the first time and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) remain the generation with the largest share of the voting-eligible population. Interestingly, millennials will make up a smaller share of the electorate than they did in the last presidential election, even as their population numbers have grown due to immigration.

Women continue to have the power to make a difference through their votes in 2020. The collective power of women's voices and votes can and will affect outcomes in our communities and at the national level. I encourage you to become an educated voter, exercise your power and encourage other women to register to vote if they have not done so. Let’s do our part and honor those women who came before us who fought for the rights and privileges of which we enjoy today.


Carole J. Jones
NPC chairman