The Furman University Panhellenic first got involved with Circle of Sisterhood in the fall 2011. The former Panhellenic president had the opportunity to hear the founder, Ginny Carroll, speak at a leadership conference and was incredibly moved by Ginny’s speech. After hearing about Circle of Sisterhood’s goals, mission, and founding principles, the Panhellenic Community adopted Circle of Sisterhood as its official philanthropy.
To start raising money and awareness for Circle of Sisterhood, the Furman Panhellenic organized a few events. And while these events were planned, everything that could have gone wrong did. Out of all of these experiences though, we’ve learned some hard lessons along the way. Here are some examples of experiences we had, and what we learned:
- In December, we did an event called Shopping for Sisterhood, where a few popular boutiques downtown donated a portion of their sales for the day to Circle of Sisterhood. And on this specific day, Greenville suffered a hailstorm and the power went out around lunchtime. Needless to say, the sales that day were disappointingly low. Yet, we learned from it, and this year we’re setting it up to be a different store every month, so we have more opportunities for sales and more room for any unexpected obstacles!
- In February, we tried a frozen yogurt fundraiser. The event was held at a local frozen yogurt place, and 10 percent of the proceeds from the day were donated to Circle of Sisterhood. We requested to have it on Valentine’s Day, but we received the day after and the turnout was disappointing. With a small school setting this is a difficult way to make money in the first place, and we learned to request dates that are important to the school rather than everybody (Homecoming, etc.)
- We set up a clothing Trunk Show on Furman’s campus. A local boutique provided the clothes, Panhellenic women were the models, food was provided, and all of the clothing was sold after the event with 25 percent of the proceeds going to Circle of Sisterhood. While people were excited about this event, the wrong date was circulated around Furman’s campus, and again our turnout suffered. We definitely learned our lesson on the importance of communication within our council.
While we did have some mishaps our first year, we also had successes. In January, we hosted a Girls’ Night In event for potential new members. It was the night before the first round of formal recruitment and we charged $4 admission. We provided food, professional manicures, a raffle and screened a movie after the Circle of Sisterhood promotional video. Since all of the food and prizes were donated, it turned out to be a great way to raise money and awareness, as well as encouraging potential new members to value Panhellenic sisterhood! Over two-thirds of the women going through recruitment attended and the feedback we received was very positive. The event inspired a high level of interest in Circle of Sisterhood.
This year, we’re trying to learn from our mistakes and streamline our fundraising efforts. We found our main weakness was lack of communication. So we’ve restructured our Panhellenic constitution and bylaws to try and address this problem and encourage more involvement by all members of the Panhellenic Council and their respective chapters. We’ve also learned that not everything that works at larger schools transfers well to a small school setting. We’re trying to schedule fewer events with more opportunities for participation.
If I had any advice for schools just starting out with Circle of Sisterhood, I’d say be very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your council, location and community. They will influence everything! Next, I’d suggest finding a school of similar size and find out what kind of events worked for them, search chapter spotlights here! As for fundraising, I’ve found that people are absolutely shocked and very willing to listen to you talk about Circle of Sisterhood after you open with statistics found in Half the Sky. Do not be afraid to go and solicit donations. All food and prizes that we had at our events this year were donated, and it saved us thousands of dollars—which meant more monetary support for Circle of Sisterhood. But most importantly, stay inspired!
This blog was written by Margaret Caulkins, a junior at Furman and currently serving her second term as Vice President of Service for the Panhellenic Council.