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When you think of Greek life on college campuses all across the country, what comes to mind? Over the past several years, increases in incidents of hazing, binge drinking and injuries resulting from these activities have strongly damaged the reputations of fraternities and sororities. These centuries-old institutions, originally formed as a way to foster bonds among classmates and make a positive contribution to their communities, are now largely viewed as reckless drinking clubs that serve no benefit to society.
This is really a shame, as fraternities and sororities make positive contributions to society on a daily basis. A prime example of this is Derby Days, one of Sigma Chi’s main philanthropic events. Founded in 1922 at University of California at Berkley, Derby Days is a weeklong event that brings together all of the sororities on campus, as well as the community, in order to raise money and awareness for a specific charity. Since 1992, Children’s Miracle network has been Sigma Chi’s main beneficiary, raising over $6.9 million. During Derby Days, the participating chapter organizes a series of competitions and events. Over the years, the event has spread to colleges all over the country, with the goal of positively impacting both their campuses and communities as a whole.
Given the positive impact of Derby Days, Sigma Chi’s national chapter has a unique opportunity to coordinate and unify the event nationally in order increase the amount of money raised for CMN, while at the same time raising awareness about the charitable work Greek organizations conduct. Sigma Chi national could work with all of its chapters to select a week during the school year to hold the event. It could then connect with the universities and the town councils to discuss ways of raising awareness to ensure maximum participation. Ads could be placed in the campus and community newspapers and radio spots could be played on the local stations – there could even be a direct mail campaign that targets local business in the universities’ communities. In addition to this, Sigma Chi national could train Derby Days ambassadors from each chapter, who could then serve as liaisons between the fraternity and the community.
Sigma Chi national could also create a social media strategy that links the fraternities across the country, sharing videos and stories of the events. In addition to enhancing the experience of the event itself, this content could also be leveraged for PR purposes and help to improve the image of, not only Sigma Chi, but Greek Life in general.
Each fraternity and sorority has its own main philanthropic activity for which they are known. Derby Days could serve as a blueprint for all Greek organizations to follow.