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Kappa Alpha Theta will celebrate Day of Service for the ninth time this year on October 19, Bettie Locke Hamilton's birthday. Theta's newly defined Philanthropy Philosophy quotes the words of Former Fraternity President Adelaide McDonald Sinclair, Sigma/Toronto: "The world should be a better place because Kappa Alpha theta exists." In Adelaide's spirit, Theta categorizes philanthropy in the following three areas:
- Service, focusing on hands-on volunteering for others;
- Fundraising, or collecting monetary or in-kind donations for causes close to our hearts; and
- Advocacy, or championing a cause through public support, education, and awareness.
As Day of Service's name suggests, we want our members to focus on the first of the three categories—service. There are plenty of resources on the this website related to Day of Service, from planning to promoting to participating in the annual photo contest.
Our world has been full of heartache for many people recently. From neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville to several natural disasters occurring one right after another, it seems each news day is more overwhelming than the last. It is not easy to watch our neighbors suffer—lives lost, property destroyed, and worlds turned upside down. It's only been a few weeks since Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston and surrounding areas. Days later, Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the Caribbean and parts of Florida, followed closely by Jose and Maria, which took out power on the entire island of Puerto Rico. Couple these with two massive earthquakes in Mexico, a typhoon in the Philippines, and the most recent tragic mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas, and we can feel helpless, even paralyzed. But in dark times, the world needs our light all the more—our sparks of consciousness and caring have the power to change lives for the better.
Day of Service can be a reminder that while we cannot do everything, we all have the capacity to do something. One of Theta's three aims is to exercise the widest influence for good, and thus, Kappa Alpha Theta aspires to cultivate philanthropists, who demonstrate tangible works to seek positive change in their communities. As a callback to this, Kappa Alpha Theta staff will be participating in Day of Service by serving two organizations whose missions focus on serving historically marginalized populations in our local Indianapolis community— New Hope of Indiana and Groundwork Indy. We encourage you to do the same.
Whether you live in an area affected by the most recent storms and wish to assist with the ongoing relief efforts or you simply want to serve an organization you care about, Day of Service is about the power of one multiplied by 200,000—the number of living, initiated members around the world. Imagine the impact Thetas can have, if we all give just a little bit of our time to serve others. We hope you will join us in lifting our lanterns and forging ahead to spread the widest influence for good.
Thetas have positive feelings toward our Fraternity! An overwhelming number (17,526) of alumnae and collegians recently completed the online member engagement and satisfaction survey. The feedback we received is invaluable to better understand the interests and priorities of our members.
Some highlights from the survey include:
- More than nine out of ten members (92 percent) have very positive or somewhat positive feelings toward Kappa Alpha Theta.
- Most Thetas consider themselves at least somewhat engaged with the Fraternity. Over a quarter (27 percent) of members considers themselves moderately engaged, and one in four considers herself either highly or very highly engaged (22 percent and 4 percent, respectively).
- Most college seniors (90 percent) indicate that they plan to stay involved with Theta in some way after graduating.
- Of all events surveyed, Founders Day celebrations had the highest rate of participation with 70 percent of members having participated, followed by Day of Service (42 percent).
- Thetas place high value on service- and assistance-oriented offerings that help fellow members and contribute to the greater good.
- Survey respondents represented all age groups. Thirty-three percent were under age 23; 18 percent were ages 23 to 34, 17 percent were between 35 and 50; 17 percent were ages 51 to 65; 15 percent were over age 65.
Although we are very pleased with the results, we have a lofty vision for the future of Kappa Alpha Theta. Results from the survey will be used in the pursuit and realization of Kappa Alpha Theta's Plan of Aspirations, developed to guide our organization through 2019. You can read more about this plan and our vision for the future in the Spring issue of the Theta magazine.
The 2015 Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity Day of Service is over, the deadline for photo contest submissions has passed, and now I pause to reflect on all the amazing work that was done on Bettie's birthday, as well as look ahead to next year. We have had nearly 40 submissions for the photo contest, which means at least that many college and alumnae chapters participated in the day (we know there are more of you, so please be sure to fill out the Day of Service form in the Officer Portal to let us know what you did), which is absolutely amazing! From visiting nursing home residents to cleaning up the beach, from sorting food donations at an area food bank to working with the local Guardian Ad Litem to put on a carnival for foster children, from serving at a local animal shelter to working at an organization that refurbishes furniture to give to families living in poverty, you all exercised the widest influence for good and embodied what it means to be leading women.
Here at Theta headquarters, we served in two shifts at Gleaners Food Bank, central Indiana's largest food bank that distributes food to hungry Hoosiers through a network of more than 250 partner agencies, including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. The first shift, which included Executive Director Betsy Corridan (and her two sons who were on fall break), volunteered in the cooler, helping to sort and organize refrigerated food so that the local agencies they serve can distribute fresh food to their clients. They were a bit chilly, but had a fantastic time! We in the afternoon shift relabeled three pallets' worth of canned corn - the warehouse staff person on site said we were the fastest labelers he'd ever seen! - and repacked four pallets' worth of "backsacks," bags of food sent home with hungry school children on Friday afternoons so that they have something to eat over the weekend. We had an amazing time working with an awesome organization, serving alongside one another.
My hope is that October 19 was just a jumping off point for you to explore what it means to serve meaningfully and with intention and purpose. I challenge you to find an organization you care about in your community, contact them, and see what opportunities they have available for ongoing service, and then commit to going as often as you are able - once a quarter, once a month, once a week...
All the while, we must continue to think about the larger social issues the organizations we work with are trying to solve, how we can break down stereotypes about the people we serve, and always reflect on the impact we are making.
For now, I'll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes about service:
• "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." —John Wesley
• "We ourselves feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." —Mother Teresa
• "No man or woman, even of the humblest sort, can really be strong, gentle, pure and good without the world being better for it; without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness." —Phillips Brooks
• "Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It's hard to believe we are just one week away from Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity's Day of Service, in celebration of Bettie Locke's birthday on October 19. Here are some final tips and reminders:
- When you are serving next week, remember that you are representing your chapter and and Kappa Alpha Theta. Pay attention to the Tips for Media Relations, and use the information provided to not only represent yourselves well on social and other media, but also the organization with which you are working. Making a good impression on the organization is key in building a meaningful relationship.
- Use social media to promote your chapter's or group's participation. The hashtag is #ThetaService, and view sample social media messages. In addition, don't forget to submit photos for the Day of Service Photo Contest, the object of which is to show the impact you and/or your chapter is making in your community. Thetas should be included in the photos, and action shots are strongly encouraged. Please make sure the people are organization you are serving are represented with dignity and respect. You are encouraged to wear your Greek letters or Theta apparel during your Day of Service activities. Please note that photos must be high-resolution without filters, and submission of collages or Instagram photos is discouraged. Photos will be accepted for submission from October 19 - November 2.
- Don't forget about reflection! As I've said before, taking time to reflect on service experiences helps us critically assess what we are seeing and doing. The most effective service experiences are those that provide structured opportunities for participants to reflect on the work they did. Reflection activities can be found on the Day of Service Plan page.
As Leading Women, we are called to exercise the widest influence for good. My hope for you is that your Day of Service experience will help you understand that idea a little bit better, and will inspire you to continue doing good in your community.
It's hard to believe Theta's Day of Service is only two weeks away! By now you should have identified a service site that will suit both the needs of the organization and fits with the type of service work your chapter members wish to do. You've communicated with the organization about a timeline and ensured you have a workable timeline for the service, including any education or training that needs to be done prior. You might have identified a reflection activity or two that you can do with service participants after the project concludes.
Now let's focus on motivating others in service work. Why do people serve in the first place? According to Adam Davis, people choose to volunteer for five reasons:
- We love other people and want to serve them
- We realize we're all on this planet together
- Our own self-interests
- A religious obligation (if we have one) calls us to serve
It's important to note that each of us chooses to serve for our own reasons. Some might just because they were asked. Some might to fulfill a requirement. Others serve to feel like they're part of a team. Still others serve because they truly believe in the mission of the organization.
It's also important to note that the motivations people have to volunteer with a certain service organization or agency might not ultimately be why they choose to continue. For instance, many Thetas began their volunteer work with CASA because of its connection to the Fraternity, but many have continued to serve the organization because they believe in the goal of assuring each child has a safe, permanent, and nurturing home.
In order to connect others to causes we care about, it's important to use storytelling. I often use the phrase, "Facts tell. Stories sell." Providing statistics or reciting information to others doesn't inspire them to want to serve. Storytelling, on the other hand, is the vehicle that calls others to action. Ultimately, motivating others in service is a call to action. You just have to find the right story that is going to connect. Remember, all of us are motivated by different things, so what motivates me isn't necessarily going to motivate you. So, how can you encourage others to be excited about the service you will take part in on October 19?
- Know their reasons for volunteering. Are they participating so they can feel close to their sisters? Because they connect to the mission of the organization? Or for another reason?
- Tell the story. Storytelling is not just about facts and figures. It's about individual persons and emotions. Ultimately, people make decisions based emotion as opposed to rationale, so ensure that when you tell the story about an organization, you connect others to the human element.
- Communicate. Good communication is critical in helping to manage expectations and responsibilities. People need to know what they're getting into and what is expected of them. This is also a two-way street. Welcome suggestions and feedback from members. When others feel valued, they're more likely to do what you want them to do.
- Show appreciation. Service requires no payment, but a simple "thank-you" goes a long way.
- Show them how they made a difference. Helping others see the impact their work made on the overall mission of the organization is crucial. Allow them see the results of their work, while also helping them understand what they learned in the process. This is why the reflection piece of service work is so important.
I look forward to serving alongside you (in just 14 days!) in an effort to support a culture of Theta women who serve in meaningful ways to build community and exercise the widest influence for good.
This human element is the only way we can hope to bridge gaps and understand others. It recognizes that people and the systems within which they operate are complex. Think about a time when you saw someone experiencing homelessness (and it's "people experiencing homelessness" and not "the homeless" or a "homeless person") on the street and then continued walking on. What assumptions did you make about that person? What unconscious judgments about that person crossed your mind? What stereotypes were reinforced? Why did you think those things?
When we reduce people to the stereotypes we have about them, we dehumanize them. That is why serving, rather than helping or fixing, is so important. By serving, we do not assume that we know more than the people being served. We do not think those being served are broken or lacking. It's also why the learning doesn't stop after we've spent a few hours volunteering at an organization that serves a particular population or advocates for a particular cause.
The reflection piece is incredibly important. Without it, our service is incomplete. Again, I will encourage you to visit the Day of Service - Plan page, and to not forget about the reflection activities that are provided there. Reflection is where we can make sense of our service experience in order to think about things in a way we had not previously, or to critically think deeper about the work we have done. Without it, community service can be pointless or even harmful. We can reflect through writing, speaking, listening, and reading about the experience of doing service. Essentially, it helps us learn from ourselves.
There are three lenses through which we can reflect on our experience—the mirror, the microscope, and the binoculars. The "mirror" looks at what we've learned about ourselves; the "microscope" looks at what we've learned about community agencies and issues; and the "binoculars" looks at what we've learned about broader social and global issues. All three of these pieces are crucial to breaking down barriers, creating more empathy, and helping us better understand what it is we are doing.
Without the "What? So what? Now what?" pieces, we haven't made meaning of our experience. Without creating that meaning, it's not likely someone will want to serve again, and after all, that's what the Fraternity's Day of Service is all about: taking the time to do service together in celebration of Bettie's birthday, while simultaneously aiming to create a culture in which service is at the core of who we are and what we do as Thetas.
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