Theta Foundation Once Again Recognized by Foundation for Fraternal Excellence

Category: Foundation

Justine Thomas, CFRE

Epsilon Sigma, UC Irvine

For the second time in the last three years, Theta Foundation received recognition from the Foundation for Fraternal Excellence (FFE) for outstanding major gifts fundraising. On Tuesday, Aug. 24, Kappa Alpha Theta received the 2021 Award of Distinction for Best Major Gifts Development Effort, the same award Theta Foundation received from FFE in 2019. Theta was selected out of both our fraternity and sorority peers, receiving one of only eight organizational awards given annually.

When our sesquicentennial development strategy was created for 2020, we could not have prepared for how drastically the year-end would diverge from all the things that Theta's staff and volunteers originally planned. Theta Foundation comprehensively revised the sesquicentennial development strategy to be as impactful as it could be given the opportunities available. What began as an alternate plan transformed a primarily in-person event to be completely virtual! Moreover, instead of two separate campaigns–Giving Tuesday 2019 and Pansy Patch 2020–to potentially compete with one another amid a global pandemic, the 150 Giving Clubs were positioned to support both: now with a revised, cohesive strategy that leveraged major gifts at the $15,000 and $1,500 levels to inspire participation from all members for both campaigns.

The synergy between the Giving Tuesday and Pansy Patch campaigns surrounding Theta’s sesquicentennial was leveraged through the development of the 150 Giving Clubs at the $15,000, $1,500, and $150 giving levels (In Love, In Hope, and In Faith, respectively). This gave donors the opportunity to support both initiatives—and in turn, the Theta Forever Fund—in the way most meaningful to them and allowed Theta Foundation to position major gifts received to inspire further giving. Every unrestricted gift to the Theta Forever Fund bridges the gap between membership dues and educational and leadership expenses.

When Giving Tuesday concluded, Theta Foundation raised a whopping $488,202 in unrestricted revenue for the Theta Forever Fund – a 77.65% increase from the previously unprecedented $274,815 raised on Giving Tuesday 2018. When Pansy Patch officially launched on a compressed schedule in July, the 150 Giving Clubs were publicly announced and the opportunity to join the In Faith ($150) giving club, in addition to the In Hope and In Love clubs, was made available to all members. The opportunity to honor a Theta by sending a virtual pansy for just $10, the portion of the biennial campaign that was familiar, remained simple and effective. In total, 5,336 virtual pansies were sent, resulting in an additional $72,424 for the Theta Forever Fund.

The major gift momentum these efforts generated was striking. In fiscal year 2018-2019, Theta Foundation received three unrestricted major gifts at the $15,000+ level and 171 unrestricted gifts of $1,000+. In fiscal year 2019-2020, Theta Foundation quadrupled the number of $15,000+ gifts, receiving 12 unrestricted $15,000+ level gifts and secured 199 unrestricted $1,000+ gifts, an increase of 28 major gifts from just the year before. In total, $560,626 was raised unrestricted for the Theta Forever Fund, of which $313,000 came from 150 Giving Club gifts.

Nearing the fiscal year-end, Theta Foundation surpassed its annual fundraising goal despite especially unusual times. This momentum led to nearly $1 million in fundraised unrestricted revenue ($976,412), the largest unrestricted amount in funding secured in any fiscal year in the organization’s 60-year history. It also resulted in Theta Foundation receiving the organization’s largest non-bequest gift in fiscal year 2019-2020 – a single $500,000 investment in Theta Foundation’s scholarship program. As a result, Theta Foundation awarded the largest total scholarship funding in the organization’s history: $869,130.

The major gift effort surrounding the 150 Giving Clubs created a solid foundation upon which the rest of the development strategy was built. It enabled flexibility when external circumstances required it to be adapted and it cannot be overstated: the success of Theta Foundation’s fundraising in 2020 was the direct result of a well-developed, cohesive strategy that connected gift opportunities and empowered donors to have the greatest impact in the way most meaningful and efficient for them.

We hope you’ll join us for this year’s Giving Tuesday in support of the Theta Forever Fund – save the date for Nov. 30! If you’re interested in learning more about leadership donor opportunities in support of Theta Forever, please contact Foundation Director of Advancement Justine Thomas.

* The 2021 awards ceremony was held virtually because of the pandemic. The photo is from the 2019 in-person event when Theta Foundation was honored with receiving FFE's major gifts fundraising award.