THON, Sunday, Four Diamonds Sign

A member of Phi Kappa Psi raises up the Four Diamonds sign from the stands of the Bryce Jordan Center during Penn State THON on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.

Similar to any organization starting a new venture, Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity faced numerous challenges fundraising for its THON campaign after becoming a recognized fraternity again.

In 2017, the fraternity was suspended for numerous violations of student conduct. Now, it’s nearing the end of its first full THON cycle since returning.

Alpha Sigma Phi currently has 72 members who have each recently discovered how much goes into starting a new fundraising campaign.

Dustin Beaver, an Alpha Sigma Phi member, said getting started with fundraising is “fairly simple,” but there are many things an organization needs to gather beforehand.

“You need all your information sorted out and in detail, because THON requires everything just so they're on the safe side and we're on the safe side,” Beaver (senior-data science) said. “You have to have how you plan to fundraise, the location, what goes into it, how much is being spent on it — you gotta check all the boxes.”

Many other fraternities, sororities and organizations have been faced with the challenge of starting from scratch, but few have done so in the middle of a pandemic.

The pandemic has made fundraising challenging for many people participating in THON, but it’s been particularly challenging for Alpha Sigma Phi. According to members of the fraternity, fraternities faced increased scrutiny and restrictions from the university.

Normally, many greek organizations are able to host large in-person events involving a number of members at one time. Such activities can be hard to coordinate now when social distancing is of paramount importance.

“We’ve done a couple fundraisers with the brothers, but they’ve still been online. It's hard to get people who are in-house and not in-house to be in one area,” Beaver said. “Because COVID restriction rules crack down really hard on fraternities, trying to find a common ground is really hard for in-person stuff.”

Alpha Sigma Phi’s biggest challenges have been largely unrelated to the pandemic and stem from its status as a newly returning fraternity.

Alumni donations are one of the most important parts of any fundraising campaign for a fraternity, but those returning from suspension often struggle to reconnect with alumni and receive donations, according to Alpha Sigma Phi member Will Kasakevich.

“When you're comparing our fundraising levels to that of other fraternities, you have to take into consideration that… we don't necessarily have the best dialogue going with our alumni,” Kasakevich (junior-history and international relations) said. “It's hard to get back in contact with them, to get them back involved with THON, and to know that we are a recognized fraternity again.”

If it wasn't a pandemic going on, Alpha Sigma Phi could have invited alumni to campus to meet the brothers and potentially even meet the fraternity’s THON child.

The fraternity members said this would involve alumni in THON and get them donating again.

Many of the greek organizations that bring in the largest amount of donations have significant alumni organizations, according to Alpha Sigma Phi members.

“Alumni relations are absolutely a big part of fundraising, [Alpha Tau Omega], for instance, has an [alumnus] who is the CEO of Pepsi, so they get a very sizable donation, which is obviously great,” Kasakevich said. “It’s a bit of a disadvantage being a newer organization and not having a close dialogue with our alumni.”

Not being able to rely on alumni donations for the majority of its funds raised, Alpha Sigma Phi turned to a number of online methods to try to get more donations, according to Alpha Sigma Phi member Deucie Lee.

“We’ve used a lot of social media this time around, and we posted donation boards to all of our social media platforms,” Lee (sophomore-enterprise technology integration) said. “Giving Tuesday was a big day for us — we posted a lot of graphics out for Giving Tuesday and THON did a couple of donation matches for that.”

Participating in THON for its first time since returning to campus, Alpha Sigma Phi also had to devise ways to stay interacted with its THON family during the 46-hour event.

“We've been on Zoom calls with them, and we've been playing ‘Among Us.’ We're also doing a ‘Rock Band’ performance for them, and we’re going to be face painting,” Lee said. “We’re trying to keep the interaction going and let them know that we're here for them.”

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