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Chapter Life: Service
Service to campus and community can be one of the most rewarding parts of chapter life. Service can take many forms, and Sigma Tau Delta chapters around the world participate in a broad spectrum of activities benefiting diverse communities and causes. The following sections provide some tips for finding the best service opportunity for a chapter, and for ensuring the project is a success.
While raising money is by no means the only way to be of service, many service projects will include fundraising aspects. Whether the goal is to raise money to donate directly to an organization or cause, or to pay for supplies for a more involved project, securing necessary funds is an important first step for many service projects.
- Refer to Chapter Life: Fundraising for any projects or chapter activities that require funds.
- Apply for a Project Grant to help pay the costs of a service project.
- Apply for a Service Award to increase the amount of a charitable donation.
- Apply for an Outstanding Chapter Award to refill the chapter's coffers for next year.
- Chapters may apply for any or all of these awards before, during, or after the project takes place.
- While Sigma Tau Delta considers all service to be worthwhile, award judges tend to favor projects that further the Society's mission.
- Chapter Sponsors, members, and their families should check with their employers to see if matching donations are available.
Time can be more valuable than money, and most service projects will necessitate that members donate at least a little time. There are many ways to volunteer, from reading to children to building houses. Chapters should consider the following when deciding where to direct their efforts:
- How much time do members have at their disposal? College students tend to have more time than money to donate, but they are still busy. Don't scare them off with heavy commitments.
- When do members have free time? Would a major event on a single day be manageable, or would an ongoing project requiring a few hours every week or month work better?
- What skills do members possess? Take an honest assessment and then discuss how various skills could be used to help others.
- How much physical and intellectual effort are members willing to put into a project? Do they mind getting their hands dirty? Do they want to organize and run an event, or would they rather just show up and be told what to do?
- Are there any organizations or communities that members have a particular interest in working with? Are there general causes members wish to champion? Are there any organizations or causes that the wider campus community supports?
- Narrow it down to three or four options. Contact related organizations to ask what their most pressing needs are. Some may not actually need volunteers at the moment, and others may have restrictions that would make working with them difficult or impossible. Always find out the situation “on the ground” before making a final decision.
Another popular form of service for chapters is collecting donated items. Canned foods at Thanksgiving, coats at Christmas, school supplies in the spring, care packages for soldiers on Memorial Day, books year-round; Sigma Tau Delta chapters have collected them all. Drives like these tend to be popular because progress is tangible and their impact is easy to see and understand.
- Better World Books campus book drives are a great option because Better World Books (BWB) provides all necessary supplies, promotional materials, and shipping. These drives raise money for literacy organizations around the world, the individual chapters that host the drives, and Sigma Tau Delta International. This is why BWB campus book drives serve as our National Service Project.
- Storage space is a crucial and often overlooked aspect of any drive. A locked storage area that is conveniently located and easily accessed by members, but also secure, is essential to any drives lasting longer than a day.
- Make donating as easy as possible. Place collection bins in high traffic areas and, importantly, empty them frequently. Offer to pick up large donations. Set up a table and ask for donations outside book or grocery stores. (Get permission from the owner first.)
- Involve the whole campus with some friendly competition. Offer a prize to the department that donates the most books. Hold a canned food sculpture contest.
- Involve the larger community by asking businesses, community centers, and houses of worship to help advertise the drive and place collection bins in their entryways.
A further area of service popular with chapters is raising awareness, through campus activism, of issues and causes. Chapters routinely participate in marches, enter floats in parades, hold public readings, host lectures and workshops, create visual displays, and even host large campus events in order to raise awareness of issues and to educate the public.
- Start by contacting established organizations already working to raise awareness about a chosen issue. Ask if they can provide advice or supplies, and request information about participating in events they sponsor.
- Find out if there are other groups on campus, or other chapters in your area, that already promote this cause. If so, approach them about forming a partnership.
- Identify holidays or other special occasions that might provide an opportunity to hold an awareness event.
- Combine approaches for maximum impact. Host a campus event and make donating books or canned goods the price of admission. Volunteer to read to kids and raise money to donate books to their classroom library. Hold a high school writing contest where students must attempt to raise awareness of an issue, and display the winning entries.
- Join a Sigma Tau Delta regional Facebook group to connect with other chapters and regional representatives. These groups are great places to brainstorm ideas, ask for advice, and form partnerships.
- Don't forget to document and publicize chapter service. Advertising success raises the chapter's profile on campus and makes it easier to get funding and participation in the future. Toot your own horn!
- Take lots of pictures at events and share them on social media.
- Ask the school paper to cover the event.
- Work with the school's Public Relations office to draft a press release and send it to local media.
- Notify your school's administration and alumni association.
- Provide your department administration with a full report.
- Submit a short article highlighting your most noteworthy acvitity to the Sigma Tau Delta blog.