Fundraising 101: Bring in Big Bucks for Your Chapter

PTK Catalyst is just around the corner, with Honors Institute shortly after that. Chances are that your chapter needs funds to support travel, programs, and everyday expenses. Don’t let a lack of cash stop you from reaching your goals — make a fundraising plan instead. Here are nine easy steps.

  1. Form a Team
    Set up a fundraising committee, asking interested members to volunteer. Discuss everyone’s abilities to see who is best suited for the various responsibilities such as marketing, organization, decoration, etc.
  2. Get Permission
    No matter what type of fundraising idea you choose, check with your college administration beforehand to get permission and complete any necessary paperwork.
  3. Set a Budget
    How much money does your chapter need? Do you have any up-front funds to get the fundraiser started? What free resources are available? Brainstorm ideas to host a fundraiser within your means.
  4. Who’s Your Target Audience?
    If most of your donations will come from other students, your campus is best place to host a fundraiser. If your target audience is the local community, develop something that’s appealing to them.
  5. Keep it Simple
    Keep your fundraiser simple and short. Students are busy with their studies, social life, and their own groups, so run a fundraiser that gives them something of value and doesn’t take up too much time.
  6. Organize Your Event
    Decide who will perform the necessary tasks, and when/where you’ll get needed supplies. Set a date when plenty of members will be available to work in shifts.
  7. Publicize in Advance
    Let people know when and where your fundraiser will take place, why your chapter is raising money, and how they will benefit from offering support. Posters and social media are good promotional tools.
  8. On Fundraising Day
    Make sure everything is in place. Do you have change for customers paying cash? Are you in a high-traffic area that is noticeable to passers-by?
  9. After the Fundraiser
    Thank every contributor, no matter how large or small the donation. Be courteous and polite; let them know their support is important to your chapter, and don’t forget to thank your volunteers too.

Chapter Ideas that Worked

So, what does this plan look like when put into action? We asked four chapters to share the secrets to their fundraising success.

Dress for Success

The Beta Tau Gamma Chapter at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi has built a prosperous fundraising model based on selling PTK t-shirts that identify members on campus while also marketing local businesses.

“Our 2013 officer team came up with the idea when they realized how much money it would take to send us to PTK Catalyst,” said advisor Dr. Ryan Ruckel, who also serves as Mississippi/Louisiana Regional Coordinator. “We have continued the idea every year, and we include local businesses as well as family and faculty who want to show support.”

Sponsors cover the cost of producing the shirts, which list contributing businesses and organizations on the back. Members promise to wear them on campus during certain days — a perfect example of providing a promotional reach and delivering advertising results.


Crowdsourcing provides another way for chapters to engage others in providing revenue that will help them reach their goals. Jodi Oriel, an advisor at Monroe Community College in New York, said her Alpha Theta Iota Chapter utilized a video message to promote online fundraising in 2017 and plans to do the same this year.

“Our travel budgets were cut last year, and we worked with our MCC foundation to create a video appeal,” she said. “The students text, tweet, and push on Facebook to the family and friends to raise money for their trip to convention.”

Gift Baskets

Caleb Mertz, vice president of the Beta Iota Kappa Chapter at San Diego City College in California, said members were putting the finishing touches on last year’s Easter basket fundraiser when chapter president Nadia Escobar joked about giving herself one for Mother’s Day. That’s when another fundraising idea was born.

“We offered three different gift baskets based on various roles our mothers had played in our lives —loving, caring, and glamorous,” he said. “We made sure the baskets were affordable enough that fellow students would be actually be able to buy them and give them to their mothers.”

Mardi Gras Madness

Casey Clemons, president of the Omicron Alpha Chapter at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College-Jefferson Davis Campus, said members were discussing possible fundraisers to help them get to PTK Catalyst 2018 when someone suggested doing a Mardi Gras/Valentine’s Day bake sale.

“We took the idea and ran with it,” he said. “We held a bake sale the Thursday before we left on the Mardi Gras break and it went wonderfully; we were even able to surpass our goal.”

How does your chapter raise money? Share with us and explore more moneymaking tips for PTK Catalyst.

Where Could a Marshall or Mosal Award Take You?

Dr. Liesl Harris and Dr. Melissa Fulgham have big summer trips planned, made possible by the Marshall and Mosal Awards for Phi Theta Kappa advisors.

Harris, advisor to the Beta Lambda Delta Chapter at Jefferson State Community College’s Shelby Campus in Alabama, received the 2017 Marshall Award and will travel to Jerusalem in July to work on her project, “Never Again? A Study of the Holocaust and Leadership Implications.” She will take a three-week study course for educators at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

“For years, people told me to apply for a Mosal or Marshall Award,” she said. “I waited, however, until I found a project that truly aligned with my passions.”

Harris’ study will look at the leadership failures that allowed the atrocities of the Holocaust to happen. She believes that identifying these failures will help guard against it happening again.

The Marshall Award is named for Dr. Jo Marshall, president of Somerset Community College in Kentucky. It awards a $5,000 stipend to an advisor to complete a project that leads to personal leadership growth.

Marshall formerly served as advisor to the Pi Pi Chapter at Jefferson State’s Birmingham Campus, adding extra meaning to the award for Harris.

“Receiving this award meant everything!” Harris said. “The Marshall Award gives me the opportunity to do something big and bold that I simply could not have done by myself. I know this experience will make me a better teacher, advisor, and person.”

Harris plans to use her exploration to develop a special leadership symposium to teach as a stand-alone seminar and as part of her Phi Theta Kappa Leadership Development course.

Fulgham is advisor to the Alpha Mu Chi Chapter at Northeast Texas Community College. She received the 2017 Mosal Award to complete her project, “On the Path of Pacifism: Retracing a Personal and Global Heritage of Peace,” which focuses on the roots of Mennonites specifically and the global Anabaptists movement in general.

She will travel to Amsterdam this summer to explore the deep roots of Anabaptists, their heritage of peace, and the stories of people involved in the movement.

“This project emerged from two events: a visit to the Amish country of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as a Faculty Scholar, and the death of my father,” Fulgham said. “After my parents’ passing, I gained a renewed interest in exploring my own Mennonite heritage and Anabaptist ancestors in greater detail.”

The Mosal Award is named for Dr. Margaret Mosal, Phi Theta Kappa’s first executive director. It carries a $5,000 award for the completion of a project that leads a chapter advisor to personal professional growth.

Through her project, Fulgham will dig deeper into the impact one person can have — in this case, Menno Simmons, and how he ensured the survival of the Anabaptist movement by steering it in the direction of pacifism during a time period of extreme violence. She hopes to gain insight into the origin of the movement; she wants to see the hardships faced by the group and the strength of will it took for them to endure.

“I also am a firm believer in the benefit of international travel and global perspectives,” she said. “Tracing personal roots and traveling internationally allows one to broaden perspectives and connect on a broader level with the world at large, finding one’s place within it as well.”

Fulgham will use her research to write about the symbiotic relationship of ideas and behavior as evidenced in history and share her work at a scholarly conference as well as with her history students.

Applications for the 2018 Marshall and Mosal Awards are being accepted now through February 16. View details and eligibility requirements:
The Marshall Award
The Mosal Award

How to Host a Stellar Regional Event

Hosting a regional event is a big responsibility, but it can also be a great leadership and teambuilding experience. Organizing a successful conference means not leaving anything to chance. Here are some tips to get you started.

Step #1: Choose a Date

  • Choose a time and location for your conference at least six months in advance
  • Try to avoid holiday weekends when participants might have scheduling conflicts
  • Build extra time into your schedule so guests can explore the area

Step #2: Find the Perfect Venue

  • Explore different options, such as college buildings and independent venues like parks and museums in addition to hotels
  • Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind:
  1. Meeting rooms for general sessions and small group breakout sessions
  2. Guest accommodations
  3. Parking/transportation — proximity to airport, train station, subway, etc.
  4. Catering that can accommodate special dietary needs, area restaurants/coffee shops
  5. Comfortable areas for networking outside meetings
  6. Accessibility for physically challenged participants
  7. Display space for sponsors/college fair/marketplace
  8. Recreation opportunities such as a gym, pool, or green space/athletic fields
  • Consider technical needs such as:
  1. Wi-Fi access and charging stations for meeting rooms
  2. Projection screens and cordless microphones
  3. See if the venue offers free in-room Wi-Fi for all participants

Need more information? See our event logistics.

Step #3: Form a Powerful & Creative Team

  • Administration Team: registration, budget, and agenda
  • Communication & Marketing Team: promotional materials, social media, website
  • Event Team: venue, hotel, catering
  • Sponsor Relations Team: fundraising, advertising, college fair
  • Volunteers Team: registration, on-site preparations, and answering attendee questions

If there are aspects of hosting that you don’t know how to handle, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Find additional PTK hosting resources.

Step #4: Set Up a Solid Plan

  • Choose a conference theme and name
  • Ask a member or graphic design student to create a logo, or utilize free PTK graphics
  • Identify sponsors/college fair participants who might cover part of the event cost and/or provide in-kind items such as nametag lanyards, folders, or water bottles
  • Set a Budget — include venue and printing costs, catering, speakers’ fees, and other incidentals
  • Set a registration fee that will help cover these costs
  • Book speakers and presenters — learn more about securing top speakers
  • Publicize the event through your regional website, social media, email, and in person

Nevada/California Regional Coordinator-Elect Myriam Moody said her region has learned a lot about hosting through experience, including booking hotel space as far in advance as possible. In fact, the region currently has contracts through 2019.

“We have planning sessions as a board a few months ahead of time at the hotel where the conference will be held so we can get a feel for the place,” she said. “Also, we don’t reinvent the wheel; for the spring convention, we basically use the same timelines as the previous spring convention.”

So, what should you be doing when? Here’s a sample timeline:

Three to six weeks before the conference:

  • Create shopping lists and make sure you have basics like scissors, tape, paper, pens, stapler
  • Purchase non-perishable items and store them in a safe location
  • Calculate anticipated attendees, but be prepared for last-minute or on-site registrations
  • Create a photo/video checklist and secure a professional or volunteer to take these

Two to four weeks prior:

  • Prepare floor plans/room layouts, including room for dance floor, DJ, etc., if a dance is planned
  • Follow venue guidelines to confirm final counts for attendance, catering, and lodging
  • Confirm all contracted help, including the venue, photographer, speakers, caterers
  • Check equipment and media such as PowerPoint presentations, graphics, videos, etc.
  • Start printing the conference program

One or two days before:

  • Save important phone numbers in your phone, including all team members and services
  • Pick up last-minute items such as balloons, flowers, and ice
  • Pick up rental items you have booked in advance
  • Prepare payment for all those involved
  • If possible, set up early so you have time to deal with any unexpected situations

During the event and beyond:

  • Smile. Be calm, organized, and flexible
  • Say thank you to everyone involved, and follow up with emails/notes after the event as well
  • Once your conference is over, take down your materials, pack your supplies, and clear the venue
  • Take note of how everything worked before and during the event
  • Get feedback with tools like Survey Monkey, but try to avoid paper questionnaires
  • Be responsive to complaints — constructive criticism will help you improve the next event
  • Take time to congratulate yourself and your team members on a job well done!

Texas Regional Coordinator Mary Linder also added this advice: Use the resources, skills and experience available to you in your region, and don’t be afraid to try something new.

“A few years ago, the regional officer team proposed running leadership games and activities during a general session, 20 activities happening simultaneously in one room with nearly 400 people participating,” she said. “When the officers pitched the idea, it would have been easy to say no because it was such an unusual activity that had the potential to dissolve into a disorganized mess.

“Ultimately, we moved forward with the idea and the members loved it!”

Want more specifics? Visit our guide to hosting regional Honors Institutes and conventions.

#FreeForFebruary: The eBook version of Your 2018 Guide to College Transfer!

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Kaplan Educational Foundation.

Here’s some good news to start off the month: the eBook version of Your 2018 Guide to College Transfer is now available for FREE for the entire month of February!

A first-of-its-kind resource from the Kaplan Educational Foundation, the Guide provides transfer admissions and financial aid information on 90 of the top colleges and universities for transfer students across the United States.

The Guide is a fantastic resource for students, parents, and advisors, and it also includes resources for U.S. veterans, undocumented/DACA students, and students with families.

Go to to get your free eBook copy, and please share these links (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) widely to spread the word!

15 Ways You Can Recruit More Members

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Don Koch, International Vice President for Division 1.

In November 2017, I was honored to be a guest at the Carolinas Region Leadership Conference held at the Central Carolina Technical College. The Regional Coordinators, John Sharpe and Beth Carraway, left it up to me to decide what I wanted to speak about. There are many things about Phi Theta Kappa that I love to share with members, such as the Five Star Competitive Edge Program, scholarship and leadership opportunities, and growth and development opportunities, to name a few. However, I wanted to address an issue that I hear no matter where I travel: how to increase membership.

Before we can talk about how to increase membership, we have to understand why we would want to. Having an increased membership base opens up the possibilities of getting more projects done with fewer students. This is a win-win for everyone, as you are not fighting a dearth of resources. More members translate into more like-minded individuals to share challenges and successes with.

Also, there is an increased chance that other students will become informed because of an increased chapter presence. The bigger the chapter, the bigger the fellowship events.

How do we accomplish this goal of increased membership? At the Carolinas Region Leadership Conference, the 27 chapters, alumni, and advisors in attendance were given a form and asked to list best practices for growing chapter membership. These are the 15 most-mentioned best practices:

  1. Hold an orientation for high school students
  2. Host fellowship events with food
  3. Be humble
  4. Share pictures of past events, trips, and activities, either through a slideshow at meetings or with your PTK scrapbook
  5. Have a Twitter account for communication
  6. Find solutions for students that can’t afford membership
  7. Make phone calls to students
  8. Put PTK on the dean’s list letter
  9. Allow students to “work off” membership fee through participation in service projects
  10. Establish a service points system
  11. Wear “Ask Me About PTK” buttons
  12. Create special t-shirts for active members
  13. Send candy grams to instructors
  14. Build relationships with supportive alumni, faculty, and advisors
  15. Arm your chapter officers with PTK knowledge

The Golden Opportunity Scholarship addresses a solution for students that can’t afford the membership fee. Wearing Phi Theta Kappa shirts to make your presence known and sporting the “Ask Me About PTK” buttons has the potential to create many opportunities to share your PTK experience to prospective members.

Because it was listed often, being humble may be a great take away for us when we are talking to others. As servant leaders, we should silently display a reason that a student would want to be a part of our organization.

Also, making sure as officers that we have adequate Phi Theta Kappa knowledge will go a long way in recruiting new members. The opportunity someone shared with you is what you want to share with others. This is how you build a relationship of reciprocity that will lead to working with synergy.

There is more to this list, and I will be more than happy to share it with you upon request.

Put these 15 best practices to use for your chapter during PTK Awareness Week, February 26-March 2.