In the late 1990s, Theta Xi Collegiate Treasurer Craig Janus had to figure out how to pay for a new chapter house roof, while keeping its two mortgages current. He didn’t have an emergency fund, formal house corporation, or alumni association to support him.
An alumni contact list and personal appeal provided the chapter the money they needed to keep the roof over their heads.
“Looking back on those days now, I consider it a miracle that we survived decades of running a property with mostly teenagers, and not folding,” says Janus, now the current Alpha Sigma Association of Theta Xi treasurer.
You’re not ready
Theta Xi’s relationship with Pennington began in 2012 when they asked for capital campaign help. Pennington recommended a formal alumni communications effort instead. Doing so would mean a more successful capital campaign later.
“We took their recommendation on faith,” Janus says. “They said something I’ll never forget: If your first communication with alumni after years of silence is, ‘Give us money,’ you’ll never succeed. You must spend a few years cultivating relationships and show your alumni you care before they are willing to support you in a meaningful way.”
Theta Xi’s faith in Pennington’s expertise paid off. In 2015, their annual donor list had grown from fewer than a dozen alumni to more than 30; and annual donations were $30,000, a 400% increase.
Taking the next step
With alumni engagement running smoothly, in 2018 Janus and the house corporation volunteers had more time to focus on improving the fraternity house. They hired Pennington to conduct a feasibility study to determine which causes undergraduate and alumni members wanted to financially support. Funding much-needed fraternity house kitchen updates and hiring an on-site chef quickly became the next priority.
That flat fraternity house roof that first plagued Janus years ago still needed regular repairs, too.
Pennington’s feasibility study gained consensus amongst alumni and collegiate members, saving Janus and the volunteers time, money, and effort.
“There seemed to be something really special, a special ingredient, a different culture, a mindset, that enabled an ‘official’ campaign to do something the board and I were never able to do on or own,” Janus
What’s up next for Theta Xi
Pennington most recently supported the house corporation’s capital campaign to fund its undergraduate scholarship program. The program has been providing Theta Xi collegiate members with merit-based scholarships and a competitive living environment since 2011.
"Our campaign was a success,” says Janus. “We hit our goal of getting $500,000 in pledges and commitments to our scholarship endowment over the next five years, and we couldn’t be happier. Will we follow Pennington’s recommendations and keep hiring them? Yes.”