The nine major black fraternities and sororities, also known as the Divine Nine, were all founded on principles designed to advance communities. Those principles include brotherhood and sisterhood, scholarship, and servant leadership. We also aggressively address social justice. The giving among Divine Nine members and chapters is rooted in a collective commitment to our causes.
Not even we in the Divine Nine realize the impact of our giving, however. For example, Iota Phi Theta’s chapter at Kean University has a GoFundMe to build a house for a homeless family after purchasing a lot in a New Jersey neighborhood. Alpha Kappa Alpha has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Alliance on Mental Health to address mental health among people of color. Alpha Phi Alpha, Zeta Phi Beta, Phi Beta Sigma, and Sigma Gamma Rho all have national partnerships with the March of Dimes. A Maryland Delta Sigma Theta chapter raised $14,000 for a well project in Kenya. A well-known voice in black philanthropy, Darryl Lester, is a member of Omega Psi Phi. A group of Kappa Alpha Psi members raised over $6 million after years of aggressive fundraising for their alma mater, Virginia State University. That's just a tip of the iceberg.
What makes me proud is the time that my Divine Nine brothers and sisters give to causes, institutions, and organizations. If time is money, then the dollar value of what we give is off the charts. For instance, it’s nothing for me to accept a call from school to participate in a career day, a reading program, do a motivational speech for kids, or to volunteer to redesign someone’s resume. Until I heard Halima, the publisher of this blog and a member of Zeta Phi Beta, speak passionately about the value of volunteering, I had not assigned a dollar amount to the volunteering I have done. Then it hit me when I saw the thousands of dollars speakers charge and the hundreds of dollars resume writers charge for their services.
So the time I’ve given equals about (counting on my fingers)... Whoa.
One area where Divine Nine members never get enough credit is education and mentoring. An Alpha Phi Alpha chapter in Dallas has a mentoring program that is over 50 years old and has given thousands of dollars away in scholarships. Phi Beta Sigma and Kappa Alpha Psi have well-known national mentoring programs--the Sigma Beta club and Kappa League, respectively. It is not uncommon to see an educator who belongs to a Divine Nine organization spend countless unpaid hours tutoring students. In higher ed, studies show that members of college and fraternities and sororities are more likely to donate money to their alma maters than most other alumni.
The thing is, we have never been worried about publicizing or even tracking this info. Traditionally, our fraternities and sororities have viewed publicizing and tracking volunteer hours as pounding our chests in the face of righteousness. To us, the purpose of community service is to do something to enhance the community. It’s really that simple.
At the same time, I see why keeping track of giving is important. Since giving is what Divine Nine organizations are about at our core, we have to communicate that to the public. First, we can leverage this information to build stronger memberships in our fraternities and sororities. Second, we have to use positive publicity to promote our collective brand. Third, we can use the information for future funding opportunities. Finally, telling our giving stories helps us do what we aim to do—enhance communities.
Originally posted on Write to Bear Alms, May 10, 2015