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Dimensions of Giving Among Divine Nine Fraternities and Sororities

Updated Sept. 10, 2023

The Divine Nine fraternities and sororities were founded on principles designed to advance communities. Among those principles we often see brotherhood or sisterhood, scholarship, and servant leadership. We also aggressively address social justice. Dimensions of giving and volunteering 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. In 2015, for example, Iota Phi Theta’s chapter at Kean University purchased a lot in a New Jersey neighborhood for the homeless. That same year, a Maryland Delta Sigma Theta chapter raised $14,000 for a well project in Kenya. As of 2012, a group of Kappa Alpha Psi members raised over $6 million after years of aggressive fundraising for their alma mater, Virginia State University. Alpha Kappa Alpha has 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. Omega Psi Phi member Darryl K. Lester, speaks passionately about Black giving traditions. That's just a tip of the iceberg.

A group of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers posing and showing their hand signs after March for Babies
Members of Alpha Phi Alpha at March for Babies in Dallas in 2013

What makes me proud is the amount of time that my Divine Nine brothers and sisters give to causes, institutions, and organizations. Until I heard my wife, Zeta Phi Beta member Dr. Halima Leak Leak Francis, speak passionately about the value of volunteering, I had not thought to assign a dollar amount to the volunteering I have done. If time is money, then the dollar value of what we give is off the charts. It’s been nothing for me to accept a call from school to participate in a career day or reading program, to do a motivational speech for kids, or to volunteer as a resume writer. 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. But, I give because I know the struggles of K-12 teachers, what's it like to not have the budget for a speaker, or to have the money for a professional resume review.

One area where I don't think Divine Nine members get enough credit is education and mentoring. Phi Beta Sigma and Kappa Alpha Psi have well-known national mentoring programs--the Sigma Beta club and Kappa League, respectively. An Alpha Phi Alpha chapter in Dallas where I was once a member has a mentoring program that is nearly 60 years old, and they have given thousands of dollars in scholarships away. It is not uncommon to see an educator who belongs to a Divine Nine organization spend countless unpaid hours tutoring students. While not unique to the Divine Nine, studies show that members of college and fraternities and sororities are more likely to donate money to their alma maters than most other alumni.

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. So, once upon a time, we didn't worry about publicizing or even tracking this info.

Publicizing giving and volunteering, however, serves several purposes. First, publicizing our efforts communicates to the public that we are honoring our missions, aims, and values. Second, it is a great way to attract funding. Third, publicizing giving tells our partners that we're upholding our end of agreements. Fourth, it's a great way to attract potential members, reclaim members, and retain active members. Most importantly, telling our giving stories helps us do what we aim to do—enhance communities.


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