December 23, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Painting the Town Red

‘Tis the season to start thinking about your next Red Dress Gala!

I had a great time serving as my chapter’s Red Dress Gala Chair for 2014, and I’m excited and proud of the ways in which our event has grown and improved over the past several years. Being a part of the Gala team has introduced me to some important aspects of event planning and marketing; I know from experience that planning a large event can be overwhelming, and I recommend staying on top of things by handling one task at a time. Whether your chapter is planning its first or fifteenth annual event, these are the main responsibilities that you’ll need to accomplish:

Choose a Venue that Suits your Chapter & Campus
The Zeta Omicron Chapter at Johns Hopkins University has been hosting an annual Red Dress Gala for three years now. For the first two years, we held our event each spring in a nearby hotel, and I can understand why; the space that we rented was beautiful, and it was fun to dress up, dance, and leave campus for a night. However, the fact that the venue was off-campus seemed to discourage other students from attending. In planning our 2014 event last spring, we determined that, at Hopkins, an on-campus Red Dress Gala better enabled us to achieve our goal of increased student attendance. When planning your Red Dress Gala, think about the people you’re hoping to attract – Other Greeks? Alumnae? Parents? Other Students? A little bit of everyone? – and choose a venue that will be appealing to your target population.

Think About Event D├ęcor
The amount and type of decorating necessary will depend on your venue, so once you have decided on a space, you can start thinking about how to make the room sparkle. If you are renting or repurposing an upscale venue, some essentials – think tables, chairs, and tablecloths – will probably be included. If you've instead decided to use a campus hall or multipurpose room, you’ll have to put a bit more effort into creating an elegant atmosphere. Last spring, we draped gold fabric and hung twinkle lights to hide less-than-chic bulletin boards and to transform an average room into something more. Don’t forget to think about the details – check Pinterest for cute and simple flower arrangements and centerpieces (in red, naturally) to tie the room together.

Decide How to Contribute to the Alpha Phi Foundation
One of the most satisfying parts of being the Red Dress Gala chair was being able to donate the funds that we raised to the Alpha Phi Foundation after our event. Your Red Dress Gala team should decide how you plan on fundraising – will you be selling tickets? Holding an auction? Doing something else? Our chapter has had success with a silent auction, in which sisters are placed into groups that are responsible for creating a themed basket to be auctioned off during the event. Some favorite baskets have included different types of teas, movies, sporting event tickets, and beauty products. Try contacting local businesses for donations!

Plan, Schedule, & Reserve
Whether your Red Dress Gala is a formal sit down dinner or a buffet, reservations and plans will need to be made for catering, entertainment, and more. Think about fun activities that you’d like to incorporate into your event well in advance to leave yourself enough time to make the necessary arrangements. Our chapter was thrilled with the quality of the food that we had catered, to work with a great DJ, and to rent a photo booth complete with fun props – the pictures made for great souvenirs.

Design Promotional Materials
Now that you have a great event planned, it’s time to advertise it. To publicize our Red Dress Gala, we designed a banner, save-the-dates, and Facebook profile pictures. There are many fun motifs that you can incorporate – red dresses, hearts, and Alpha Phi bordeaux and silver. For our event, I used a gold sparkle and twinkle light theme in both the event decorations and the promotional materials to create a light, whimsical feel. While you’re designing your materials, don’t forget about “thank yous” – along with our save the dates, we also had matching thank you post cards printed to hand out to our attendees and our donors.

From one Red Dress chair to another, I wish everyone the best of luck with their 2015 Galas – I can’t wait to see what everyone puts together.

Alexa Curto is a collegiate member at Johns Hopkins (Zeta Omicron). Learn more about Claire by clicking here.

December 17, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Going Greek with Panhellenic Love

When I was a freshman at Cal Poly, I was convinced that I would always be involved with the Executive Board of the Epsilon Chi chapter. I wanted to make a difference in my chapter and be recognized for the contributions and leadership roles I played within my house. This year, however, my mindset changed. When the applications for Cal Poly’s Panhellenic Council, the governing board for sororities, came out, I started wondering, “Could I be a part of something bigger than solely Alpha Phi? Could I make a difference to Greek Life as a whole and focus on the bigger picture?” As the month went on, I became more and more interested in joining Panhellenic and standing up as a leader in the Greek community, and my friends and family encouraged me to follow this interest. Eventually, I applied for Panhellenic Council. The interview was nerve racking and a bit intimidating, and my heart pounded as I sat in front of the entire board, but their obvious enthusiasm made me sure that I was making the right decision. Hours later, I received a phone call offering me the role of Vice President of Communications - the position that I felt was built for me.

I've officially held my position for about two weeks, and already feel the impact that Panhellenic has had and will continue to have on me. I have had the privilege of working with talented and intelligent women from all different sororities - women I most likely wouldn't have met without Panhellenic. It has already opened doors for networking with companies, news agencies and especially school officials. Through my communication with these individuals and organizations I feel that by the end of my term, I will have gained numerous opportunities and a vast array of knowledge that will benefit my professional career in the future.

As VP Communications, it is my job to plan and design Panhellenic's theme for Cal Poly’s Open House, the weekend built to show prospective students all Cal Poly has to offer. At this event, it is our job to effectively show potential new members the beauty of “Going Greek,” and I am so excited to display to these thousands of young women how Greek Life has been such a tremendously positive experience for myself, and how it can be for them as well. Without Panhellenic, I would not have the opportunity to do this on such a large scale.

Being a member of Panhellenic is not always easy. It takes time and effort that is uncompensated except for your own pride, and often it requires an unbiased opinion, which can be difficult when you love something as much as I love Alpha Phi. Formal recruitment in the fall, for example, is a period during which Panhellenic board members must disaffiliate with their chapters, say good-bye to their letters (just for a while!) and be Recruitment Counselors. Disaffiliating can be difficult, as you cannot contact any of your friends in your sorority, but if I can help another woman find what I found when I joined Alpha Phi, it makes it all worthwhile. If we as a board can successfully place over a thousand women into houses that will turn into homes, then we are doing our jobs right, and that is all the reward we need.

The Panhellenic board encompasses women from all chapters, allowing us to be defined as sorority women rather than categorized by each of our individual chapters or houses. Panhellenic is about serving every single woman in every single sorority. It is a board of committed leaders dedicated to improving their communities and the lives of women around them. So Go Greek, and spread some Panhellenic love. 

Claire Lindsey is a collegiate member at Cal Poly (Epsilon Chi). Learn more about Claire by clicking here.

December 12, 2014

Featured Product Friday: The Greek Years PomPom Beanie

Stay warm this winter in this adorable knit pompom beanie from The Greek Years! With Alpha Phi embroidered on the front and four colors to choose from, you can't go wrong!

Price is $21.99. To order click here.

December 5, 2014

Featured Product Friday: Gray Plush Blanket

Cuddle up and keep off the winter chill under this Alpha Phi gray plush blanket! This butter-soft blanket is backed with thick, cozy faux lambswool sherpa and embroidered with Alpha Phi's letters surrounded by a heart, making it a must-have for any dorm room, bedroom, or anywhere that could use a touch of Alpha Phi.

Price is $39.95. Click here for order details.

December 3, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Social Media: It’s What’s for Breakfast

Upon waking up on a typical morning, before my feet have touched the ground, I have browsed my Instagram feed, scrolled along my Facebook timeline, and sifted through what seems like unending group messages on GroupMe. Social media has infiltrated my life, and probably yours too. In the past year, social media has effectively made its way into my sorority as well, and in the most unexpectedly positive ways.

If you read my last blog post, you’re well aware of the raw excitement that overwhelmed my chapter when we found out we were getting a new house on the eve of recruitment. With the help of our social media chair, Wesley Tomlinson, and our advisors, we were able to channel our new anticipation into an effective recruitment tool. After being given t-shirts with our house design and having an impromptu photo shoot, we ran outside to witness the unveiling of a huge banner plastered across our on-campus house. All of us waited until the go-ahead to post an image created by Wesley across our social media channels at exactly the same time announcing the news to the furthest reaches of the internet. The next day, the last school day before recruitment, every freshmen/PNM had digested a cohesive message presented to them via our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Walking through campus in my t-shirt, hot off the presses, I was congratulated by people I didn't even know on our new house.

The choices to wait to release the news until right before recruitment and to standardize our social media posts were strategic. Working together as a chapter we showcased our solidarity and excitement to our entire community. This approach has been implemented in other areas of our chapter’s activities as well. Leading up to our 2014 Red Dress Gala, Wesley posted a daily countdown featuring photos from last year’s event to our Facebook page. Our sisters eagerly shared and liked these images, spreading the buzz about our philanthropy. By always putting our best foot forward on social media, we are able to circulate positive images of our sisterhood to parents, friends, and our respective communities. With today’s world having an increasing focus on one’s presence on social media, we are always trying to find new ways to enhance how we are perceived, both as a sisterhood and as individuals.

Not only has social media provided an outlet to inform our friends, family, and classmates about our chapter’s events, it has also strengthened our sisterhood in more ways than one. Our chapter utilizes a Tumblr account to post photos of our sisters both home and abroad. We have a private Facebook page chock full of updates and notifications from sisters, whether they be in the library seeking a walk home with a friend or offering an invitation to go skiing. Each class is connected on a GroupMe, which is a group messaging application. These outlets bind us together even when we are apart, creating an excuse to take one too many photos at every event, a format to ask for a ride when you need one, and a forum to post hilarious videos or inspiring articles during the often-grueling hours of the finals grind. On a snowy Saturday one of our sisters living in the house sent a GroupMe that she would be staying in and watching The Proposal in the basement, inviting others to join. My personal favorite GroupMe function has been receiving spontaneous alerts when there are warm cookies in the basement.

It seems like I’m always hearing about how social media is destroying real social ties, I would argue that it has enriched and diversified the bonds between sisters in my chapter and allowed for a purposeful presentation of our sisterhood to our communities. We make the most of our online presence, utilizing it to reach out to our family and friends, to post important information in a centralized place, and, obviously, to share photos of our killer red dresses. That’s something I’m happy to wake up to.

Stella Swartz is a collegiate member at Denver (Iota Xi). Learn more about Stella by clicking here.