Fall, Fires and Fundraising: Opportunities for Students to Serve!

Fall, Fires and Fundraising: Opportunities for Students to Serve

By Katherine N. Wickes, Ph.D.

Southwestern Regional Vice-President

     It has been an interesting start to the academic year at our campus.  Our college campus is located within 100 miles of many major forest fires that have ravaged the landscape in Texas over the past several months.  It made sense that one of the first things that students mentioned at our start-of-the year planning meeting was a desire to provide some type of aide to those who had lost their homes, their livelihoods and, in the case of some families, their loved ones.  The question then became, how best to help and what resources would we have available?

This meant asking some tough questions about what our chapter and our members are able to do at our college. It also required being creative about how to meet our goals.  Our chapter happens to be in a period of transition, with a number of members moving on to four-year programs, and a group of members looking forward to induction in the fall.  For this reason, most of our programming and projects are conducted in conjunction with our Psychology Club.  Most years, we conduct fundraisers for local area agencies that are typically short budgeted or under staffed, such as our local area CASA agency, a local mission and a local domestic violence agency, as well as running a campus-wide clothing drive for the state psychiatric hospital that we visit each spring.  None of these is a project that we want to omit, but students were passionate about wanting to do even more.

This has produced is an opportunity to expand the ways we plan fundraising and service activities within our chapter.  Here are a few of the things that we have begun to put into practice, some or all of which may help your students and chapter increase their effectiveness in these areas.

  •  Plan smarter.  When our students began to look into a project to help the local fire victims, they found that while many organizations were engaging in smaller fundraisers for water and toiletry supplies or clothing donations, many of these projects were only benefitting one small neighborhood.  By partnering with our Psychology Club and contacting our local United Way, we found that what many of these families are going to need in the next 6 months are financial and public resources to help them put their lives back together.  Based on this, our chapter and Psychology Club are planning a gift basket auction with gifts donated by local business at the end of the semester to raise money for local area agencies helping with fire victims.


  • Be willing to just lend a hand.  Our Student Government Association decided to hold a clothing and supply drive.  We are actively advertising the project in our classes and have planned to delay a fall clothing drive for the State Psychiatric Hospital until later in the year to avoid competing with that project.


  • Don’t forget old friends.  Holding a larger fundraiser at the end of the year is a new project for us, so we wanted to be sure that we didn’t forget the agencies that we typically work with. This has brought about an increase in service projects for agencies to which we typically have donated money.  An example of this is a project that we will be completing at the end of October, which is helping our local MHMR chapter prepare for a garage sale to benefit Early Childhood Intervention programming in the area that may be lost due to budget cuts.  Chapter members will be cataloging inventory and helping to set the sale up rather than simply holding a bake sale to raise funds for this group.


Tragedies, such as these fires, should not be the only time our students serve their community, but they do provide a catalyst to discuss how your chapter can do the greatest good for the community at large and hopefully work to invigorate what your chapter does each year.  The last bit of advice I have is to increase the impact of your fundraising and outreach by documenting what you do and by always being sure to invite and include your campus.  Psi Beta has a number of awards for chapters and individual members related to community involvement and campus life.  I encourage you to document the activities of your chapter and its members both in the Psi Beta Newsletter, but also by applying for these awards and honors.

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