George Washington and Rutgers Teach You How to Derby

Learn about the best practices of two of Sigma Chi’s chapters that have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity in recent years
March 4, 2014

When the Sigma Chi chapters at Rutgers University and George Washington University put on their annual Derby Days philanthropic events, they don’t just go through the motions — they play to win.

“We surpassed our previous national fundraising record for Derby Days by raising $191,000 [at our fall 2013 event],” wrote Brandon Kahan, RUTGERS 2016, in his chapter’s update for the 2013 issue of The Magazine of Sigma Chi.

That figure is remarkable for two reasons: First, of course, it is an undeniably huge sum; but second, those familiar with the chapter will be unsurprised to learn of its performance. After all, news of the Rutgers chapter collecting jaw-dropping amounts of money is practically par for the course at this point. In 2012, the chapter raised $138,000 through Derby Days, and its 2011 take was $167,000. All told, the chapter has brought in an estimated $761,000 since 2006.

“We hold field events, a brotherhood auction, a family feud night, lip synch, and many more events throughout Derby Days,” writes Kahan. “Derby Days plays a huge roll at Rutgers University because the drive to raise as much [money] as we possibly can for [our charitable causes] is unbelievable.”

One of the secrets to their success is giving potential donors and participants a way to track their donations. For their 2013 event, the Rutgers chapter used a website to track the chapter’s overall progress toward its fundraising goal, as well at the amounts that individual donors contributed.

Likewise, the Sigs at the George Washington chapter rely on community engagement to make their Derby Days successful. “One of our primary goals [for Derby Days is] to raise awareness and evolve [the university’s Greek-letter philanthropic events] into a platform for engaging the campus in conversation about important causes,” writes Eric Estroff, GEORGE WASHINGTON 2016.

To that end, the chapter thought about the subject of their philanthropic efforts — cancer research — and filmed some of the Derby Days sorority and women’s fraternity participants as they talked about how cancer had affected their lives. They then compiled the videos and uploaded them to YouTube.

In addition, the chapter utilized its Derby Days Facebook page to reach out to nearly 30,000 people through social media. According to Estroff, the more than $80,000 that the chapter raised through Derby Days is the largest sum ever donated through one of the university’s Greek-letter philanthropic events.