When Jim Dora and Bernie Sergesketter returned to the Purdue University campus for Homecoming in 2003 they were shocked by the condition of their beloved fraternity house.
The Delta Delta Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity has a proud and distinguished heritage, but the house that George Ade, 1887 had built for the chapter in 1912 had begun to deteriorate to a condition that realistically was no longer safe for its undergraduate members.
So Dora and Sergesketter decided to spearhead a renovation planning committee to address long-term facility issues and opportunities. Their goal was to develop a plan that might serve the needs of the chapter well into the next century.
Architects and engineers brought in to evaluate the physical structure quickly noted that a major investment was necessary. The plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems had all outlived their life expectancies. Pipes and fixtures throughout the house needed to be replaced. Life-safety items, such as fire-rated doors and a sprinkler system, needed to be installed. And the house did not possess adequate technology infrastructure to foster the environment expected by today’s students and the Delta Delta Chapter.
The preliminary cost estimate to bring the chapter house back to its rightful condition: $6,000,000.
That figure might scare most. But the Delta Delta Sigs took it as a challenge.
Campaign co-chairman Bruce Harreld asserted, “We have an opportunity to rededicate Delta Delta to building leaders. We should…use this effort as a platform to build tomorrow’s leaders just as George Ade, et al., did 100 years ago.”
The committee selected Pennington & Company to assist with fundraising strategy and execution of the campaign.
Dora recalled, “From the presentation at the interview process…, to the execution of the campaign, Pennington stood out as exceptionally knowledgeable and capable in what they were about.”
After reviewing Pennington & Company’s detailed feasibility study, the campaign committee charged forward with what some assumed to be near-impossible goals:
$6 million to be raised;
With more than 50 percent of the chapter’s alumni counted on the donor list.
“As a project manager, one of our key tasks is ‘managing expectations,’” noted Patrick Alderdice, President of Pennington & Company. “I remember leaving that initial planning meeting knowing that everything I knew about fundraising was about to be challenged. But if any group was going to be able to reach those goals, these Sigma Chi’s had the drive and spirit to do it.”
On March 1, 2006, after months of hard work and dedication, Delta Delta launched the “Securing the Future of Delta Delta” campaign. The announcement included early commitments of $4.89 million made by insiders and volunteers and cumulated giving from the undergraduate chapter that totaled more than $125,000.
But this was only the beginning. Scores of volunteers marched into action. Through phone calls, letters, and personal visits, these loyal alumni delivered personal testimonials regarding their Sigma Chi experience and the importance of this project. Their efforts paid off handsomely; effectively enlisting 510 other alumni to join them in contributing to this project.
Altogether, the campaign has blown past its initial goals; recording to date $7,407,392 in contributions from 860 contributors, an amazing 59 percent of its alumni base.
“We recognize that with each campaign, volunteers are critical to the ultimate success. The Delta Delta brothers are some of the best alumni with whom we have had the privilege to work” noted Alderdice.
The renovated house re-opened its doors and welcomed its first residents this fall. Shortly thereafter, a magnificent dedication ceremony was held where Jim Dora and Bernie Sergesketter reflected on this project.
What did you enjoy most about volunteering on this project?
BS: “Working with my “dearest friend” and pledge brother, Jim Dora, in accomplishing a “labor of love.”
How was your experience working with Pennington & Company different than other fundraising organizations you have worked with in the past?
JD: “Superior. I believe that because they only work with the Greek system, they “know their market” exceptionally well and that knowledge translates into success in every phase of executing the plan.”
What would you consider to be the strengths of Pennington & Company?
BS: “A deep knowledge of fundraising methodology and techniques; high quality personnel; positive attitude and approach to challenges; consistently showing initiative.
Did Pennington & Company staff meet your expectations?
BS: “Pennington exceeded my expectations. They were always thinking ‘out of the box’ as we faced problems, and they initiated ideas that worked time after time.”
In ten years looking back on this experience, what will stand out most from your time on this project?
JD: “That we have hopefully put in place people and processes that will ensure the care of the physical plant and that the entire Delta Delta brotherhood will continue to support—both financially and spiritually—the renewed treasure that is our house and chapter today.”
Would you recommend Pennington & Company to other organizations?