Alpha Chi Omega - Starting Conversations

The official blog of Alpha Chi Omega

Browsing category: Alumnae, Domestic Violence Awareness, Foundation

How A Blog Post Saved A Life By: Jenna Mayo

As a volunteer for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and a strong supporter of domestic violence awareness, I was honored when Alpha Chi Omega gave me the opportunity to share my personal story about becoming a survivor of domestic violence. My story was released on the Starting Conversations blog in October 2013. I was so grateful that they chose me to share my experience, but also very thankful and proud to be a part of a women’s organization that seeks to empower women by allowing them to be authentic.

In October 2016, the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation asked me to share my story during the Founders’ Day Challenge and speak out about the Alpha Chi Omega domestic violence initiatives. Again, by exposing my hurt and my heart, it was my hope that my authenticity would help a sister open her eyes and escape an abusive relationship. In that post, I wrote these exact words, If I could just save 1 life, all of the trails and pain that I experienced would be worth it” – not knowing that those words would actually come to fruition.

About seven months after I shared that story, my husband and I were in the process of moving into our new home, so I joined our neighborhood’s Facebook furniture sales group. I download the Facebook Messenger app so neighbors could direct message me if they were interested in buying our furniture. To my surprise, I had a message from a woman I didn’t know that had been in my filtered messages inbox from October 2016. That message was from my abuser’s most recent victim.

She said that she had suffered verbal and extreme physical abuse from the same man who once abused me. She told me, “I found you on Facebook and then Googled your name. When I found your blog post about being a survivor of domestic violence, it’s like I woke up…“ It was the last line of her message that will stick with me forever, and it reminded me of why it is so important for survivors to tell their personal stories. The last line of her message was this: “Thank you so much for speaking out about him, you probably saved my life.”

I sat at my computer, speechless, and tears rolled down my face. When I decided to volunteer for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, I had no idea all of this would transpire. Words are not enough to express how much the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation means to me. Since writing that first blog post, I have spoken to thousands of women and to many nonprofit organizations, telling my story of survival, hoping that other lives will be saved. Alpha Chi Omega gave me a voice when others told me to be quiet and allowed me to be the real, strong woman who I am called to be. The Alpha Chi Omega Foundation is saving lives, raising domestic violence awareness and empowering women, and for those reasons and so many more, I will forever be proud to be an Alpha Chi Omega.


Founders’ Day Challenge

Abby RittenhouseBy Abby Rittenhouse
Zeta Sigma, Missouri State University
Student Trustee

When I think of Founders’ Day, the first thing that comes to mind is the beautiful legacy seven determined and passionate young women created in Alpha Chi Omega. Seven women who decided to create the first and last musical fraternity one fall day in October. That one chapter of seven women has turned into 143 chapters and colonies full of real, strong women doing service, raising awareness and developing leaders. I owe everything to those seven women. They are my sisters, my role models and my Founders. Founders’ Day is so special to me because although Alpha Chi Omega has grown tremendously over the years, our values and Ritual have stayed the same. We still proudly wear the lyre badge, the colors of scarlet red and olive green, and continue daily to seek the heights.

I currently serve as a student trustee for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and chapter president for the Zeta Sigma chapter at Missouri State University. Being chapter president has been one of the greatest experiences of my college career. A chapter of 285 women can be overwhelming at times, but with a hardworking executive team and dedicated, loyal members, there is a constant sense of sisterhood. I find no greater joy than seeing the accomplishments of my sisters, whether on campus, in a new career or within Alpha Chi Omega.

Our chapter typically celebrates Founders’ Day with a celebration at our chapter house involving refreshments and a lot of cookie cake! We reflect on the history of Alpha Chi Omega by reflecting on our Founders, symbols, traditions and Ritual. We encourage members to partake in acts of service and friendship in the days surrounding Founders’ Day as well. This year, we are trying something new: a “carnation pass.” We will have seven carnations and will pass them around to sisters throughout the day to celebrate our founding.

In addition to our Founders’ Day celebration, we enjoy participating in the Founders’ Day Challenge benefiting the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation. This year, chapters will have the ability to decide where they want their donations to go, which creates an even more personalized experience.

By having our chapter participate at 100 percent, it means that every single woman wants to make a difference. They want to make a direct impact on initiatives such as domestic violence awareness, Leadership Academy, the Global Service Initiative, educational programs or other programs of their choosing. Every single woman wants to create a better collegiate experience for her sisters and a better community for all. Every woman wants to continue to support the Foundation so Alpha Chi Omega can continue to shape us as leaders, advocates and sisters.

When it comes to having a conversation about giving, I think the most important thing is to explain to members where the money is going. When some people hear “the Foundation” or “Founders’ Day Challenge,” they may not know what that means. The conversation starts with discussing the Foundation and the direct impact it has on all Alpha Chi Omega members. Without the Foundation, we would not have educational programs for chapters or initiatives for domestic violence awareness. The Foundation is such an amazing entity of Alpha Chi Omega, and every chapter member should be aware of it.

The conversation continues with the direct impact of donations. Last year, collegians raised $54,000, which was more than half the total amount raised during the Founders’ Day Challenge. We can make a difference, and we do make a difference. We discuss the personal impact the Foundation and Alpha Chi Omega have made in our lives. Something I am going to incorporate into the conversation this year is pictures of sisters volunteering at the Global Service Initiative, attending Leadership Academy and participating in other educational programs. None of those experiences would have been possible without donations from people just like us.

Just the small amount of $18.85 can make such an amazing impact. $18.85 is a few trips to Starbucks (I know I already went to Starbucks twice today, so I reached that limit), two trips to Panera, a new dress from Forever 21 or the newest Beyoncé album on iTunes. The conversation is not something to be feared; the most important thing about the Founders’ Day Challenge is having a meaningful conversation about the Foundation and bringing awareness to the great causes it supports.

“I support the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation because of the opportunities and experiences that arise because of the Foundation’s contributions,” said VP philanthropy and Global Service Initiative participant Jayne Sokolich. “If it weren’t for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, I wouldn’t have had the honor and privilege to attend the Global Service Initiative in Jamaica that impacted me so deeply. The Foundation offers resources to further members’ knowledge and awareness about the issue of domestic violence. The Foundation offers scholarships for my sisters who may not be able to easily have access to a college education. I support the Foundation because it helps foster learning experiences, helps foster new friendships, holds Alpha Chi Omega’s values to heart and helps every member reach their potential of being real, strong women.”

The 2016 Founders’ Day Challenge launches this weekcheck out this year’s event here!


Return in Investment

Rachel Haley - web  By Rachel Haley, Omicron, Baker University

In my three years as a collegian, my Alpha Chi Omega journey has been touched in many ways by the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation. I first witnessed the Foundation’s efforts in action when I watched the launch of the For Now/ Forever campaign at the 2012 National Convention, which has since grown to be the single largest campaign in NPC history. Such generous giving from our members has provided my chapter, along with all chapters across the country, with educational programs such as MyJourney, ASTP, InTune and REPRESENT. These programs have enriched my collegiate experience and motivated me to seek leadership opportunities within my chapter and on my campus.

In 2013, I was selected to participate in Alpha Chi Omega’s second Global Service Initiative trip to Jamaica. For the GSI, the Foundation funded the education sessions my sisters and I engaged in throughout the service week. The twelve of us, all from varying chapters, grew together as we were educated on the true definition of service and volunteer work in a developing nation. Most recently, the Foundation has assisted me in my educational pursuits and aspirations by awarding me with a scholarship to ease my academic expenses.

Now, serving as a student trustee for the Foundation Board of Trustees, I am able to return all that Alpha Chi Omega has invested in me as a member. I have been able to learn from accomplished alumnae on the board and collaborate with other student trustees who share the same passion I do in advancing our organization. But mostly, I have learned to value the beauty of giving –of time and funds. No amount is too small to make a lasting impact on another individual – this is something I know I will always remember from my experiences on the board and will carry with me in philanthropic efforts beyond college.

Being a student trustee has without a doubt been the single most rewarding opportunity for me as an Alpha Chi because it has allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for our sisterhood and, in doing so, promote investing in the future generations of Alpha Chi Omega for now, and forever.

Applications for the four student trustee positions are due March 31, 2015.
Questions? Email Katie Sherrill or call 317-579-5050.


The Lyre, Spring 2012 / Planned Giving

Save moneyHow to Extend Your Philanthropic Legacy

by Polly J. Dobbs
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)

When many women hear about planned giving they think, “Oh, that’s not for me.” You may think it’s for someone older or richer, or perhaps you don’t know what planned giving is. Your biggest concern may be making sure you leave enough money for your family after you’re gone. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed at the thought of which charity to choose, and you would prefer to let someone else make the decision after you’re gone. Planned giving can play an important role in every woman’s life. Alpha Chi Omega women are strong, and many of us control the purse strings of our family’s wealth. We need to be comfortable taking charge of our charitable giving decisions for the benefit of future generations. Here, we’ll examine some common objections to planned giving and how to move beyond those misconceptions into a place where you understand how planned giving can be an integral part of your overall estate plan.

“I don’t know what planned giving is.”

In the simplest terms, planned giving is any method of charitable giving other than getting out your checkbook and writing an immediate check with no restrictions attached. Planned giving techniques should balance your financial, personal and charitable objectives. It can be put in place during your lifetime or after your death and can take a variety of different forms.

“I’m too young to plan that far out.”

None of us know when we’ll die. Charitable giving should be a part of every young woman’s life. Start small. You should have a charitable giving plan that fits your lifestyle and goals today, and dust it off every five years or so and make sure it’s still a good fit. Ideally, an Alpha Chi has been writing small checks to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and other charities each year since graduating and securing that first job. Planned giving is the next step toward leaving a philanthropic legacy. As a member of the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation’s Planned Giving Subcommittee, my goal is for every young Alpha Chi to name the Foundation as at least a 1-percent beneficiary of that first 401(k) plan she vests in after joining the work force. That small first step will be a reminder of the importance of our sisterhood and philanthropy as the years go by and jobs change, spouses and children come along, beneficiary designations are updated, and those retirement assets are rolled over and moved around.

“I don’t have enough money.”

This might mean a planned gift is a great option for you. If money is tight now, you don’t have to say no to your favorite charity—you can just give in a different way. Leaving a percentage of your assets or a set dollar amount to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and/or other chosen charities is easy to do through the beneficiary designation on your retirement plan, life insurance, annuity or in your will or trust. Even a small planned gift will be welcomed. For example, just imagine the impact if every sister left $100 to the Foundation at her passing—the results would be remarkable!

“I want my family to have enough after I’m gone.”

Estate plans can be written so that a charitable bequest is only made after certain other requirements have been met. Using flexible language in a will can address this concern; here’s a great example: “I give the lesser of $50,000 or 5 percent of my net taxable estate to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation upon my death.” A contingent bequest to charity can also help with this issue. Many of my clients include their favorite charities in their “wipe-out clause”—this clause states what happens to their assets if they and their children are “wiped out” in a common tragedy. Rather than having all their assets distributed to distant relatives, most clients would like to provide for some amount to go to charity. Once the idea of a charitable bequest at death gets into their head, they often move a charity “up in line” to receive some amount at the second spouse’s death, or even at the first spouse’s death. Including a charity in your estate plan can help you leave more than just money to your family; you can leave an example of philanthropy and a commitment to benefit an organization that was important to you during your lifetime. This is a way for you to teach, from beyond the grave, that giving back is an important family value.

“I’ll let someone else make the decision.”

Some may think it’s best to set aside an amount for charity and let family members decide which nonprofit organizations will receive the benefit. I encourage you to own the choice; it is yours to make. Without specific instructions, your charitable gift might not go where you intended. For example, we all know the positive difference Alpha Chi Omega can make in a woman’s life, and financial support of our Foundation ensures that future generations will receive the benefits we have received, but do your family members know? Only you can decide what charity values and benefits are important to you.

Planned giving as a part of an overall plan created with your attorney.

Planned giving must be considered as a part of an overall estate plan. The estate-planning process involves exploration of your desires, goals and your personal and financial circumstances. Your estate plan should be designed to conserve property before and after death, to provide for your care and lifestyle before death, to minimize death taxes, to provide sufficient liquidity at death, and to provide financially for family and/or others (including charity) in an appropriate manner before and/or after your death. Even very straightforward planned-giving techniques should fall into the “big picture” of your comprehensive estate plan.

Considering a planned gift expands your options for charitable giving. A planned gift may allow you to make a larger charitable gift than you thought possible. It also could provide a source of income for you, your spouse, your children or your grandchildren, while helping protect assets and ultimately providing for a charity. A planned gift may achieve specific charitable purposes (possibly for generations to come), and may reduce income taxes and/or estate and gift taxes.

If you make a planned gift to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation or any nonprofit entity, collaboration between you and the charity is crucial. Planned giving is not likely to be productive or rewarding if approached in isolation. For example, you may designate a cash contribution to your favorite charity and specify that such amount is to be added to your favorite charity’s scholarship fund, but if your favorite charity does not have a scholarship fund, that plan will fail. You should explore your desires and goals and also learn about the programs and tools already available within your favorite charity to make sure your planned gift is a success. While the professionals who work for various charities can provide you with valuable information about the methods of planned giving and the benefits of each, it is important for you to involve your own legal advisors in the process so that there is no conflict of interest and all aspects of the transaction can be appropriately considered.

It’s not (just) about the taxes.

A desire to minimize estate taxes may help motivate you to consider a planned gift, but avoiding estate taxes should not be the only reason to make a planned gift. Likewise, if your only goal is to maximize the amount of money going to your family members and minimize the amount of taxes paid to the government, then planned giving may not work for you. You need to have true charitable intentions to gain the most benefit from a planned gift.

Since Dec. 17, 2010, our federal laws have provided a maximum exemption level (i.e., the maximum amount a person may give away without incurring tax) of $5 million, indexed annually for inflation, for estate tax, gift tax and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. The gift and estate tax exemption are unified so that $5 million (indexed) may be given away during one’s life gift-tax-free. The maximum tax rate for estate, gift and GST taxes is currently 35 percent. Because of the “indexing,” for 2012, up to $5.12 million of an estate will be exempt from the current 35-percent estate tax. These provisions are only in effect until Dec. 31, 2012. Unless Congress and the President take further action before then, after Jan. 1, 2013, estates worth as little as $1 million will be subject to estate tax, the government will take 41 cents on the first dollar in excess of that $1 million, and tax rates will steadily increase from 41 percent to 60 percent on larger amounts.

This notorious fluctuating federal law has moved the exemption level all over the map from the low point of $600,000 to the current high point of $5 million. In light of this larger federal estate-tax exemption, you may feel that “enough is enough” in terms of the amount of money you wish to leave to family. Many of my clients feel that the amounts in excess of the estate-tax exemption should be left to charity.

Unrestricted vs. designated gifts to charity.

An unrestricted gift to a charity has no strings attached. Charities love these gifts! These are important to a charity’s daily operation and help them keep the lights on, buy paper and pay employee salaries. Some donors embrace this unrestricted type of giving, understanding that these essentials are necessary to provide for the charity’s basic needs.

However, in order to further a particular charitable interest or desire, planned gifts often involve “restricted” or “designated” gifts, which can be used only for a specific purpose. Again, collaboration between the donor’s legal advisors and the charity is crucial to make the donor’s intent clear and ensure that the charity is capable of complying with the restrictions in order to achieve the donor’s goals. When a charity accepts your gift, it accepts any restrictions or designations you placed on that gift and is legally required to fulfill them. I suggest drafting any designated charitable bequest to be made following death in the alternative, to allow the highest possibility for success. For example, a last will and testament could contain a provision such as this: “The lesser of $50,000 or 5 percent of my net taxable estate to [favorite charity] for the purpose of providing scholarships, but if the scholarship program is discontinued in the future, then any remaining funds should be used for [favorite charity’s] then-existing program(s) that benefit children, or if no such programs exist, then any remaining funds may be used for [favorite charity’s] greatest need.”

Another type of designated gift is an endowment. Endowments allow you to give an amount to charity, which is invested, and only the income earned from that investment may be spent for the purposes which you have provided.

Most charities will have a gift-acceptance policy, and a donor should expect to be presented with such a policy to review at the outset of any planned-giving discussions. Also, a planned gift may likely result in a gift agreement that commemorates the assets to be given by the donor and any restrictions the charity agrees to comply with by accepting such a gift.

Different types of assets can be used in planned giving.

The types of assets donated to a charity will influence the planned-giving process, even if the gift is unrestricted. Once you’ve decided that you want to make a planned gift, next you must decide which of your assets you wish to transfer to the charity. Cash is one straightforward option. Marketable securities are easy to transfer to a charity during your lifetime or at death. Stock or other ownership interest in a closely held business may be accepted by a charity, but certain steps must be taken before such a transfer. It’s not as easy as just transferring your Google stock.

Your IRA, 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan assets can easily be left to charity at death. I often suggest these assets as a great way to benefit a charity at death, because they may otherwise be subject to two types of taxes when you die: death taxes on the value of the account at the date of death, and income taxes on each withdrawal made by your named beneficiary after your death. If a charity is the beneficiary of your qualified retirement assets, then such assets are not subject to either death taxes or income taxes because your estate would receive an estate-tax charitable deduction, and the charity would be exempt from income tax when assets are withdrawn. Caution is required when considering lifetime gifts of qualified retirement plans, because income tax and penalties may be triggered when assets are withdrawn from such a plan, even if the ultimate recipient of the withdrawn funds is a charity.

Real estate may be given to a charity, but expect prior approval of the charity’s governing board to be required before such a transfer is made. Not every potential gift will be accepted by a charity. For example, if the real estate is the prior location of a gas station or a factory that used harmful chemicals and there are environmental issues involved, the charity may decline to accept such real estate. It is also likely that a charity would wish to sell the real estate upon receipt, rather than maintain the property, which can be a potential liability. A thorough negotiation and understanding between the donor and the charity resulting in a gift agreement is a good idea when real estate is involved.

Tangible personal property (works of art or antiques, for example) may be donated to a charity. Be aware that certain restrictions on the amount of your income-tax deduction may be imposed if the personal property is not used for the charity’s charitable purpose.

Life insurance also can be used to benefit a charity. Specifically, there may be a charitable-planning opportunity if you purchased life insurance when the federal exemption was lower ($600,000), for the purpose of helping to pay the estate taxes that would have been due upon your death. Now that the federal exemption is higher ($5,120,000), such life insurance proceeds may no longer be required because your estate will not be subject to estate tax. If that’s the case, you can make an easy adjustment to the beneficiary designation of your life insurance policy to have some or all of the death benefit paid to a charity. It also may be possible to benefit a charity by transferring ownership of no-longer-needed life insurance to the charity during your lifetime.

Methods and vehicles used in planned giving.

The nitty-gritty of planned giving covers a large spectrum from simple to complex. Some examples of simple (if unrestricted) deferred gifts are as follows:

  • primary or contingent beneficiary designation of a life insurance policy: charity can be a partial beneficiary that receives a set dollar amount or a percentage
  • primary or contingent beneficiary designation of an IRA or a qualified plan (remember, these are great assets to leave to charity at death): charity can be a partial beneficiary that receives a set dollar amount or a percentage
  • outright bequest in a will or outright distribution from a revocable living trust after a grantor’s death: can be a set dollar amount or a percentage, or a formula that sets a floor and/or ceiling on the amount going to charity

All of the above are “deferred” gifts that may be revoked and/or changed prior to death. Any of the above become more complex if they are “restricted” for a particular purpose.

Some examples of more complex vehicles include:

  • charitable gift annuity: a contract (not a trust) under which a charity, in return for a transfer of cash, marketable securities or other assets, agrees to pay a fixed amount of money to one or two individuals for their lifetime. This technique can produce an income-tax deduction and enhances income during retirement years.
  • charitable remainder trust: assets transferred to a newly created “split interest” irrevocable trust in which a charity is a remainder beneficiary, but the donor (and perhaps donor’s spouse) retains an annuity (a CRAT) or unitrust (a CRUT) stream of payments for either a term of years or for lifetime. At the end of the specified term or lifetime, the remaining assets are distributed to the charitable beneficiary and the trust terminates.
  • charitable lead trust: assets transferred to a newly created “split interest” irrevocable trust where a charity receives the lead interest (for a term of years) with the remainder to pass to non-charitable beneficiaries (the donor’s family or any individual selected by the donor). The charity can receive an annuity (a CLAT), in which a fixed annual distribution is made to charity, or a unitrust amount (a CLUT), in which the charity receives a fluctuating amount equal to a percentage of the CLUT’s value each year.

All of the above, if established during a donor’s lifetime, are irrevocable and may provide income-tax benefits to the donor. If established after death, the above techniques may provide estate-tax benefits.

However, there are potential pitfalls with any technique. Charitable lead and charitable remainder trusts are irrevocable. If circumstances change, they cannot be amended. If the assets owned by a CLAT or CRUT lose value, the benefit to the donor’s family (or other intended remainder beneficiary) will be less. Charitable lead trusts are somewhat of a hot topic these days, because the special interest rate the Internal Revune Service uses to predict how much assets will grow in a split interest trust such as this (the “hurdle rate”) is hovering at an all-time low, increasing the likelihood that assets transferred to a CLAT or a CRUT will appreciate in value over and beyond the hurdle rate, resulting in a discounted gift to the remainder beneficiaries, and achieving gift- and/or estate-tax savings for the donor.

No matter which route you choose, incorporate planned giving into your estate plan.

Planned giving means different things to different people and can fit into each donor’s estate plan in a unique way to achieve her goals. My suggestion: make a planned gift to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation in gratitude of the benefits you’ve received from our sisterhood as a way to pay it forward and extend your philanthropic legacy.

Disclosure Required by Circular 230

This Disclosure may be required by Circular 230 issued by the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service. The federal tax advice contained herein is not intended or written by the practitioner to be used, and it may not be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. Furthermore, any federal tax advice herein may not be used or referred to in promoting, marketing or recommending a transaction or arrangement to another party. Further information concerning this disclosure, and the reasons for such disclosure, may be obtained upon request from the author.


Thank An Elf Today

photoby Malena Lott
(Psi, University of Oklahoma)
“Mom, I’m thirsty.”

“Can you resize that ad, like, before noon?”

“Hon, would you pick up my prescription while you’re out today?”

It’s no wonder I love this time of year: I’m obviously an elf disguised as your typical suburban work-at-home mom and wife. Not only does this Giving Season require gift-giving, but a heckuva lot of extra giving of our time.

I may have woken up feeling like the Elf who didn’t get invited to Santa’s ball, but while I was out buying all the things I forgot the first time I got out this morning, I realized the best way to remedy my Elf Blues is to feel gratitude for all the elves in my life. Example: The chipper middle-aged checker at WalMart, who despite having a job where she has to stand all day, sincerely told me to “have a nice day,” when I hadn’t so much as given her a smile beforehand.

Thanking the service people in our lives who keep our lives humming is a great way to turn that frown “upside down” or at least keep the stabby feelings at bay. Even more – we can make them feel better about their jobs and pass it on. Crazy how that works. Using Dale Carnegie’s principal to always call people by name, I started using it on the postal workers, my bank teller and, when I remember, checkers. I’m not sure how Dale figured out this easy way to win people over, but it truly delivers. When you call someone by his or her name, it says they are more than their “duty”; they are a person of value.

Connection happens. Relationships form. Elves unite.

When you come to think of it, we are all here to serve each other. We’re all elves who occasionally get our chance holding the reins and steering the reindeer.

I hope you’ll take a moment and think about all the people in your life who do little tasks and keep our homes, schools, communities and businesses thriving, one answered call, one check-out beep and one opened door at a time. If you call them by name, they may be surprised, but great things will start to happen. If you thank them for their service, you may even find your own service improves. You may even get a little something extra in your stocking this year.

Malena Lott is a brand strategist and author of several novels. Lott’s latest book is Sleigh Ride: A Winter Anthology, called “well-written” and “moving.” A portion of the profits will benefit the domestic violence prevention cause through the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation. Find out more at


The Lyre, Fall 2011 / Showing Commitment for Tomorrow, Today

scarletThe Alpha Chi Omega Foundation is proud to honor our collegiate donors through membership in a unique giving society called the Scarlet Ribbon Club. With gifts of $18.85, these women can make a difference in the lives of their sisters all across the country. With the first donation to the Scarlet Ribbon Club, each member receives a scarlet crystal dangle for her lyre badge. This dangle is not just an accessory; it symbolizes the member’s commitment to the future of Alpha Chi Omega and shows her pride in being a donor to the Foundation.

Scarlet Ribbon Club Challenge

This year, the Foundation challenged each chapter to have all collegiate members join the Scarlet Ribbon Club. The Foundation is excited to announce that, with 44 percent of its chapter members being donors to the Scarlet Ribbon Club, the Omicron chapter at Baker University has the largest percentage of women involved! When asked why such an initiative was appealing to the chapter women, Omicron Chapter President Molly Schmeidler explained that, as college students, they all have financial obligations—car payments, tuition, books, Alpha Chi Omega dues—but just because they are still in school does not mean they do not want to support Alpha Chi Omega efforts.

“At Omicron chapter, we believe in the big picture of Alpha Chi, and that mission would not be possible without the support of the Foundation,” said Molly. “Once we had a better understanding of the Foundation and got over any misconceptions, we wanted to give. And $18.85 seemed completely doable! The Scarlet Ribbon Club is a wonderful opportunity for collegians to show their commitment to Alpha Chi Omega.”

Collegians (and alumnae), why should you contribute to the Foundation?

Giving means more scholarships and grants for collegiate and alumnae members. It means that more campuses across the country will get to hear Andrea Cooper speak about the tragic yet inspirational story of her daughter with “Kristin’s Story.” Giving means more financial support for the enhancement of existing Fraternity programming and the development of new, exciting initiatives such as MyJourney, the Alcohol Skills Training Program, InTune and global service projects. Giving to the Foundation ensures that the Alpha Chi Omega experience meets the needs of women both today and tomorrow.

Thank you again to the Omicron chapter and all of our Scarlet Ribbon Club members for your outstanding commitment to the future of our organization!

Interested in joining the Scarlet Ribbon Club? Visit


The Lyre, Fall 2010 / Member Assistance Funds

AnneHelliwellby Anne E. Helliwell
(Gamma Iota, University of Florida)

I have always loved The Symphony and have a framed copy on my desk. It serves as a daily reminder of not only what it means to be an Alpha Chi but also how to live life. “To shed the light of love and friendship round me…” These words capture the essence of how the Foundation helps our members with grants and scholarships. But perhaps these words are most meaningful when talking about Member Assistance Funds.

The first Member Assistance Fund was established in 1985, and its purpose was to provide financial assistance to Alpha Chis over the age of 60. Since then, donors have established five additional funds, and several are available to collegiate members, younger alumnae and for other situations, such as for the family of an Alpha Chi Omega. In 2004, using funds from the convention Star Booth, the Board of Trustees established the “Sisters Helping Sisters” Fund. This fund provides financial assistance to members regardless of age and without some of the requirements found in other funds.

Grants are need-based and are awarded to those facing unforeseen financial difficulties due to life changing circumstances. The Foundation’s tax status limits grants to those which are charitable and philanthropic; therefore, dues and fees are not covered. Grants have been used to pay medical expenses for members or their children. Rent was paid for an elderly member, and living expenses were covered for a collegiate member whose father passed away leaving the family with a very limited income. The husband of a member was able to take unpaid leave from his job to care for his terminally ill wife. Because of a Member Assistance Grant, a young mother had health insurance while in graduate school, and a single mom didn’t lose her home when she lost her job.

When asked why she established a Member Assistance Fund one donor replied, “Alpha Chi has been a lifetime commitment for me providing volunteer opportunities, joys and friendships throughout the years. Creating a fund to help sisters in need was another way for me to give back to Alpha Chi.” Another donor said it was a way for her to “live our Ritual” and help make a difference in someone’s life.

There is no deadline for applications as they are reviewed by the Foundation’s Member Assistance Grants Committee throughout the year. Grants are awarded on a case by case basis. All information pertaining to the grants is confidential. An application can be obtained on the website or by contacting the Foundation.

Member Assistance Funds… another way we are linked heart to heart.


Notes from Your National Council

We’re introducing a new regular column today, “Notes from Your National Council.”  This first installment is from our National President regarding a recent very special event she was privileged to attend.

Marshaby Marsha King Grady, National President
(Alpha Upsilon, University of Alabama)

During my 25 years as an Alpha Chi Omega, I have experienced countless proud moments… “Squeal Day” in August 1983, when I received my bid from Alpha Upsilon Chapter and raced down sorority row to the Alpha Chi Omega house… My initiation in February 1984, when my big sister Kim Kitchens first pinned me with my lyre badge… June 1987, when my three best Alpha Chi Omega friends stood by my side at my wedding… July 1990 at Alpha Chi Omega Convention, when I accepted the Advisory Board Award with my fellow Alpha Phi advisory board members… When I was first installed as a National Vice President in July 2000… When I stood with my adopted Sigma sisters for the dedication of their new chapter house in September 2008… When I was installed as National President of Alpha Chi Omega in July 2008… I have been blessed to have these special Alpha Chi Omega memories, and many more than I can list here.

Last week ranks right up there as one of my proudest Alpha Chi Omega moments. On Friday, May 7, 2010, Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity was honored by the Genesis Women’s Shelter of Dallas as its 2010 Jane Doe Award winner. Each year, Genesis presents the Jane Doe Award to recognize an individual or group’s extraordinary efforts on behalf of the battered women and children who must remain nameless and faceless as they escape the violence they have known. The list of previous award winners is impressive – including Mary Kay, Inc.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former first lady Laura Bush; former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice; Academy Award winner Sarah Buel; and the Junior League of Dallas. We stand with a host of luminaries who have made it their passion to protect women from violence.

I was honored to accept the award (a beautiful Tiffany crystal statuette) on your behalf at Genesis’ 17th annual Mother’s Day lunch, before a crowd of over 2000 of Dallas’ most influential women (and men.)  The annual event is a major fundraiser for Genesis, which receives no government funding, and generated a record $1 million to support shelter, counseling and transitional housing for victims of domestic violence in the Dallas area.

This recognition from Genesis Women’s Shelter is rooted in the work of our Dallas-area alumnae and collegians, who have donated over $100,000 and countless volunteer hours to supporting Genesis, and owes no small debt to our partnership with Wells Fargo (and Bob Chereck) through their sponsorship of numerous Genesis programs. However, the award recognizes even more than that – it recognizes all of the women of Alpha Chi Omega who have accepted the challenge to fight domestic violence within our own communities across the country.

The 2010 Mother’s Day lunch program included the following tribute to Alpha Chi Omega: “In 1992, Alpha Chi Omega adopted domestic violence awareness as its national philanthropic cause. Since then, they have promoted education and prevention programs that help people understand and prevent the problem of violence against women… On behalf of Dr. Rice, we recognize her Alpha Chi Omega Sisters and their efforts…”

Oh, did I forget to mention that the luncheon was a star-studded event? This year’s honorary event chair was former First Lady Laura Bush, who unfortunately was unable to attend. However, she sent her husband in her place. Yes, former President George W. Bush made a surprise appearance, just to introduce the guest speaker, former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice.  Dr. Rice talked about atrocities committed against women around the world and her experiences fighting for women’s rights, as well as the importance of organizations such as Genesis in helping combat violence against women. “You and I can know there’s something the government can’t deliver: compassion,” she said.  “That’s where organizations like Genesis come in.”

Regardless of your politics, I hope that you can admit that having Alpha Chi Omega featured at an event attended by a former President and Secretary of State is a big deal! And the fact that Dr. Rice is one of our own Alpha Chi Omega sisters (and past Alpha Chi Omega Award of Achievement winners) made the day even more special for me.

I try to keep my politics separate from my Alpha Chi Omega work, but I will admit to being a big fan of Dr. Rice’s and the Bushes – so I was personally thrilled to sit on stage with Dr. Rice and President Bush.  I thoroughly enjoyed my 30 minutes of one-on-one conversation with Dr. Rice. “Please call me Condi,” she said – and I did. And I took advantage of our time together to share all the wonderful things that Alpha Chi Omega is doing today.

However, the biggest thrill was the great honor to Alpha Chi Omega – my heart swelled with pride (and my eyes were filled with happy tears) as our accomplishments and work in supporting victims of domestic violence were recognized in such a prestigious forum. What pride to hear Dr. Rice acknowledge us as her “Alpha Chi sisters” and speak of her pride in the work we have done (and continue to do). And even a little thrill to get a shoulder poke and “good work” from President Bush.

In 1992, a committee of Alpha Chi Omegas recommended that we select domestic violence awareness as our national philanthropy, and that recommendation was accepted by the Convention body in St. Louis. One of the members of that committee recently wrote me and talked about the committee’s concern that the cause wouldn’t be considered “glamorous” or appealing enough to really catch on – and how proud she is to see that we have really made a difference. And boy have we made a difference!
Our work with domestic violence awareness is meaningful, relevant and consistent with who Alpha Chi Omega is – real, strong women. We work to support victims and hopefully someday to end violence against women – because many of those victims are our own sisters, and because we want to inspire and empower all women to be real and strong, whether they are Alpha Chi Omega sisters or not. As Dr. Rice said, “If I could do one thing to change the world, I would empower women.” And that’s what Alpha Chi Omega does.

I have never been more proud to be an Alpha Chi Omega than I am today.


A Long Legacy of Altruism: A Visit to the MacDowell Colony

crottyby Jennifer Crotty
(Delta Mu, University of Massachusetts)

During my ten-plus years as an Alpha Chi Omega, I have often heard about our Foundation’s support of the MacDowell Colony in Petersborough, New Hampshire, particularly in February, which we celebrate as MacDowell Month. However, despite living only an hour or so away, I had never been there in person. So when the opportunity arose to visit the MacDowell Colony for their Medal Day in August 2009, I decided to go and experience Alpha Chi Omega’s first altruistic project for myself.

Two of my Zeta Zeta (Boston, Mass.) sisters, Rashmi Khare (Theta Omicron, MIT) and Lexi Swinimer (Iota Psi, Elon), and I started off the day with a picnic in a field while listening to the Medal Day ceremony. Following the ceremony, the entire colony is open for visitors to explore. We started off by visiting some of the common areas, such as the library, which holds a work from each artist to have ever been in residence at the colony.

rashmiWe also participated in the Medal Day art project, which was a giant yarn weaving. However, the most important stop on our tour, we saved for last – the Star Studio, which was built in 1911 with funds from Alpha Chi Omega.

Nestled deep in the woods, the Star Studio is a simple structure comprised of a bedroom/living room, bathroom and kitchenette. “Tombs” inscribed with the names of every artist to have ever been in residence at the Star Studio adorn the walls and the 1911 dedication plaque is still on display. Whereas the building itself is simple, the feeling of being in the place where Alpha Chi Omega’s long legacy of altruism started was quite profound.

Awarded each year on the 2nd Sunday of August, the Edward MacDowell Medal is given by The MacDowell Colony to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to his or her field; the ceremony is open to the public. If you are able, I encourage you to attend and experience the colony yourself.

Visit the MacDowell Colony.


The Lyre, Fall 2009 / Would You Invest in the Alpha Chi Experience?

Anneby Anne E. Helliwell, Chair, Foundation Board of Trustees
(Gamma Iota, University of Florida)

We all would like to be able to give monetary support to those organizations we believe in and that are making a difference. However, most of us have a limited number of dollars with which we can give; and therefore, need to be careful with our contributions. We want to be as generous as we can; we want our gifts to be used wisely and to have the most impact on those we are trying to help. Perhaps we should look at our charitable gifts as if we were buying stock in a company and ask ourselves, “Is the organization something I would invest in?”
Would you invest in an organization that is stable and has a proven track record?
Philanthropy and helping others has always been a part of the ritual and values of Alpha Chi Omega. Our organization was established in 1885 and over the past 125 years has enabled women to achieve their goals and fulfill their dreams.  Would you invest in an organization that is meeting its purpose? When you make a donation to the Foundation, you are investing in Alpha Chi Omega and the transformative experience that is available to every woman. You are helping provide programming and other services that meet our members’ needs. The Foundation gives you the vehicle to invest in the future of Alpha Chi Omega through effective fundraising and stewardship of financial resources. In addition, the Foundation provides much needed financial assistance in the form of scholarships and grants.

Would you invest in an organization that is governed by people you respect?
The leaders of Alpha Chi Omega are your sisters. These are women who not only understand and are committed to their fiduciary responsibilities, but who also want Alpha Chi Omega to continue having a positive impact by using each dollar received wisely and effectively. Each woman is a Foundation donor; they are real women working to making a real difference.

Would you invest in an organization that has a vision for the future?
Alpha Chi Omega honors our heritage, celebrates our past and looks toward our future. We have achieved great heights, but are always seeking new ones. Donations to the Foundation enable the Fraternity to stay relevant with programs and services which enhance the Alpha Chi Omega experience. The Foundation is an integral part of the Fraternity’s strategic plan.

Would you invest in an organization that others believe in?
Women like you believe in the Alpha Chi Omega experience and show it by supporting the Foundation. These are women who have a commitment to philanthropy. Women who believe that, regardless of the amount, their dollars can and do make a difference in the lives and futures of others.  These are Real.Strong.Women.

Would you invest in the Alpha Chi Omega Experience?
I hope the answer is yes!