The Great Divide

January 1, 2020 John R. Hatfield 1 Comments

John R. Hatfield.


The difference between philanthropic fundraising AND civic service engagement

The fraternity and sorority community has a rich heritage of philanthropic involvement dating back to Pi Beta Phi’s pioneering of a social welfare project in 1912, establishing a settlement school in the Appalachian highlands of Tennessee. Since then, every fraternity
and sorority has energetically adopted and raised thousands of dollars for national non-profit organizations committed to helping those in need, such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (Delta Delta Delta),Habitat for Humanity (Beta Sigma Psi), Victims of Domestic Violence (Alpha ChiOmega),Children’sMiracleNetworkHospitals(Sigma Chi and SigmaAlpha Epsilon), Building Strong Girls (Gamma Phi Beta), Emerging Youth Leaders, Global Poverty, Social Justice and Human Rights Initiatives (Alpha Kappa Alpha) and UNICEF (Phi Iota Alpha).

Fraternities and sororities have spent countless hours organizing and leading fundraising events, significantly influencing university communities, states and the nation. In recent years, fraternal organizations have been moving toward civic service engagement that actively engages members, using their skills and talents.

Additionally, some chapters have moved toward establishing ongoing relationships in their civic service. For example, Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Kansas State University provides a local grade school with men to help coach or referee games, mentor academics, chaperon events, help with reading and be on call for any needs that might arise. Kappa Sigma just started an International Day of Service, assisting local communities, serving meals at soup kitchens, charity donation drives and building homes. The Greek Affairs office at Texas A&M University organized an all-fraternity/sorority Greek alternative spring break trip called Aggie Greek Service Trip, where members come together in solidarity to influence and impact the greater good for those less fortunate.

An example of inter-national civic service engagement would be Phi Delta Theta’s partnership with AFLV and the Heart for Honduras summer overseas project in Honduras. Delta Upsilon’s Global Service initiative offers members opportunities to engage in direct service in developing nations over winter break each January. The fraternal community is the largest network of volunteers in the U.S., with members volunteering over 10 million hours each year. Giving and serving is a hallmark of being a member. It is an aspect of our heritage, our DNA, our uniqueness, and our respect. The fraternal community has never been silent about things that matter.

Connection magazine (AFLV)​

John R. Hatfield.

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead


THROUGH THE DECADESPhilanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, especially expressed by generous monetary donations to good causes. Voluntary, organized efforts intended for useful purposes toward those in need are a hallmark of the fraternal community. Through the years, the organizing of sport Athlons (volleyball, bowling, dance, etc.), t-shirt sales, information booths, homecoming projects, or involvement with campus ministries like The Navigators, Campus Crusade, and Inter Varsity to raise philanthropic funds and heighten awareness for those less fortunate has secured millions of dollars and helped thousands of people. As Margaret Mead stated, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Our chapters consist of small groups of people who have been and are currently creating innovative ways to be the change agents for our world.


  • Promotes awareness of a financial need
  • Involves students in a fund raising project
  • Heightens awareness through an event
  • Impacts others through meeting a financial need
  • Provides money for ongoing research
  • Exposes participants to non-profit organizations
  • Provides leadership development in learning how to organize an event

All of this is to be commended, congratulated and celebrated! It meets a need and should never be abandoned.

On the other hand, the downside of having fun events, t-shirt sales and information booths to raise money, is the lack of personal engagement, meaningful involvement and leadership development experiences for fraternal members. It can promote a subtle philosophy that giving money solves the need or is the only answer.

Alexander Astin’s involvement theory states that the amount of student learning and personal development associated with any educational
program is directly pro portional to the quality and quantity of student involvement in the program. Astin (1996) highlights the importance of peer group interaction for college students success and notes that service is one way to develop peer relationships. Astin and Sax (1998) and Vogelgesang, Ikeda, Gilmartin, and Keup (2002) further found that service learning is positively as with student retention and the likelihood of completing a degree. Philanthropic fundraising does little for our men and women. We owe our members more. We need to be committed to their person-al, professional and leadership development. It is our responsibility, associated chapter advisors, house corporations, alumni boards, house directors and national leadership offices, to be intentional and lead in this endeavor.


Service learning joins two complex concepts: community action, the “service,” and efforts to learn from that action and connect what is learned to existing knowledge, the “learning”. Civic service involves a sense of personal responsibility citizens should feel being a part of a community. Civic participation (volunteerism) involves identify-ing, addressing and finding solutions for the good of society. Structured experiences, with critical reflection on service, helps engage students to better understand issues of social injustice and equip them to be change agents. The primary goal of higher education is to develop civic-minded citizens with the skills and capacities to lead our communities and nation (e.g., Dewey, 1916; Brown, 19??? Astin, 1996; Eyler & Giles, 1990; Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Ste-phens, 2003; Hurtado, Engberg, & Ponjuan, 2003). This is the type of fraternity and sorority member we desire to influence and replicate.

Historically, in the U.S., civic service can be traced to the creation of the extension education programs from land grant institutions in the 1860’s, the New Deal work programs, immigration education and the organizing of women’s, civil and gay rights movements, as well as, the influence of Christianity. Additionally, the Peace Corps movement created by John F. Kennedy in 1960 challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country for peace by liv-ing and working in developing countries. The current AmeriCorps and Teach America programs initiated by Presidents Bush and Clinton, which challenge college students to do the same in the U.S., are rooted in the pedagogy of service learning. Civic service, as a concept and practice, is deeply rooted in America’s past, present and future.


  • Enables understanding and conviction through participation
  • Engages the holistic person, including their heart, mind and emotion
  • Awakens skills and talents for present future involvement.
  • Provides reflection for deeper learning, application and under-standing
  • Gives vision for a lifetime of service ? Teaches responsibility
  • Provides a sense of value and self-worth
    Values selflessness and thinking of others
  • Promotes volunteerism
    Fosters empathy, compassion, care and kindness ? Links theory and practice
    Creates deeper civic consciousness
  • Promotes experiential learning

Connecting the fraternity/sorority college student with community civic engagement to enhance their leadership and academic development is an effective pedagogical strategy. Research states that university students who participate and engage in civic service activities earn a higher GPA, have a higher retention rank and are more likely to earn their college degree. They also are more effective in critical thinking and communication skills advantageous for the workplace. And they show increased interest in becoming person-ally and professionally involved in future community enhancement

projects (A Promising Connection, Campus Compact, 2010).

Connection magazine (AFLV)

John R. Hatfield.

An aspect of our Greek DNA is to nurture growthinacademics, character,brotherhood, sisterhood, service & leader- ship development for the greater good of society.

An aspect of our Greek DNA is to nurture growth in academics, character, brotherhood/sisterhood, and service and leadership development for the greater good of society. Historically, many colleges were founded on the principle of facilitating civic leadership knowledge and skills (Rudolph, 1990).

Bowen (1977) contended that “higher education should equip students to discover what is right in society, as well as, what is wrong” in order to become intellectually connected to their communities and to develop the skills and abilities to engage in positive change. Does this value pale when compared to social events? When push comes to shove what values take precedence and why? One muses over what type of environment we have created and what type of student it recruits.

How do we define student success relating to those involved in the Greek system? Are we developing men and women of moral character, leaders with skill, vision and critical thinking that will influence not only our diverse culture but the world? Shifting our philanthropic endeavors to include more civic service experiences will nurture and build more civic minded servant leaders, having a greater impact on our world. 76% of all representatives and senators belong to a fraternity and 40 of 47 U.S. Supreme Court Justices since 1910 are fraternity men. More than 85% of student leaders on approximately 730 campuses are involved in the Greek community. Bill Clinton (Alpha Phi Omega), Elizabeth Dole (Delta Delta Delta), George H. W. Bush (Delta Kappa Epsilon), Condoleezza Rice (Alpha Chi Omega), Martin Luther King, Jr. (Alpha Phi Alpha), Ronald Reagan (Tau Kappa Epsilon), General Richard Meyers (Sigma Alpha Epsilon), Warren Buffet (Alpha Sigma Phi), Ann Moore (Pi Beta Phi), Jerry Yang (Phi Kappa Psi), Neil Armstrong (Phi Delta Theta), Eli Manning (Sigma Nu), Alice Sheets Marriott (Chi Omega) and Thurgood Marshall (Alpha Phi Alpha) are all Greek affiliated. Will the next generation of leaders come from sororities and fraternities?

Civic service engagement is supported by David Kolb’s experiential learning theory. Kolb’s theory involves a learning style model that has 1) reflective observation, 2) abstract conceptualization, 3) concrete experience and 4) active experimentation. While I was at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I took several Greek students on four to six week summer trips to Zambia. We spent several months before our departure learning about Zambia’s culture, fundraising, reflecting on articles about leadership and stewardship and participated in bonding exercises as a team.

On location, philosophy turned to reality, as concrete experience took center stage. Some of our most memorable experiences took place in our reflective observation times together at the end of the day as we shared honestly and authentically from what we had just experienced. This is the place where personal transformation occurs, lifetime commitments and convictions are pounded out like metal on the anvil. The place where one comes face to face with the truth that with privilege comes responsibility. You cannot replicate this in a bowling Athlon fun night at the student union back on cam-pus raising funds for MS followed by a social drinking event where many get intoxicated.

I witnessed the same transformation when I took students to the inner cities of Chicago and St. Louis. Students had to live in crowded accommodations for sleeping and rest rooms, worked long and hard days clearing out condemned buildings, read with grade school children after school got out, helped with sports and figured out healthy fun nights with teens. Issues of injustice and poverty became real.

John Dewey’s educational and social philosophy theory includes learning from experience, reflective activity, citizenship, community, and democracy (1916).
Service learning trips to inner cities connect to Dewey's theory.

The disequilibrium these two experiences (Zambia and the inner cities) created with students was fascinating to hear and observe. It was a sacred time for us. A time of reflection, not from the fraternity or
sorority house, but from the place of injustice. These are times that invigorate me and make me proud to be Greek. I am involved with a community that wants to make a difference and is a part of something bigger than them. But sadly, I find this Greek ethos has been diminished, lost, or replaced with social events taking center stage instead of being a piece of the Greek college experience.

“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

Reflection from what ones sees, feels, smells, touches and hears is priceless. It has the opportunity to fill one with a sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare. Our true character surfaces quickly in these real situations. Character development can be shaped in these teachable moments if you have the right leader, ask the right questions and guide personal discovery before giving insight.

Learning to say no to yourself, being last, taking the position of a servant or seeing first hand, by being with the people, what it means to be downcast, discouraged and hopeless can be monumental in personal growth. Mother Teresa said, “let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.” This cannot be replicated in selling t-shirts in the student union for breast or prostate cancer, even though that is needed and valuable. These are the events that have the opportunity to shape young men and women with lessons for a lifetime, like realizing they view the world through a U.S. centric lens and how unhealthily those lenses influence us. I thought I was going to help and influence Zambia but actually Zambia helped and influenced me more. I became a different and better leader, father and person because of Zambia. I am indebted to the people of Zambia.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,”
Martin Luther King Jr.

May we be a fraternal community that does not become silent about the things that matter. May we fulfill our mission and calling of developing young people in moral character, spirituality, civic service, academics and leadership, significantly impacting our nation and the world.


  • Do we understand the difference between philanthropic fundraising and civic service engagement?
  • How do we engage, embrace and encourage our active chapter members and national leadership to adopt civic service engagement pedagogy with best practices?
  • Are we strategic in our leadership development aside from the yearly, one-week leadership institute, and how can civic service be a part of this development?
  • How can we better equip future leaders in issues of public policy, injustice, civic service, personal responsibility and global and cultural awareness? Is this even on our radar?
  • Why do we struggle with a negative “branding” given by outsiders observing our fraternal community and how can civic service engagement at home and abroad curb this perspective?
  • What are we passionate about? What causes align with our passions?

Connection magazine (AFLV)

John R. Hatfield.


Astin, A.W. (1996). Involvement in Learning revisited: lessons we have learned... Journal of College Student Development, 37 (2), 123-133.

Astin, A.W., & Sax, L.J. (1998). How undergraduates are affected by service participation. Journal of College Student Development, 39(3), 251-263.

Bowen, H.R. (1977). Investment in Learning: The individual and social value of American higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Colby, A.M., Beaumont, E., Ehrlich, T., & Corngold, J. (2007). Educating for Democracy: Preparing students for responsible political engagement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Cress, C.M, Burack C., Giles, JR. D., Elkins, J., Stevens, M., A Promising Connection, Increasing College Access and Success Through Civic Engagement, Campus Compact, September 2010

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press
Grantmakers for Education. (2010). Promoting college success: What we know and what we Should do. Retrieved August 17, 2010, from
Hurtado, S., Engberg, M., & Ponjuan, L. (2003). The impact of college experience on Students ‘learning for a diverse democracy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Portland, OR.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Moore, L. V. (Ed.) (1990). Evolving Theoretical Perspectives on Students. New Directions for Student Services, 51.
Rudolph, F. (1990). The American college and university: A history. Athens, GA: University of Athens Press Stanton, T.K., Giles, Jr. D, Cruz N. I. Service-Learning: A movement’s pioneers reflect on its origins, practice, and future. Jossey-Bass 1999
Vogelgesang, L.J., Ikeda, E.K., Gilmartin, S.K., & Keup, J.R. (2002). Service-learning and the First-year experience: learning from the research.
Zlotkowski (ED.). Service-Learning and the first year experience: Preparing students for Personal success and civic responsibility (pp.15-26). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Connection magazine (AFLV)

John R. Hatfield


The Great Divide was last modified: June 21st, 2021 by John R. Hatfield