Kappa Kappa Psi (Stillwater, Okla.):  Advancing the Traditions

Relationship building is important to any campaign, but the nature of Kappa Kappa Psi (KKPsi), a national, co-educational fraternal organization that advances college and university bands, meant donor relationships needed to be handled with the utmost respect and consideration. This was especially true since the fraternity had lost touch with some alumni members who would be solicited for gifts. Reconnecting and rekindling ties between members and the national organization would take planning, thoughtful outreach and an inspired message.

KKPsi was founded on the campus of Oklahoma State University on November 27, 1919. In anticipation of its centennial celebration, the nonprofit retained Kinetic to guide its first major campaign. The Advancing the Traditions campaign was launched to support four major objectives:

  • National Intercollegiate Band and the Commissioning Program
  • Educational Program Expansion
  • Capital Improvements
  • Centennial Fund Initiative

“Because this was our first major campaign, we knew we needed to build a culture of philanthropy among our members,” offered Steve Nelson, National Executive Director of Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma. “Initially, our national headquarters didn’t have the institutional knowledge to manage donor relations adequately. Working with Kinetic gave us the information and perspective we needed to accomplish our goals.”

KKPsi is a student service and leadership society whose chief aim is to assist college bands and band members. Through its programs and service activities, the organization provides opportunities for college students to excel as leaders and band members. KKPsi believes that service to the college or university band program fosters responsibility, loyalty and leadership; that a spirit of brotherhood is enhanced by the participation in a band program; that music is a universal language and truly the greatest of the arts; and that through fraternal participation, each member will strive for the highest.

According to board of trustees member, Danny George, CPA, “We understood that making this decision to launch a campaign would be a huge undertaking, since we had never attempted fundraising of this magnitude for the Fraternity in our history. Frankly, we were very nervous and cautious, yet motivated. Prior to the campaign, my fundraising experience mainly had been selling items for band fundraisers. Making an ask for a multi-thousand dollar donation was anything but second nature to me. Yet, Kinetic prepared us as we learned how to start the process by focusing on cultivating relationships. This was key in making the ask. It amazes me how well we have done and how good at this some cabinet members have become.”

Malinda M. Matney, Ph.D., served as campaign chair. She had also served as the organization’s National President from 2007 to 2009: “We are an organization that tends to operate on a two- to four-year horizon, so sustaining the energy for nearly twice that time—when you include pre-campaign preparation—proved to be an interesting challenge. Also, as a collegiate fraternity, our leadership tends to be younger than that of other national organizations. Still, the challenges and the strategic work that has been invested in the campaign has strengthened us. It has been beneficial to the Fraternity in many ways beyond the money raised.”

One of the benefits was allowing the Fraternity to make many more intentional connections with current students and alumni than it had in previous decades. For example, KKPsi leveraged its centennial celebration by using the campaign as a platform to showcase two new fundraising initiatives: The 1919 Biennium Challenge for alumni and the 1919 Society for students: “As the Fraternity approaches its first centennial, its 6,000 active brothers work to enhance musicianship, leadership and service in more than 200 college band programs across the United States. With this campaign, Kappa Kappa Psi is taking a long-term approach to preserving its legacy as well as ensuring its future!”

“This was the best part for me,” said Nelson, “Seeing how people, at various levels of giving potential, responded to being asked. You could see that support for the Fraternity was important to them. They appreciated being asked, and they seemed to give at a level that stretched them beyond their normal gifts.”

Even with the enthusiasm demonstrated by its members, the campaign experienced a common transition from the initial launch to a season of perseverance. This is to be expected, since those most interested and enthusiastic are asked first to give. Nelson reflected, “As I recall, with about a year left before our national convention and the official celebration of the Fraternity’s centennial, there was some fatigue on the part of the campaign cabinet. But as excitement for the approaching celebration grew, the team was able to recommit themselves and some new progress was made in meeting our goals.”

Matney added, “We had to cultivate new national leadership every two years. Since the time we started the campaign, the entire National Council had turned over, as well as about half of our board. So thinking through the leadership cultivation piece was very important for me, personally—continually getting back in touch with what is exciting about this work and conveying it to others helped crystalize the message.”

“Our Kinetic consultants, Executive Vice President Janell Johnson and Vice President Kristy Burns, were very good at suggesting creative ways we could keep the interest level up with strategies such as the chapter challenge and targeted donation mailers,” offered George. “They took a comprehensive approach; they evaluated where we were as an organization, looked at our history of fundraising and reviewed our membership list to assist us in determining our goal. They educated us on how to cultivate donors and showed us how to develop a strong plan for the future.”

When they began the campaign journey, every-one expected the work to be hard, but what they did not anticipate is how fun and rewarding a well-guided, successful campaign can be. Said Matney, “What was especially satisfying was building a culture of gratitude. We’ve seen a shift in alumni from thinking they do their work as undergrads and reap the benefits as alumni members to understanding that a benefit and responsibility of alumni is to support future students. We received $100,000 from an alum that funded special events for our Centennial year. This allowed thousands of members of all ages to connect with the Fraternity in a wonderful way. Another gift of significance came from a couple who met one another as undergrads. The husband had just retired from a career as a band director. Band music had brought them together and remained an important part of their adult lives as well.”

Several gifts in the range of $125,000 to $150,000 moved the campaign over the finish-line to its successful $1.4 million goal.

Added Nelson, “Through-out the process, Kinetic helped us understand what we didn’t know, and then provided the information and guidance to build our confidence. Campaigns require a lot of hard work. It takes much discussion to build a consensus on how to approach major gift fundraising. At the same time, we have learned a great deal, and it will only benefit the organization in the future.”

“For me, a very meaningful aspect of the campaign was in getting a large group of people to articulate the same message about the Fraternity and share the importance of investing in the future of the college band movement with others,” shared Matney. “This will mean so much to Kappa Kappa Psi and its members, now and for the organization’s second century.”