By Moe Stephens – General Council
Nobody likes to be told they are doing something wrong. So, I’m going to ask you to brace yourself before continuing on. Ready? Ok. Each year, our chapters host at least one philanthropy event. Some of you even do two. We often hang our hats on the fact that we get out there and raise money for The ALS association. Chapters win awards for their efforts, raising thousands of dollars annually. At this point, you might be wondering what is wrong with raising money? I’ll get to that, but first I want to tell you a story.
Last spring, I was sitting in a General Council meeting and Steve Good, the Director of the Iron Phi program, was updating us on future efforts. Steve proceeded to tell us about a brilliant idea he had that involved golfing all day.
The idea was to golf 75 holes over the July 4th weekend to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous speech. Wait, you want me to play golf all day and raise money? Sign me up!
When I returned to the Pacific Northwest, I contacted the manager at the Allenmore Golf Course, which is just down the road from my house. I wanted to complete all 75 holes in one day, and I wanted to do it on July 4th. He was intrigued by the idea, and I think he also thought I was a little crazy. When he asked why I was doing this, I proceeded to tell him about The ALS Association and our Fraternity’s connection.
As soon as I finished my spiel, he told me to be at the golf course at 6:15 AM, and he would make sure everything was set up for me. When I asked if I might be able to play at a discounted rate, he graciously waved me off and told me that it was on the house. To recap, I got to play golf all day… for free!
I showed up bright and early on July 4th, ready to go. The guys in the clubhouse gave me a cart with a flag on it. Every golfer on the course that day was being told to let the guy with the flag play through. The two guys working the clubhouse had several questions for me, and I was able to educate them about ALS before I teed off.
With nobody in front of me, my first round went by quickly. After a quick snack, I started my second round. The first group that I ran into was a husband and wife that belong to the club. They were on a quick pace, so I played a couple of holes with them. The guys in the clubhouse told them all about what I was trying to do that day and why. They were both very interested to hear about ALS, and they were surprised to hear that a Fraternity man (even one as old as me) cared so much.
We reached a par 5, and I decided to continue on. Just before I teed off, the wife asked me when I expected to be done for the day. I told them that I hoped to be done around 6:30 that night and continued on to finish my next round. I finished my second round pretty early and looped back around for my third.
Not only did the golf get slower, but I was also starting to feel it. My hands were sore and my back was starting to tighten. By the end of the third round, I could no longer feel my hands. I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of the day, but let’s just say that my scores did not improve. I was keeping track of how many golfers I played with that day. Counting the first couple that I told you about, I played at least one hole with 51 fellow golfers. For the record, I actually played 76 holes that day, because I had to play my way back to the clubhouse.
Anyway, I was limping my way back to the parking lot at the end of the day, when I heard a shout. It was the couple that I had joined for a couple of holes early that morning. They had come back to congratulate me for finishing! That alone would have been amazing, but they also had three beers with them. We sat on the tailgate of my truck and shared a beer as the sun started to make its descent. It turns out, the wife’s father had passed away from ALS, and they just wanted to say thank you.
Sitting on my back deck that night, barely able to move, I had a realization. This is the part where I tell you that most of us are doing it all wrong when it comes to philanthropy. Don’t get me wrong, raising money to support research and patient care is both essential and worthy of commendation. However, we often miss the boat when it comes to educating others about our cause. I only raised about $150 for The ALS Association that day, but I was able to talk about it with 51 other golfers, the two clubhouse attendants and the manager of the golf course. If you’re a math major, you now know that at least 54 people thought about ALS that day. It has taken me almost 40 years to realize there is a whole other half of the equation we are missing when it comes to philanthropy.
Put simply, we must continue to raise funds, but we must also do a better job of educating others about why we are doing it. The what is important, but the why is essential. The great comedian George Carlin once said, “I put a dollar in the change machine; nothing changed.” He was half right. If we put a dollar in the change machine, we’ll get a dollar back. If we put a dollar in and educate others, we might just get two.
Moe is a 1999 graduate of the University of Southern Indiana and holds a MA in Higher Education Leadership from Sacramento State University. Moe has many years of progressive leadership and success in Greek Affairs. He has traveled the country working for Phi Delta Theta as both a Leadership Consultant and as the Director of Expansion. Moe and his wife, Allison, and their daughter Maya are enjoying the Pacific Northwest where Moe is the Director of Greek Life and Leadership at the University of Puget Sound. Named the AFLV West’s Greek Advisor of the Year in 2005, he also travels the country as a professional facilitator for the Recruitment Book Camp Program. Moe has a passion for the outdoors, and enjoys backpacking, running, rock climbing, cycling and golf. Previously, Moe served the Fraternity as the Pi North Province President, Awards Committee Chairman and Survey Commissioner. Moe is currently serving the Fraternity as the General Council Member-at-Large.