I’m excited to post my first blog as Board Chair of O∆K. This gives me the opportunity to announce that Willie Banks (University of Georgia, 2002) has been elected board chair-elect. My predecessor, Matt Clifford (Davidson College, 2001), is now serving as immediate past board chair. Darwin Jones (University at Albany, 2004) and W. Jeffery Edwards (Washington and Lee University, 1981) will continue to serve in their respective roles as national treasurer and national counsel. Hamediah Alsafwani (University of Nebraska, Omaha, 2017) is now serving as national student vice chair. Also, the board recently completed a three-year contract with Tara Singer (University of Louisville, 1981) to continue to serve as O∆K’s president and chief executive officer through June 30, 2023.
As you can imagine, the COVID-19 crisis had significant consequences for our member institutions, our organization, and the Society’s finances. The final number of new initiates this fiscal year was 6,037, as compared to 7,360 new members last year. However, with prudent and timely financial actions, our organization remains financially stable. I’ll share more about the financial outlook for O∆K below.
The civic unrest across the country, in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, has also been a concern within O∆K. On June 2, our Society issued a statement Reaffirming Our Values and Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity. We followed the statement with a survey about what our members are doing and recommendations on what our Society may do to be a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization. We received numerous helpful suggestions about how circles could best recruit diverse and inclusive memberships, plus ways in which O∆K could better support campus and community leaders of color.
Please read below for more recent updates about Omicron Delta Kappa.
In anticipation of a reduced number of new initiates this year, the Society successfully secured a forgivable loan from the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program. Also, O∆K received $8,000 in economic disaster relief from the Federal government. With adjustments in spending and utilizing a portion of the Society’s reserve fund, our organization is well-positioned for the new fiscal year. We also secured a $300,000 line of credit, which we hope to reserve for spending on strategic investments. In addition, we were delighted to learn that by the end of the second quarter our endowment recovered the losses from earlier in the year. As of June 30, the endowment is at $1,894,582.
National Day of Giving and Campaign Progress
The 2020 O∆K National Day of Giving was a tremendous success. This year, the Society especially encouraged donors to support the Gift of Membership (Opportunity Fund), which pays the lifetime initiation fee for prospective members needing financial assistance. Several donors restricted their contributions to help underrepresented populations. In outright dollars, members and friends gave $36,901 in support of leadership. The total raised, including matching gifts, was $62,122. Also, we are proud to report that a total of $3.63m has been secured toward our comprehensive campaign goal of $5.1m. Notable recent donations include two planned gifts: one benefitting the preservation and maintenance of the historic Lexington train station (which serves as our National Headquarters), and another designated for the Gift of Membership.
V is for Virtual
During the spring semester, the Society sponsored two virtual initiation ceremonies. There were more than 1,200 participants, representing 57 circles, who became members through these programs. Many other circles held their own online ceremonies. In June, O∆K recognized 22 individuals through our first virtual National Awards Ceremony broadcast, that may be viewed on the ODK HQ YouTube channel. Unfortunately, our 2020 National Leadership Conference was canceled because of COVID-19; however, a number of the scheduled programs from the conference are in development to be shared as podcasts during the upcoming school year. Given the uncertainty of plans for college classes and travel, we are planning for the 2021 National Leadership Conference to be a virtual event.
Throughout the last several years, one of the recurring topics has been ways in which O∆K could better engage collegiate members earlier in their academic careers. Many circles have advocated for the acceptance of sophomores as members. Circle officers have indicated that they believe earlier initiation will lead to greater member engagement and retention. The Board of Trustees voted in April to allow circles to begin to initiate sophomores as members in the upcoming academic year. When students get initiated late in their academic careers, they may not have significant opportunities to be active collegiate members of our Society. We are also aware that many upper class students have limited time for significant involvement in O∆K, due to work, internships, and other obligations.
Many of today’s students arrive on campus with substantial leadership experience, assume significant campus leadership roles during their first year, and often have credit hours that put them very close to junior standing at the end of two or three semesters. As always, all new O∆K initiates will be required to be in the top 35% of their academic class and evaluated for selection by the members of their circles. Circles will not be required to initiate sophomores, but will now have the option to do so. This change is not about trying to enhance membership numbers. The goals of this change are to make sure that students have the opportunity to become active members in their circles, have meaningful knowledge of O∆K before taking on leadership and officer roles, and have the chance to take advantage of member benefits when they are students, including participation in the National Leadership Conference. We trust that additional collegiate engagement will also lead to future commitment and involvement as alumni.
The COVID-19 crisis also has had an impact on the installation of new circles. Piedmont College, Wilson College, and the University of Minnesota – Duluth have delayed their chartering ceremonies to the 2020-21 academic year.
Strategic Planning Task Force
The Society has retained RISE Partnerships to serve as its strategic planning counsel. In the next few weeks, the RISE team will be holding a series of virtual focus groups to collect member perspectives on the future and direction of Omicron Delta Kappa. The Board of Trustees will be reviewing the draft plan toward the end of the calendar year, and it is expected that it will be formally released in 2021.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank you for your continued interest and investment in Omicron Delta Kappa. We genuinely appreciate the devotion of our members. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about the Society. I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is my great honor to serve O∆K and continue our work in developing the campus leaders of today into the community leaders of tomorrow.
Yours in O∆K,
Sally K. Albrecht (Rollins College, 1975)
Chair, Board of Trustees
Omicron Delta Kappa Society and Educational Foundation, Inc.