After reading all about Real Break, you head straight to the Real Break page to see what trips are during your spring break. After agonizing over which of these amazing journeys to embark on, you finally pick one and set out to register…until you see the price.
Not many college students have extra cash lying around. You’re left with fundraising and asking people for money, which can be awkward and uncomfortable.
My godmother, who has made her career out of fundraising, helped me greatly when I was raising money for my two Real Break trips, so I asked her to share some of her pro tips. Here’s some advice for different ways to politely and successfully get the donations flowing in.
- Ask. If you don’t ask, people don’t give. Sounds simple but so many forget to “make the ask.”
- You are not asking for people to give you cash just to spend as you wish. You are asking for them to INVEST in an experience that will change your lives and help you grow as people.
- Don’t ask without context. Outline the purpose of the trip – why is it important to you and to others for you to go. Explain what the money is going for (it is actually an incredible deal that it covers airfare, accommodations, and site fees) and say that it is a trip sponsored by OCF.
- Say, “Would you be willing to invest in making this experience possible for me?” THEN BE SILENT (if asking in person). Nature/people abhor silence. Count to 25 slowly and let the other person come back with a reply. They are processing and thinking. Your inclination as the solicitor will be to feel uncomfortable and start to fill the silence by saying “it’s ok…there’s no need for you to give now….” BE SILENT.
- Share what your goal is and state a gift range. Don’t shoot too low and don’t shoot too high. For example, say that the entire trip is costing $2500 and that people have given from $10 to $250.
- Speak in front of the parish during announcements. Explain what the trip is, what the money will cover, and why you’re going. Talking in front of large crowds can be scary, but the personal address gives the audience and real person and cause their money goes to. Practice your speech on some friends beforehand if you’re nervous.
- Sell something during coffee hour. Taking time to make or bake goods shows that you are dedicated to raising this money. People, especially little kids, like to get something in return for their giving. It also allows you to open up the conversation further about your Real Break trip.
- Write to your home parish. If you live far from school and don’t regularly attend your home church, write a letter and ask the priest to put in the bulletin. People who watched you grow up will be proud you’re still an active member of the church and want to support you.
Heads up: most crowdfunding sites (GoFundMe, KickStarter, etc.) take a small percentage of your donations for their own profit. I recommend GoFundMe for Real Break–their charge is 7.9%.
- Explain your trip and goal in a narrative and in bullet points. People learn and process information in different ways. Some people will respond to reading and others to a video – if you can, shoot a short (30 second) video of yourself and attach it to your email or post on your crowdfunding page.
- Share your GoFundMe page on social media and encourage others to share it to to reach max audience. Post some sort of update everyday to show people the progress you’re making so they’re encouraged to give.
- Email your GoFundMe page out. Even if people have a Facebook, they may not check it every day. Most people check their email regularly, and it expands your range of potential donors outside of social media.
A question we’ve received from students is, how do we get more involved in the community as an OCF? I’m not sure if this is referring to the Orthodox community, the campus community, or the general community so I’m going to answer all three.
The Orthodox Community
Integrating yourself and your OCF into your local Orthodox community is crucial. They can provide you with resources and networking opportunities, as well as be a support system for you and your chapter.
- Go to church. Seriously, that’s the best way to get to know the other Orthodox people near you. People in the parish will recognize your face and start getting to know you. Stick around for coffee hour afterward, and say hi to someone new.
- Actively engage in your church. Sing in the choir, chant, read the Epistle, pass the tray, teach church school, serve in the altar, or host coffee hour. Communal prayer and worship is huge in the Orthodox world, so join in!
- Find an Orthodox charity. See if there’s a REAL weekend going on nearby, or something with FOCUS or IOCC. It’s a ready made way to meet the local ‘Dox. If not, see if there’s something your chapter can do remotely, like making hygiene kits to send to disaster areas.
- Go to College Conference or on a Real Break trip. This the most sure fire way to meet other Orthodox students like you from across the nation.
The Campus Community
- Host an event. Ask your Spiritual Advisor or another Orthodox speaker to give a lecture or lead a discussion on campus. Invite other faith-based groups and your friends.
- Participate in Day of Light. Set up a table in a high traffic area on campus and invite students to light candles in honor of a loved one.
- Rock some OCF swag around campus. People will see “Orthodox Christian Fellowship” on your t-shrirt or lanyard and ask, “Hey, what’s that?” Check out our e-store.
- Invite your friends or classmates to an OCF meeting or social event. “Come and see” is the simple and easy motto we have for spreading our faith.
The General Community
- Volunteer. Rally your chapter together and head out to a soup kitchen or to pick up garbage. It’ll be a great bonding experience and extend the name of OCF past the bounds of a college campus.
- Go to a sporting event together. More often than not, if you register as a group you get a shoutout on the scoreboard or in the program. And also, the group discount.
We have been asked about how chapters can engage in interfaith and inter-Christian events and dialogue, and in honor of Orthodox Awareness Month and #TakeTheChallenge, we’d like to offer some suggestions.
Disclaimer: These cannot and should not serve as the only point of reference in planning events with other religious organizations. First and foremost, you should consult with your chapter’s Spiritual Advisor for guidance and discernment. Additionally, you can reference the document published by the Assembly of Bishops, Guidelines for Orthodox Christians in Ecumenical Relations.
Fellowship events are a great way to get to know another religious group on campus. Hospitality is a great way to show love, and learning about other people is a great way to start a relationship! Here are a few tips!
If you are hosting:
- Choose a “neutral” location like a coffee shop, a bowling alley, or an on-campus hangout.
- If possible, show hospitality by providing food or a fun activity that your guests don’t have to pay for.
- Listen more than you talk! Try to get to know the people you are hosting without letting your assumptions or preconceptions get in the way.
- Remember you are trying to make friends not converts. Don’t tell another group you’d like to have dinner when you really intend to give them an exposition of why Orthodox Christianity is the one, true faith. While, of course, you’ll probably talk religion if you invite another religious group out to dinner, steer clear of debates, disparaging comments, and triumphalism.
If you are invited by another group:
- Accept the invitation! Why not spend some time getting to know other people?
- Rally a good showing. Do your best to have all or at least most of your group attend if you have all been invited.
- Remember you are trying to make friends, not converts….see above. Be nice.
Service projects are also a great way to work with other religious groups on campus, especially other Christian groups. We all share a common goal to serve others with love and to give without receiving in return. Here are a few pointers:
If you are hosting:
- Invite the input of other leaders to figure out the best way to join forces on projects.
- If possible, work through and with existing professional organizations (soup kitchens, nursing homes, shelters, etc.). These organizations and institutions know the best practices for their particular areas of service and can guide you in carrying out your work with compassion and love.
- Invite your Spiritual Advisor or someone from the organization to debrief with your group at the end. It’s good to integrate your experiences into your everyday life, especially if you are working in an unfamiliar context.
If you are invited by another group:
- Make sure that the service project doesn’t have any strings attached. Avoid situations where the services offered come with proselytizing.
- Look into any organizations or institutions with which you are unfamiliar, and involve your Spiritual Advisor in the decision-making process.
- Remember service is not about gaining recognition for your group. Again, avoid using service opportunities as a platform for debate.
Taking time to learn about other faith groups and share the beauty of Orthodoxy can be a really exciting and fulfilling experience if done properly. The means for learning and sharing traditions can run the gamut, so here are a few ways to engage in dialogue productively and lovingly.
If you are hosting:
- Remember that “come and see” is much more effective than “sit and listen to my lecture.” Think of ways to allow people to experience first-hand the spiritual beauty of Orthodoxy. For example, lead a tour of the local parish pointing out the various stories told in the icons, host Breaking Bread so that you can teach people about the Eucharist, or put on a chanting concert open to the public.
- Find common ground as a starting place for discussion. Talk about the lives of the saints with Catholics, the centrality of the Scriptures with Protestants, the sacredness of God’s commandments with Jews, the need for self-denial with Buddhists…you get the idea. This means you’ll actually have to learn about your guests and their traditions if you want to have a meaningful discussion.
- If you are setting up a discussion or a formal debate, make sure that there are ground rules set beforehand–first within your own chapter and then with the other group(s) participating–about speaking respectfully, what subjects/language is off-limits, how to make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard, etc. And then, follow the rules and guidelines you set up with the utmost care.
- Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” If a question is raised to which you don’t know the answer, say so, and do your best to follow up. It’s much better to go and find out than to make something up or give a half-baked answer to save face.
- Strive to love and understand, not to win or prove someone wrong. How you say or do something is just as important as what you say. Speak the truth in love, not with judgement, condemnation, or haughtiness. Remaining calm and speaking with love will provide a stronger witness of Christ’s grace working in you than reciting the canons of the Ecumenical Councils vociferously (I think St. Paul agrees).
If you are invited:
- Accept invitations that allow simply for a better understanding of another faith group such as tours, concerts, and cultural fairs.
- If you are invited to participate in a discussion, debate, or panel, make sure you know all the details: What is the end goal? Who else is invited? Who is funding or backing the forum? Will it be open to the public? Who is the moderator? What are the topics? Any of these things could be deciding factors as to whether or not you should participate. You’re going to need your Spiritual Advisor’s involvement on this one for sure.
- Remember that if you choose to participate in a debate where you are the only Orthodox Christian, both your words and actions will, whether you like it or not, reflect on the Church and Christ. Tread carefully in these situations, and try to avoid putting yourself in a position where you do not feel prepared to speak on a particular topic.
Worship is the trickiest category when working with other religious groups. You should always involve your Spiritual Advisor when it comes to making decisions about inter-Christian or interfaith prayer and worship. This is when that guide from the Assembly of Bishops really comes in handy, too.
If you are hosting:
- You can always invite people to visit Orthodox worship services. I suggest Vespers or Paraklesis as a good starting place if people are interested. If you host a Day of Light, you get a built in opportunity to pray for others and invite them to visit an Orthodox service.
- Be prepared with books or printouts for people to follow the service, and make sure that you are available to guide people along if they look lost.
- Make time to discuss the services before or after so that people have an opportunity to ask questions.
- If you bring groups to Liturgy, respectfully let them know beforehand that only baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians may receive Holy Communion.
If you are invited:
- Generally speaking, Orthodox Christians can participate in non-liturgical prayer with other Christians and can observe the worship of others without participating, but get the blessing of your Spiritual Advisor to go.
- Be kind and curious. Ask questions respectfully and do not use another’s hospitality as an opportunity to insult them.
- If you feel uncomfortable, leave. And along the same lines, if someone in your group doesn’t feel comfortable attending at all, don’t pressure or force them to go.
- Avoid participating in any sacramental or spiritual rituals including, but not limited to, receiving communion in a non-Orthodox church, altar calls, offerings to idols, or meditation.
Above all, seek the guidance of your Spiritual Advisor, be faithful to the Jesus Christ and His Church, and do your best to love others by giving them your respect and attention.
It’s often tempting to think that we are all so busy that we don’t have time to really engage in spiritual things. Well, thanks to the amazing work of Ancient Faith Ministries, Y2AM, and many others, there are now hundreds of blogs, podcasts, videos, and other media out there to help us grow. Here are seven podcasts and video series that run under 20 minutes that we think you should start following. Did we mention that many of these speakers will be at College Conference this year? Click on the images to start listening and watching today!
The Morning Offering
Average Length: 4 minutes
What you can expect: A short, daily reflection on the spiritual life, culture, and other bits of wisdom from the booming voice of Abbot Tryphon
Why you should listen: In four minutes, Abbot Tryphon can give you food for thought for a whole day, whether he is talking about loving our neighbor, humility, or current events.
Be the Bee
Average Length: 5 minutes
What you can expect: Orthodox theology, tradition, and practice in small, manageable bites always with the goal of searching out and acting on the good in God’s creation featuring the infamous Steve Christoforou
Why you should watch: Ever wonder why we do what we do in Orthodox worship and practice? Need a spiritual pick-me-up? Sometimes feel like there’s a lot of negativity in the world? Steve’s your guy. With humor, wisdom, and a real love for people, Steve shares how we can, like St. Basil and St. Paisios, “be the bee.”
Average Length: 5 minutes
What you can expect: Relationships–why they matter, what they look like, how they form us, and how they save us with Christian Gonzalez, husband, father, and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for the GOA
Why you should watch: This is Y2AM’s newest video series, but from what we can tell, it’s gonna be good. Whether you’re thinking about family, friends, dating, work, or school, your life is filled with relationships, and Christian wants to help you see whoever you encounter as an opportunity to meet Christ and to engage in the spiritual life. Plus, this guy is just downright hilarious.
Average Length: 7 minutes
What you can expect: The daily Scripture readings according to the New Calendar with a brief reflection from Fr. Tom Soroka
Why you should listen: It’s hard to make up excuses for not reading Scripture daily when you can listen to Fr. Tom read it to you on your way to class!
Coffee with Sister Vassa
Average Length: 10 minutes
What you can expect: Reflections on Scripture, saints, and liturgy presented with the hilarious and dry humor of Sister Vassa Larin
Why you should watch: Sister Vassa is a professor of liturgy in Vienna, Austria, so her reflections on the liturgical life of the Church, feast days, saints, and Scripture come with a professor’s authority and knowledge, and she also shares practical ways we can imitate the saints and follow the Word of God. Plus, you don’t want to miss her entertaining captions, sound effects, and photos of the “zillions” drinking coffee with her.
Praying in the Rain
Average Length: 15 minutes
What you can expect: Excellent and personable reflections from Fr. Michael Gillis on prayer, suffering, temptation, bad thoughts, and the whole of the inner life often drawing on the writings of contemporary saints like St. Porphyrios and classic works like the Philokalia
Why you should listen: Listening to Fr. Michael is like having a spiritual elder on your smartphone. As you are learning to pray, facing the inevitable temptations that arise, falling, and getting back up again to follow Christ, Fr. Michael can give you great, simple advice along the way.
Becoming a Healing Presence
Average Length: 15-20 minutes
What you can expect: Dr. Albert Rossi from St. Vladimir’s speaks on a variety of topics that cover contemporary moral issues, Scripture, psychology, and relationships all in the context of Christ healing us so that we, too, can be a healing presence
Why you should listen: If you’ve never met or listened to Dr. Rossi, you’ll learn that no topic is off limits for him. You can browse or search the archives of his podcast and find episodes on things as diverse as pornography, schizophrenia, vocation, marriage, suicide, forgiveness, and time management.