September 8, 2021
Following twelve years of support for Autism Speaks, Alpha Xi Delta has changed their philanthropy affiliation.
Autism speaks has faced criticism for various reasons: lack of autistic representation in decision-making positions; lack of funds going directly into services for autistic people and their families; and promoting anxiety and stereotypes towards autism and people with autism.
These concerns sparked conversations in the Alpha Xi Delta Community. According to the official statement about Alpha Xi Delta’s philanthropic focus, the decision to disassociate from the organization came from “feedback received in chapter conversations, Listening Sessions, individual communications and philanthropy survey results from nearly 4,000 Alpha Xi Delta members.”
While the decision occurred at the National level, Alma’s chapter had its share in the conversation. Elizabeth Gotaas, the chapter’s philanthropy vice president, says “our chapter had privately discussed ending our partnership with Autism Speaks when our National Sorority headquarters decided as an entire group to end the partnership, so the timing could not have been more perfect. Change was both on a small scale and large-scale level. Sisters from all over the country spoke about their need for change, including our own sisters, and our nationals responded in an appropriate matter.”
An Alpha Xi Delta sister, Kate Stymiest (‘22), recalls “At the end of last semester we started having conversations about moving away from Autism Speaks and focusing on more local work. Shortly after this, we received emails from nationals with a questionnaire regarding our feelings towards the organization. A few months following this, we received word that we were officially disaffiliating and seeking a new Philanthropy.”
The sorority announced that it will be partnering with a temporary philanthropy: the Kindly Hearts Campaign. This campaign is a year-long campaign focused on service and fundraising to support local communities in some of the areas most directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to this new philanthropy, chapter president Lexy Maas (‘22) shares, “I am looking forward to focusing on working with our local community this year! We love being able to give back and see the positive changes we make right here in Alma.”
Looking forward to working with this new philanthropy, Gotaas plans on “being more hands on with the students and seeing where our fundraising efforts go.” They plan to be able to personalize their spending more in order to tailor their fundraising to the unique needs of the Alma community.
A permanent philanthropy isn’t expected to be selected until prior to the fall of 2022. Until then, Maas says “I think overall the chapter is excited about the change! We are ready to revamp our philanthropy events and looking forward to what is coming.”