Cardinal Key members volunteering at a JDRF walk

Chapter Support

One of the main, though often underutilized, roles of the National Board is to support our local chapters in their various endeavors.  Whether you’re looking for new ideas, ways to improve what you already do, or just need inspiration, this is where you can come to get an idea of things that other chapters are doing.  Does your chapter do something exceptionally well?  Tell us about it, so that we can feature your event or activity in our KeyNotes or on the website!

In this section, we’ve highlighted areas pertinent to every chapter:

Group photo of a Cardinal Key chapter


Must be turned in to the National Office by:

  • New Member Registration Fee ($50.00)
    December 31st or May 31st, depending on the semester of initiation
  • Returning Member Dues ($15.00)
    December 31st or May 31st, depending on the semester of initiation
  • Chapter Dues ($100.00)
    May 31st


You will  find our Constitution and Bylaws, Handbook, and all of the National Forms by contacting the National Office including:

  • Petition for Membership
    Due December 31st or May 31st, depending on the semester of initiation
  • Membership Report
    Due December 31st or May 31st, depending on the semester of initiation
  • Annual Chapter Report
    Due May 31st
  • Annual Officer Report
    Due May 31st


Recruiting new members is a crucial aspect of Cardinal Key since new members are the key to the continuation of the organization.

However, we have a couple facts working against us: new members must have junior status to join; some of our chapters have a one-year only membership! Even those with longer membership (allowing members to remain active the rest of their college career), have members for at most two or three years. With turnover so rapid, it is essential to recruit members who are committed to the organization. Recruiting new members is the future of the organization, however many chapters struggle to attract applicants.

One of the most important aspects to recruitment is creating a strong presence of Cardinal Key on your campus. When students see members active on the campus and in the community, they will become interested in the organization. So how do you increase your presence and visibility? We came up with a few suggestions for you:

  • Undertake service projects that are happening on the campus.
  • Have distinct apparel:
    • Order red sweatshirts or t-shirts that say Cardinal Key
    • Have all members wear red (or gold) on a particular day of the week or month
    • Dress in a Cardinal Key or red shirt when doing service projects
    • Use the patch you are given in your new member packet! Put it on a bag you use regularly, or have everyone put them on similar cardigans, blazers, or shirts
  • Recognize your new (and current) members in a visible way:
    • Take out an ad in the college or university newspaper congratulating new members
    • Auburn participates in their campus “honors call out” where applicants find out that they have been  chosen or “tapped” for membership
    • Make sure to wear your graduation cords that come in your new member packet!

Whatever the method, creating a strong campus presence is an important part of recruiting new members.

It is vital to publicize the organization and the recruitment process on the campus through a variety of means.  Chapters should start publicizing their recruitment as early as possible. It could be helpful to create a theme for your publication, which can be done through poster or banners on campus, email, facebook, websites, or other methods.  Chapters can also set up tables around campus in high traffic areas to provide students with information and applications.  Many chapters have had success in recruiting by sending a letter to all the students who qualify to become members of Cardinal Key (your Sponsor, President, or Secretary can usually get a list of addresses from the Registrar).  Other chapters send letters to faculty and staff asking for membership recommendations. On smaller campuses, these letters can be followed up with formal or informal visits to potential members.

Recruitment will look somewhat different, based on the size and traditions at each campus, but Cardinal Key chapters must be creative in coming up with ways to attract potential new members.   It may be helpful to organize a team or committee of current members whose focus only on recruitment. However, never underestimate the impact that individual members of Cardinal Key have on the recruitment process.  Reaching out to individuals to invite them, and talking about CK on a regular basis can be a part of recruitment!

Successfully recruiting new members who are passionate and committed will help ensure the continued success of Cardinal Key on your campus.  If you are struggling, we are here to help.  If you have very successful recruitment, we’d love to hear from you to pass your ideas to other chapters!

New Cardinal Key members being inducted
Cardinal Key member induction at The University of West Alabama


Fundraising can play two vital roles to your chapter: first, to raise money in support of our National Philanthropy, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF); second, to allow your chapter to function without continually asking members for money.

Raising money for the JDRF allows Cardinal Key to go beyond support through volunteering (which is exceedingly important) to directly impacting their ability to find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes. For more information on how JDRF uses donations, visit their website.

Generating income for your chapter will allow you to increase your campus impact as well as support social and fellowship activities. Many Cardinal Key chapters have found that with a little extra fundraising, they can send a second (or third or fourth) person to attend the National Conference, with little direct cost to the student(s).

While college and university organizations often focus their fundraising activities on small events (bake sales, car washes, etc.), many Cardinal Key chapters have found that a concerted effort by all members during one or two large fundraisers each semester will net a more usable amount of money for their efforts.

Some interesting ideas* shared during past conferences:

  • Dodgeball tournament
  • Sponsor a 5K or 10K Run/Walk
  • Sell: cookie dough, t-shirts, “dorm friendly” cookbook
  • Car Wash – asking for donations rather than setting a price typically yields greater income
  • Sell hot chocolate, water at football games or other college events
  • Trivia Night
  • Work concessions at a professional sports game
  • Host a spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast
  • Service Auction – accept bids for Cardinal Keys to help with yard work, cleaning, cooking, etc.

We would love to hear about your successful fundraising activities, and highlight them on our website, or in our KeyNotes Newsletters. Let us know what is working for your chapter!

*For JDRF specific fundraising ideas, see their Fundraising Page.


“Faith, Trust, Fortitude, Wisdom; I shall observe them faithfully, that my service be genuine, my life complete.”

Service is a cornerstone of what it means to be a Cardinal Key. Remember that you do not need to have a ton of money or be extremely skillful in a particular area to impact the lives of others. Every individual and each chapter have something to offer campus and community. Oftentimes, the tendency to believe that we must travel far, or make a grand gesture for service to “count.” But, we want to encourage you that no matter the size of your service, if it is genuine, it will reverberate throughout your own life, as well as that of those you serve.

Perhaps your chapter doesn’t currently spend much of its time with service, or maybe you’re having a difficult time getting members to participate. We would love to help! Contact us and we will help your inspire your chapter to make an impact on your campus and in your community.

Engage with Service

So rally your chapter around a common cause. It could be something you create as a tradition or a need you see in your community. Whatever the cause…serve!

We have provided you with some ideas from other chapters’ service projects, and also some of our favorite quotations about service, which we hope will prove valuable resources for you and your chapter.

Group photo of Cardinal Key members attending a JDRF walk
A Cardinal Key member painting a young girl's face

Service Quotations

Our Favorite Service Quotes
Sometimes, it helps to have stirring words to “rally the troops” when you’re gearing up for a service event.  Here are just a few things others have said:

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

~Edmund Burke; Irish author, statesman, philosopher

One of the great movements in my lifetime among educated people is the need to commit themselves to action. Most people are not satisfied with giving money; we also feel we need to work.

~Peter Drucker; writer, “social ecologist”

Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.

~Marian Wright Edelman; activist, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

~Marian Wright Edelman; activist, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

~Albert Einstein; theoretical physicist

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

~Anne Frank; Holocaust victim

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.

~Edward Everett Hale; author, historian, Unitarian clergyman

Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.; clergyman, Civil Rights Activist

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

~Albert Schweitzer; French theologian, philosopher, missionary

Service Ideas

Every Cardinal Key Chapter has dry periods, when no one can think of a new and exciting service project. Never fear, we are here to help! We’ve complied ideas from chapters across the country in hopes that it might inspire your chapter to get out and serve your campus and community in a new way.

Ideas for Service Projects:
When available, we provide a link where you can find more information about large scale service opportunities.

  • Support a local nursing home through playing games, or “adopting” grandparents
  • Send care packages to deployed military members (contact your local military installation, reserve unity, or Give 2 the Troops
  • Collect food for:
  • Simulate homelessness in a prominent place on campus or in your community and collect donations (food, toiletries, shoes, blankets, coats)
  • Hold a Book Drive for a local library
  • Partner with other campus service organizations for larger projects, or coordinate a large service day for the entire campus
  • Adopt a portion of road through Department of Transportation Highway Cleanup (search for your state’s DOT Adopt-a-Highway program)
  • Tutor or read to students in local schools
  • Sort clothes for the Salvation Army or Goodwill
  • Help with Blood Drives
  • Sort food for food banks
  • Help with voter registration
  • Collect Clothes for:
    • A local women’s shelter
    • A Coat Drive
    • Fire Victims
  • Work with Habitat for Humanity
  • Participate in the Great American Cleanup
  • Perform Random Acts of Kindness:
    • Hand out candy to people standing in long lines (e.g. buying or returning books at the beginning or end of semester)
    • Hang out in residence hall laundry rooms or at laundromats and do laundry or folding
    • Deliver cookies to late night shifts of campus security, police, fire station, emergency room workers, residence halls workers, etc
    • Clean bathrooms in residence halls
    • Pump gas for people in inclement weather
    • Collect coupons and then tape them to products in stores
    • For more ideas, check out Random Acts of Kindness’s idea page


Merchandise can greatly help create unity and establish an identity for your chapter. With uniform t-shirts, sweatshirts, patches, polos, buttons, key chains bags, cardigans, blazers, or whatever you choose, you can increase recognition across campus and in the community.

Don’t forget that in your New Member Packet, the National Office provides all members with graduation cords!

Is cost a concern? If so, you may consider having the chapter purchase a “set” of apparel that is then rented for a small fee to members. This works best with items such as fleeces, cardigans, blazers, and other outwear rather than shirts. Many chapters keep the same t-shirt design for several years so that they can be passed down, or printed for lower cost since set-up cost is typically waived on re-orders. The continuity will also increase recognition for your chapter on campus.


When considering the types of merchandise you want your chapter to purchase, think about: traditions, local weather, popular trends, and cost.  Some chapters will purchase one item (typically a shirt) for their new members, but in addition have other items for purchase as well.

Here are some apparel ideas from our chapters:

  • Chadron State College members wear red blazers to which they attach the patches supplied by the National Office in New Member Packets.
  • Northern Arizona University encourages members to wear red business suits once a month.  They buy them at department stores or thrift stores.
  • Southeastern Oklahoma University CKs wear red stoles during graduation and other important events.
  • Truman State University members get t-shirts and a red sweatshirt when they join, & wear red cardigans with the Key embroidered on them to the first meeting of the month.

Red is the dominant Cardinal Key color; however, if for some reason it’s not feasible (we’re talking to you, Auburn!), you could use gold, or black with red and/or gold accents.

Below are some sample designs. All graphics on this website are the property of Cardinal Key National Honor Society, Inc. Please contact us if you would like to use any of these designs.

Group photo of the Truman State University Cardinal Key chapter
Cardinal Key merchandise designs