Collegiate fraternity and sorority chapters have grown exponentially over the history of the university Greek system. The first North American fraternity was Phi Beta Kappa, founded at the College of William and Mary in 1775. By the mid-1850s, sororities, or “women’s fraternities” as they were known at that time, were established, beginning with Pi Beta Phi. The term sorority came into common use toward the end of that century.
Fast forward to today. On college campuses across the continent, there are approximately nine million student and alumni members of fraternities and sororities, many of whom have gone on to become senators and presidents, successful business leaders, sports heroes, movie stars and much more.
With undergraduate Greek chapters making up about three percent of the total population across the United States and Canada, the internal hierarchy and sense of order and decorum built into Greek life become all the more crucial, especially as chapters must learn to manage upwards of one hundred brothers or sisters each semester. Thus, it’s crucial that new officers are able to get a handle on the best chapter management practices as quickly as possible.
Managing a chapter means maintaining your fraternity or sorority chapter’s recruitment, budget and finances, chapter operations and chapter house, while coordinating with national advisors and university officials and fostering strong alumni/alumnae relations.
Luckily, there are some Chapter Management Tips for New Officers that will help keep officer transitions--and therefore the chapter itself--running smoothly.
A new recruitment chair can feel overwhelmed with the task of managing the growth of her or his chapter, fostering a positive image for the chapter and promoting it, as well as on some level being the gatekeeper for quality of future sisters or brothers.
One important central tenet of being a new recruitment chair, in order to smoothly transition into the new role and keep recruitment on a positive trend, is to rely on software and web presence, as well as other people. This will help new recruitment chairs hone their best tool in the recruitment process: themselves.
The idea is not to rely solely on software, or social media presence with potential new members, but to use this to accent communication with the chapter for recruitment decisions. You’ll want other sisters or brothers’ opinions on potential new members, the opinions of past recruitment chairs, the president and possibly alumni or national advisors. You might consider using software such as ChapterBuilder to help manage recruitment. For sororities wanting to communicate and vote on potential new members during the recruitment process, consider using Bidlily or Select-a-Sis software. This ensures the recruitment process isn’t on one member’s shoulders and is a form of democratic quality control.
A new fraternity treasurer or sorority treasurer is tasked with perhaps the most important and difficult job in his or her chapter, which is managing the chapter’s financial future. This means collecting membership dues and budgeting for the chapter’s activities and other costs during the current semester or year. It also means actively managing that budget, keeping sisters or brothers updated about financial matters and communicating about finances with national advisors and university officials.
Transitioning into the new role of financial steward for your chapter may be daunting, but there are some steps a new treasurer can take to ensure things go smoothly. First, read through and reference when necessary your chapter’s regulations for your role. This could include due dates and necessary steps in planning and maintaining the budget, as well as other tasks of the treasurer. When are national dues, house payments and insurance due? Meet up with the past treasurer and ask questions about how best to perform in this new role. Study past semesters’ budgets. When collecting dues, set up a payment plan option, but also stick to the letter of the law when it comes to late or non-payment. Be consistent from the start.
Finally, consider the use of financial software such as OmegaFi’s Vault. Vault helps chapters maintain a fluid budget, open transparency between members, officers, parents and other appropriate parties. Vault also comes with the assistance of OmegaFi’s financial experts to help in setting up and managing the budget.
With the more specialized roles of treasurer, recruitment chair and others filled in, there is also a need for broader managerial oversight of a chapter house and its residents. This comes from the president, vice president, house manager and similar positions at the top step of the chapter officer hierarchy.
Tip: Managing a chapter house and managing a chapter go hand in hand. A lot of what you apply to one task will carry over to the other. New officers should understand that managing a house entails specific tasks such as coordinating inspections and official house payments and maintenance, delineating household chores and behavior based on a set of house rules, defusing disagreements among members and enforcing study hours. Overall chapter management includes overseeing the broader array of chapter activities and guiding other officers and members when necessary, enforcing discipline and being the face of your organization.
As you can see, many of the same qualities in a new officer will help accomplish both managing a chapter house and the chapter itself: consistency and fairness, attention to detail and an unwavering commitment to chapter values. Effective chapter management means having open communication with members, alumni/alumnae and others. You can use GINSystem software to facilitate these communication goals. But it also means setting personal boundaries, and delineating tasks to others when necessary. The one tip new top-tier chapter officers need to remember the most is that it is not their job to do everything, but to make sure everything is done right.
A new alumni/alumnae relations officer needs to understand that donations and fundraising are directly tied to building human relationships. That is the primary task of the new alumni/alumnae relations chair. You’re going to want to write a chapter newsletter, engage with local alumni/alumnae in person and invite them to events and chapter meetings, include them in recruitment decisions and utilize their donations responsibly and effectively.
These relationships can be tricky when money is involved, and while many alumni/alumnae want to give back to their undergraduate chapter, they also want to know their contributions are appreciated and used for projects that are important to the chapter. For instance, if you are renovating your chapter house, it’s important to build a capital fundraising campaign that engages alumni/alumnae to achieve such a large-scale goal. Fundraising specialists such as those at Pennington & Company can help a chapter build and manage their campaign, as well as help a chapter and its alumni/alumnae engage in meaningful ways that will ultimately make fundraising a success.
No matter the task, managing a chapter can be a daunting task for new officers. But with proper guidance and the right tips and tools, new chapter officers can achieve their goals and keep the chapter running smoothly and efficiently.
We believe that every aspect of chapter management is a whole lot easier when the chapter finances are running smoothly. We would love to talk more with you about how we can help with chapter financial management. Check out OmegaFi for more info.