Each fraternity brother is familiar with the concept of membership dues, which he is typically required to pay on a per-semester basis in exchange for continued membership in a fraternity chapter associated with the university he attends. A fraternity brother current on his dues typically enjoys the benefits of his chapter, which are tangible and itemized in the budget, as well as intangible: brotherhood comradery, life-long networking and social connections, and an enhanced collegiate experience as a result.
A fraternity chapter’s membership dues form the basis of the chapter’s semesterly budget and are a direct means by which the chapter accomplishes its major goals regarding housing, event and ceremony planning, philanthropy outreach, social activities, promotion, recruitment, participation in intramural sports, and more.
Dues and budgeting are typically handled by a chapter’s chairmen, particularly the chapter treasurer who is often aided by the president and other chairs in determining an appropriate budget for the semester. Although running a small business is in many ways significantly more complex than running a fraternity chapter, and benefits from specific training or degree work, a broad parallel can nonetheless be drawn between the two. Particularly, chapters require the contribution of its members, careful budgeting, outreach and promotion to keep the chapter running. A chapter seeks growth. Additionally, a chapter suffers when finances are not properly balanced, when its presence on campus dwindles or when it is otherwise run poorly.
These comparisons aside, fraternity dues are a specific means by which a chapter’s budget is formed. Whereas a business may operate by profit from a sold product or service to outside consumers, a fraternity chapter’s outside funding is merely supplementary to membership dues and other fees paid by the brothers themselves. This leaves us with the important question: Exactly What Are Fraternity Dues?
A brother may be required to pay a number of costs and investments outside of the official membership dues amount, set by the chapter. The first cost associated with fraternity membership could be a bid fee that the student pays to his university’s Intrafraternity council, up to about $100, though often less than this amount. There may also be housing costs if a brother chooses to live in a fraternity house with his brothers. This can be somewhat expensive, averaging several thousand dollars per semester, though typically it’s less expensive than choosing to live in an on-campus dormitory. There can also be a meal plan cost in order to employ a chef or food staff to cook for brothers.
In addition to these, individual chapters may fine brothers for infractions such as missing events. Finally, a brother may also need to invest in, for instance, clothing with fraternity letters, paddles for big brother/little brother lineages, investment in charity and philanthropy, and other miscellaneous costs associated with his chapter’s activities throughout the semester that are not budgeted for within cumulative membership dues.
When all other fees and costs are set aside, a fraternity chapter’s membership dues are what the brother pays explicitly to participate as a lettered member. A member’s dues can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the chapter and its costs of operation. Brothers are sometimes given the option to pay in increments throughout a semester, or if paying dues in advance are offered a discounted cost. Part of a fraternity treasurer’s job description is to help and encourage the payment of dues. Although it is incumbent upon the brother to pay them punctually, or he may suffer a number of consequences, ranging from loss of privileges, to being placed on inactive status until the dues can be paid, to, in extreme instances, the chapter seeking legal redress via a collections process.
A per-member dues amount is determined by calculating what revenues a chapter will need for its expenses and activities throughout a semester, as well as chapter debt and savings. A chapter treasurer will often overestimate cost and underestimate the income of membership dues, so as to not end the semester with a deficit or else be unable to accomplish the chapter’s goals. Dues contribute to a budget determined by the treasurer, though he is often aided by the chapter president and other chairs in determining how much each chair will need for his planned activities throughout the semester, and how much will be needed for general fees such as housing and national dues, among other costs.
Some typical costs budgeted for with the use of fraternity membership dues include: conference attendance, recruitment (venue, food, marketing, etc.), associate member retreats/education, scholarship, administrative costs, cost of software or other tools, website maintenance, intramural sports fees, Intrafraternity council fees, philanthropy, rituals, socials, formals, alumni engagement, composite photographs and more. Brothers who pay fraternity dues should be given transparent access to the budget by the chapter treasurer in order to understand what exactly their dues are funding.
A treasurer may also seek the usage of fraternity financial software such as OmegaFi’s Vault. This type of fraternity software helps manage dues collection and banking transactions, gives members and other appropriate parties (such as parents) access to online payment and updates brothers with reminders of payment due dates. It also offers access to professional representatives to aid in setting and maintaining a chapter budget.
Whatever method the treasurer uses to accomplish his budgeting tasks, it is appropriate to maintain a record of fraternity dues each semester, paid in part or full and remainders due. A record should also be kept of the budget items, expenses, any final surpluses or other important aspects of the budget, according to the national organization’s standards. A treasurer, other chairmen and dues-paying members should maintain a cohesive relationship regarding dues, their payment and how they are implemented.
While a fraternity chapter’s membership dues may seem an inane constant in a brother’s life as a lettered member of his organization, these dues nonetheless form the financial center of the chapter’s operations each semester, and their payment and management are crucial to the chapter’s success within the larger university ecosystem.