Thousands of fraternity chapters across the country suffer from the same issue: most of their members do nothing except occasionally show up.
Our leaders are overburdened by expectations from those they report to and students who want nothing more than to Netflix and chill. While they stress out, Johnny 6-pack is living the good life and smoking joints in the bathroom before the chapter meeting begins.
Perhaps your issue isn’t quite as dramatic as that, but you are certainly reading this post because you believe your membership suffers from some form of apathy, and you’re probably right. It’s common for a majority of a chapter’s membership to perform a third or less of the work required to be considered a success, and I’ve got some simple, potent ways to fix your problem!
I guarantee that following these steps as prescribed will result in a less apathetic membership, but you must follow them as prescribed. Before we begin: throw away your point system – it’s a waste of time.
Step 1: Care About Something
Sure the idea of “building better men” is noble, but every fraternity or sorority on your campus is following that same mantra. Figure out three things that your membership genuinely cares about and make your fraternity or sorority experience entirely about those three things.
If your membership can’t agree on three things, gather your least apathetic members together and figure out the three things they care most about. These are the people who are likely recruiting for you anyway, so you’ll want to recruit people who share the same frame of mind.
If there isn’t a general direction within your chapter then you should expect that members will stumble upon cheaper alternatives which yield the same social benefits.
Step 2: Talk About What You Care About
We believe that chapter meetings are meant to be sermons. (Read this for the full understanding)
Have you ever been captivated by a speaker or left a meeting feeling invigorated for whatever you are about to do? Every chapter meeting should energize your membership.
Chapter is a time to bond. It is the one time each week when we can expect to be in a room with our brothers or sisters in the bond of fraternity. Make sure your ritual is present and make sure that business is covered, but spend a significant portion of your meeting talking about or learning about one another or the direction of your fraternity.
Too cool to talk about feelings? Talk about how awesome it is to be chivalrous. . . that’s one thing that every fraternity guy pretends he cares about.
Step 3: Committees – Use Them Right
A lesson: a chairman is referred to as such because he or she typically presides over a committee. To have a chairman with no committee isn’t impossible, as demonstrated by many organizations, but it isn’t necessarily to your benefit.
When your new members join, involve them immediately in committee meetings. Build an identity around the committees and give them some real power.
Do you want to have a say in the next philanthropy event? Chapter is no longer a time to discuss plans, it’s a sermon, so you need to go to the committee meeting to get involved
Loosen up your expectations for roles within the chapter and allow temporary committees to flourish. You can have a philanthropy committee, but also a committee for specific events with a unique chairman.
If a member wants to put on a play, let him become the chairman of a theater committee and put on a play with whichever brothers want to have a little fun. It’ll help members incorporate their interests into the fraternity experience and you can likely apply it to something expected of your organization.
The committees themselves do not eliminate apathy, but the indoctrination of your members to serve on committees will enforce the idea that they must be active in some way. The men or women who join your organization will know about this expectation ahead of time, which brings us to:
Step 4: Stop Lying
If you are angry that members aren’t participating at all or do nothing more than show up to chapter, stop pretending like that’s all you need to do when talking to potential new members.
Sometimes there are men or women that we desperately want in our chapters, and sometimes we lie to get those individuals to join. That’s wrong.
Be honest with new members by telling them the real time commitments and expectations (involvement on at least one committee for example) and stop downplaying things that are realities.
Dues are a reality. Payment plan or not, if you can’t make $XXX work each academic term, you won’t be able to maintain membership. Parties are not just one thing a chapter does, parties or socials are typically 50% or more of the activities a chapter does. If you tell someone he doesn’t need to drink or doesn’t need to attend social events if he doesn’t want to, don’t get angry when he doesn’t show up or chooses not to drink.
Perhaps if we spent more time being honest about the expectations of membership, we would recruit men and women who can commit to those expectations and spend less time trying to convince our apathetic members to do things they don’t and never wanted to do.
Whatever drop in membership you experience will fix itself in one or two years because your chapter of all-stars will inevitably attract more all-stars. This is the most important objective of all.
Step 5: Fail Forward
Everyone has a fear of failure. If you are the person in your chapter who ends up doing everyone else’s job: Stop.
Let your officers, chairmen and committees fail once without repercussion, but have a discussion as to whether the position is right for them. On the second failure, that person should be removed from that position.
We need real repercussions for failure to perform a duty as expected. If your members are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA and to volunteer 20 hours a year, and Surfer Bro Bob has maintained a 1.5 GPA since initiation and completed 4 hours two years in a row, then Surfer Bro Bob needs to be cut.
Here’s the real fact about brotherhood and sisterhood: it occasionally requires terribly uncomfortable decisions to be made. A good brother offers assistance, but knows when assistance is futile.
Slackers will attract more slackers, and your chapter will get worse as the years go by. Use failure as an opportunity to learn. You can’t run yourself ragged out of a fear of failure or because your brothers have used the bond between you against you.
That’s it, the simple guide that will certainly eliminate apathy in every chapter. It will be a long-term project, at least two years, but you’ll have changed your chapter for the better and for many years to come.