Re-Thinking Fraternity Chapter Meetings: “One Meeting a Week”

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My fraternity suggests that chapters meet 20 times or more each year to win our big trophy. That requirement was referenced as an example of an “energy cost” in my last post. [Read: The Dues Are Too Damn High]

It’s not a stretch: Most chapters meet on a weekly or at least bi-weekly basis. But we live in a very different world from when our fraternities were founded. There are more ways to communicate instantaneously than a weekly chapter meeting. It is time to revisit why we meet, and how to get the most out of that time together.

One Meeting A Week

One of the most popular posts on this blog offers five tips to improve your chapter meetings. It is worth a read, particularly if you are struggling with attendance at Chapter. That being said, it didn’t lay out a way to plan meetings so that they are useful. This post will fill that gap by offering a strategic direction.

Many recruiters tell potential members that joining a fraternity is as simple as one meeting a week. It’s not, thanks in part to Greek Life professionals and alumni leaders hell-bent on micromanaging the student experience. The meeting schedule provided below should allow your chapter to complete most or all of its annual requirements.

Making This Work

This is a departure from the fraternity formula in place for the past 100+ years. You may need to completely re-arrange your chapter’s approach to committees, chairmen, and make adjustments among your executive board. It is also important to highlight 2-3 priorities (as described in this post).

In effect, you have four or five teams which rotate in planning their monthly meeting. Instead of planning random events, your service/philanthropy-focused members plan a monthly “community project.” Your brotherhood and education-focused members plan retreats. Officers oversee everything and organize business meetings and elections.

Doing so takes a burden off of your President and executive board and frees them up to focus on their day-to-day work. It also standardizes how your different committees work and injects some variety into chapter life. Most importantly, you can embed your chapter’s objectives and activities into your once-weekly meeting. You can finally, truthfully tell potential members that the weekly meeting is the most important thing to attend.

Your New Meeting Schedule

Introducing your new meeting schedule. It looks something like this*:

  • Workshop (Monthly)
  • Community Project (Monthly)
  • Retreat (Monthly)
  • Joint Meeting/Mixer (Monthly)
  • **Business Meeting (Twice per semester or once per quarter/trimester in place of one of the above)
  • **Election (Once Annually)

*Tinker with it. This is just a framework. My goal was to make this broad. Any committee/team focused on external relationships can plan a “community project” meeting. The goal is to get everyone somewhat involved in the most important part of your week by re-imagining what we mean when we say “Chapter.”

The First & Final 10 Minutes Of All Meetings

Review the schedule for the week, ask if members have questions, and distribute the schedule as needed. “Working Meetings” should happen throughout the week based on what’s happening. So, maybe there’s a weekly philanthropy meeting at lunch on Wednesdays for those helping with that project.

End every meeting with some sort of closing. It may be as quick as a “power-clap,” or going around the room and offering comments on the week. If you need to fill time, encourage all brothers to journal about their week, what they did well, and what they want to improve upon. These journals could come in handy for brotherhood retreats.

Your officers should have “office hours” one day a week. During these times (preferrably somewhere public, not at a chapter house), members can come and ask questions. Some might just come to study so they can be around other brothers. This is where people can get answers to questions regarding the week’s events or share ideas for future events.

Meeting 1: Workshop

All committees and officers gather at this monthly workshop to organize your chapter for future events or to take part in some educational program. Bring in police officers, someone from your career center, a health professional, or an alumnus to “give a talk.” Organize a discussion around the topic or a Q&A session.

If you are a member of an inter/national fraternity, schedule these meetings when your consultant visits. When it is time to elect new officers, use this as a strategic planning session (more on how to plan another day).

The gist of the workshops meetings is that you are using this time together to seek feedback from brothers on upcoming projects or to learn something new. It is your one educational meeting a month – a perfect time to check off some boxes on your school’s or fraternity’s Checklist O’ Excellence.

If you just completed a major project, this workshop would be a perfect time to break into groups and collect feedback or plan for the following year.

Meeting 2: Community Project

Your service and philanthropy committee(s) should organize a project for your chapter to complete once a month. This need not be something extraordinary like a week-long philanthropy event (but it can be!). Think out of the box here, because community service means more than giving time and money to registered nonprofits.

Put together toys for visually impaired children, or pack meals for a local food bank. All you need are 10 minutes before and after this meeting for business and traditions, and then do something worthwhile. Help the Red Cross or Fire Department install smoke detectors, pick up trash around campus, or help a local small-business owner re-roof her building.

Community projects are about building relationships with non-students or the broader campus community. You could probably organize a full year of community projects accomplished from your standard meeting room.

Meeting 3: Retreat

The purpose of the retreat – once the 10 minute business period is over – is to bond and build relationships. That’s it. Search the web for team-building ideas or ask an alumnus with a job in Human Resources.

To switch it up, organize some retreats where members write, draw, and share about themselves and one another. Incorporate competitive elements like Jeopardy or Family Feud. Use retreat meetings as practice time for ritual ceremonies. Bring back one or two activities from a national program you attended for your fraternity.

Practice yoga and mindfulness. Watch a movie. Hang out. It will be nice to have time set aside for bonding without an outside audience. Go to a bowling alley, a baseball game, or skydiving. No matter what you do, talk about it once the meeting is over. Make sure everyone leaves with a mission to better connect with their brothers throughout the week.

Meeting 4: Joint Meeting or Mixer

Many of us are proud of our fraternity affiliations. Organize a pick-up game against another fraternity. Pair your members up with those of other fraternities and sororities to talk about upcoming events and to share ideas. Or, as one forward-thinking chapter of Kappa Sigma put it on Twitter:

The point of a fraternity is to meet people, so meet people. It doesn’t need to be boring. Schedule a practice (or dance-off) with a student dance club. Ask the music fraternity to help you learn your songs – and to help some of your members learn a scale.

Business Meetings & Elections

Updates to bylaws and elections need not be a weekly occurrence. Figure out an easy way to collect amendments to your governing documents or to gather nominations for elected officers. Then schedule a meeting twice per semester or once per trimester/quarter to handle the business of the organization. Make this your “ritual” meeting, taking as much time as you need.

This should not be done from the comfort of a couch either. Give these meetings some meaning. Organize your chairs into a ritual formation, like a classroom, or like an amphitheater. Better yet, see if you can use a theater space for your officer elections. It will add a bit of formality and pizzazz to the otherwise painstaking process.

Your members know to pay attention to the four business meetings you’ll have per year, plus the election.

Why This Way?

Most of the business covered at fraternity meetings can be handled through de-centralized working meetings throughout the week. Organizing your meetings in this way, or just setting a singular focus for any one meeting, will make them less monotonous.

Rather than have a chapter meeting AND service project in one week, you can do them together. That means you may finally fulfill your promise to potential members that a fraternity is a once-a-week affair. (Jk, that’s a lie, stop saying it).