Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Morale - Think Small

The answer to Greek morale and unity lies in supporting small events
from our Friends at The Apathy Myth: a Blog for America's College Student Leaders

If you find your fraternity and sorority community continually struggling with member morale, junior and senior attrition, and a lack of Greek unity, there is something you can do. But, it's going to require a major change in how your community does business.

Many fraternity and sorority chapters, and their council communities, remain focused on doing huge events targeted to all of their members – large scale service events, big step shows, "sing" competitions, Greek Weeks. While these appeal to many (and in many cases can be a lot of fun), they don't appeal to all members, particularly for upperclassmen who have already done them more than once.

These people who don't get all jazzed up by a third year of "Greek Sing" wander away from your Greek community in search of something that fits them.

Here's what I suggest you do. This year, take a portion of your budget and invite small interest groups to apply for funding for special interest activities that will be open to all fraternity and sorority members. Maybe some Greeks will be interested in planning a small live music coffeehouse event for those members who love acoustic music. Perhaps a group will want to do an interfraternal rock-climbing trip for the outdoor enthusiasts. Whatever your members get excited about, invite them to create an avenue within your Greek community – everything from ice carving to environmentalism to book clubs.

But wait... all of this is available on our campus through other organizations. Why should we fund these niche interests within our Greek community? Because fraternity and sorority members who find these special connections within your community will STAY in your community and increase their commitment to it.

I recently came across an example of how enabling smaller, niche interests can have a powerful impact on a Greek community.

Many fraternity and sorority members at Gannon University in Northwest Pennsylvania desired a stronger connection with other Greeks who shared a strong commitment to their Christian faith. Some of these leaders recently started "LETtERS," a group open to all fraternity and sorority members seeking Christian fellowship.

It's not a Bible study, said Jackie Oesmann, a member of Alpha Sigma Tau and the Panhellenic Vice President of Public Relations. It's more of a discussion group. Recently, the members watched a clip from the movie "Elf" and used it as a discussion starter about finding your place in a group where you sometimes don't feel like you belong. It usually winds back to some relevant scripture readings. Sometimes, they even sing. Mostly, it's about giving fraternity and sorority members a safe place to share and enjoy their Christian interests.

"I think that overall, even though we've only had a few meetings, the group is a great new thing for the community and has a lot of potential," Jackie said. "Our councils ahve been working hard to promote Greek unity this year, and having people come together in a group like this definitely helps that."

Her campus offers six other faith-sharing groups, but the Greeks weren't participating, she said. "The solution was to create our own group where we could discuss things relating specifically to issues we deal with as Greeks."

Six other faith-based groups in their small campus community should have been enough, you might think. But, when an opportunity was created within their own Greek community, these fraternity and sorority members at Gannon became energized.

Imagine a dozen or so special interest "clubs" existing within your Greek community. Imagine four dozen. Imagine Greeks from all different sorts of chapters building relationships across chapter boundaries around shared interests. Imagine your members placing a higher value on their memberships because their personal needs are being met in a more meaningful way.

Imagine all the good that could come from that.

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