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Should You Let Chapter Members Join Professional and Other Greek-Letter Organizations?


If Animal Farm were about college students, it might read, “All are busy, but some are busier than others.”

Granted, Orwell’s book forewarns the dangers of a brutal Stalinist surveillance state, not your much-bemoaned class load.

A minor detail.

High school classics aside, undergraduates face the stress of a calendar bursting with 10-page essay and lab report due dates, intramural practices and extra shifts picked up at the University Book Store.

Add membership in a fraternity or sorority chapter to the mix, and a busy schedule can overwhelm a college freshman pretty fast.

Yet while many students struggle with the rigorous expectations of a university career, some seem to thrive more than others.

Call them sadists. Call them freaks of nature. Call them whatever you like.

They laugh in the face of space-time, navigating 15-credit-hour semesters, fraternity life, membership in a handful of clubs, cancer ward volunteer hours, work schedules, participating in student government and still somehow finding time to hit the club or tailgate with chapter members.

Then there’s Billy and Phyllis, complaining incessantly that they have to take Organic Chemistry and Bio II in the same semester. The only calendar they have tacked on their walls is a print-out of the school’s athletics schedule.

Be honest. Most of us are a Billy or a Phyllis.

Those who aren’t perennial underachievers like the rest of us, however, may be interested in joining other organizations on campus. This excludes competing social Greek chapters, but other special interest or professional organizations might interest your members.

What gives? Can members really commit to more than one chapter? If so, is this good for your organization or a disaster waiting to happen? How does it affect your new member management?

OmegaFi wants to answer these important questions and more as we explore whether You Should Let Chapter Members Join Professional and Other Greek-Letter Organizations.

When Members Join More Orgs, What Do You Do about Dues?

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Sometimes a member might want to join a professional chapter, such as for pre-dental students. This can boost networking in their specific field and give them resources preparing for a graduate school program and eventual career. Sometimes a member might seek out another non-social, Greek-letter organization. Either way, they’re often required to pay membership dues, just as they are for your chapter.

The problem, as you’ve probably guessed, is that compiling membership dues for multiple organizations can leave the member with too much financial burden. This may mean that when an unforeseen hardship crops up, they’re unable to pay. At the very least, they’re more likely to enter a payment plan rather than pay dues up front.

This compounds the consequences for your chapter budget management. If enough members join other organizations and struggle to pay dues, important chapter functions will diminish.

Balance this by considering a middle ground, such as allowing members to join one other organization whose membership dues do not exceed those of your chapter. You could also make it clear that payment plans are not meant for multi-organization members, and instead base payment plans on need.

Also consider whether multi-organization membership will dissuade members from living in and contributing to the chapter house.

Each chapter must decide how to manage multi-organizational membership based on their unique needs and expectations. For instance, a small, financially vulnerable chapter might be less likely to allow multi-organization membership. A larger chapter might decide it’s alright with certain restrictions, if the budget can handle that burden to keep its members happy and successful.

They Put Their Left Foot in, They Pull Their Left Foot Out--That Isn't What Chapter Membership's All About

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The Hokey Pokey is fun for parties, but it’s no good for Greek chapter membership. Members have to have both feet in. They need to give membership their all, every day. If they can’t do that, they don’t deserve to wear your letters.

In Greek life, when members pull away and don’t give the effort required, the chapter suffers. No member’s participation is less important than any other’s.

Some members may have no issues joining more than one chapter while others will fall on their faces.

We talked earlier about the workaholics, the all-night studiers, the ones who carry around date books and schedule each minute of the day. Some students, who think they can handle it all, can’t live up to their own expectations and burn out. This can spell disaster for your chapter.

If you allow members to join other organizations, enact strict provisions to protect your chapter and your members. Hands-off members, already reluctant to participate because of their many outside obligations, are only going to become more discouraged by the demands of membership in multiple organizations. It goes without saying that those who hold officer positions--especially executive officers and other chapter managers--should not join other dues-paying organizations.

Like many chapter management issues, sometimes the success or failure of multi-organizational membership comes down to the specific member.

By the Numbers: Where Does Software Factor into Chapter Memberships?

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Member management and financial management go hand-in-hand, and software can help with both.

Whether your members are in several organizations or just yours, managing chapter finances remains a challenging task. Chapter financial management software makes life easier on your treasurer and gives your members a better understanding of where they fit into the equation. They’ll know exactly when and where to pay dues, and transparent budget access will give them a more comprehensive understanding of their impact on chapter finances. This will help them make the best decision about whether to join another organization.

How do you feel about your members joining other professional and Greek-letter organizations? What are some of your concerns and questions? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.


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