To understand the value of your fraternity, you have to understand the value of your alumni. They truly are your most valuable asset — not the house, what most now think it is. Despite years of bad press, some deserved and some exaggerated, most fraternities were established on noble principles that produced (and still produce) great leaders and men of principle and true gentlemen. But your fraternity could be shut down by your host school or National or the local town. Therefore, (1) we must admit we have a problem and (2) we must be willing to change!
Although a fraternity is primarily a brotherhood, or voluntary association, it’s also a small business, managing a property, recruiting, maintaining relationships and collecting needed funds. Unlike a business, however, a fraternity operates without paid staff. These volunteer members rotate, sometimes very quickly, and all have many other things going on in their lives.
However, it’s these volunteers that keep your organization running, whether it be the current house, or the alumni groups. In difficult times, uncertainty and change, though, it’s easy for this type of “business” to fail to connect with members, increase connection and use this moment of truth as a bonding opportunity. NOW is the time your communication will be opened and the newsletter ripped open as “dopamine” click bait content is available NOW. Your member wants to know what is up and what you’re doing about it!
Understanding your members’ value and engaging them is vital, then, to enhance your group’s sense of community and overall longevity, during a recent string of events, when many alumni feel more distant than ever from the brotherhood in general, and the active chapters in particular.
So, how can you do this? One way is by changing how you conduct your alumni communications. The traditional approach to alumni relations is built on the notion that alumni affinity begins with the institution and is TOP DOWN BROADCAST.
But the highest point of alumni affinity is tied to each person's individual experiences (think the rugby team, acapella group and so forth). You need to drive participation from the bottom up, celebrating the noble roots of your fraternity and the individual contributions than your now-alumni made during their years as students. Don’t let your group go silent, just because of a little or NOW a lot of adversity.
This can be done through a multi-faceted approach, including some or all of the following.
Communications – newsletters, news releases, public relations, web sites and e-letters with feedback survey and open ended questions so the alums can talk back to you and to each other.
Relational Outreach – reunions, outings, adventure trips, event planning and mentor networks seminars and think tanks and strategy sessions regionally where your alums live.
Education – Leadership and management training within a variety of media, from print and video to live seminars.
It’s all about creating a continuous dialogue that focuses on what your fraternity can be, and its potential through its valuable members. This builds a stronger sense of affinity between fellow alumni and younger brothers. These relationships are the core of a fraternity’s business.