Fraternity Alumni More Involved

This question was submitted by one of our readers. If you have a question you want me to answer go here to submit it: Fraternity Advice.

Question:

I’m one of the oldest aged members of my fraternity, but I’m also one of the newest members. Our chapter is very young and very inexperienced.

Because of this we keep pushing our alumni away rather than get them more involved. What’s a good way to get back in touch with alumni to show appreciation, and to get them to want to get more involved?


Answer:

Your situation is a pretty typical one.  Hopefully I can shed a little light on it since I am on the alumni side.  Let me share my personal story to help:

I was as involved as you could possibly be as an undergraduate brother in my fraternity.  I was chapter president, IFC president, school and national man of the year.  You name it, I was it or won it.

However, when I graduated I completely disappeared from the chapter for a few years.

My reasons had nothing to do with the fraternity.  It had more to do with life getting in the way.  My first job had me traveling a lot so I was never around.  My second job was in the military, so I was around even less.  Then I got married and started to have kids.  Fraternity was always important, but wasn’t something I actively pursued or had time for.

However, when I reached my late 20s early 30s I decided that I wanted to give back.

My story about alumni involvement with the fraternity is not unique at all (besides maybe starting a website and writing a book part).  Other alumni feel the same way.  They are just waiting for the fraternity to reach out and ask for help.

Here is the four step process to get your fraternity alumni more involved:

Step 1 – Alumni Newsletter

First, alumni want to get some type of fraternity newsletter.  It doesn’t have to be fancy – a simple email will suffice.  All we want to know is how the chapter is doing.

And when we see this email, we want to know about how the fraternity is succeeding.  99% of us will not respond, but most of us will read it and be interested.  We will be more interested if the information is positive.  Those who read it will appreciate it because even though we aren’t undergraduates any more, we still love the fraternity.

Please remember that we don’t want to hear negative stuff.  This is your way to reach out to your alumni, make it a positive interaction.

Note that there is one exception to this.  This is the time to ask your fraternity alumni for money.  We don’t have a ton, but we will give at least something to about 100 different causes if they ask.  Fraternity is one of those causes (learn more about getting your fraternity alumni to donate).

Step 2 – Find Alumni Advisors

Your next step needs to be reaching out to individuals who want to help as chapter advisors.  There are a ton of guys like me that love to share what we know with younger guys.  Again, all you have to do is ask.  Your goal here is to get a couple alumni involved by developing one on one relationships with them.

There are a couple ways to find the alumni who would be interested in becoming involved.  Ask for volunteers in your newsletter (be sure it does not appear to be a time-consuming commitment).  Send emails to former presidents and ask them to be involved.  Ask the engaged alumni who are involved if they know if anyone who would be an ideal advisor.

This is a key step and your chapter will gain a lot of value from having these guys involved.

Step 3 – Alumni Reunion Events

Once you get key alumni involved as advisors, you are ready to have alumni events that will actually be attended.  Have the alums who are now active help you plan fraternity alumni events.

Normally you want to tie it in with a school function like a football game.  A reunion tailgate is a perfect idea.  Again, have the alumni lay the ground work by sending the invites to get the other alumni involved.  Be sure to make public who is attending.

If I know some of the guys I was in school with are going to attend, I am more likely to attend as well.  Remember that the chapter still will do all the work, you just need the alums to be the face of the event.

You should have a pretty strong alumni turnout if you can get your alumni involved in planning it.

Your work isn’t done after one event though.  Keep in touch with the alumni that show up and repeat these steps a couple times.  Hopefully some traditions will be developed and these events will become easier and easier to pull off.

Step 4 – Form an Alumni Association

When you reach this step, you should be able to form an alumni association.  An alumni association is a huge benefit to a chapter.

Obviously, a strong alumni association can help the chapter financially.  They can lead fundraising efforts that can make a dramatic difference in the future of the chapter.

They also are able to help represent the chapter to the university, community and nationals.  For example, having the president of your alumni association represent the chapter can help a lot when negotiating house leases.  If you get in trouble, having involved alumni advisors can help you mitigate the damage and develop a plan to overcome whatever issues you had.

If you have an alumni association, you will have established that the alumni want to remain involved in the future of the chapter and fraternity and this is how they choose to be active.  You will have achieved your goal.

Finally, be sure to thank these brothers when they come out.  Remember from my story above that there are a lot of reasons to not be active.  As kids grow up, there are even more obstacles that get in the way.

The second your alumni don’t feel appreciated for their contributions they will disappear.  Make it a point to let these dedicated brothers know how much their involvement means to the fraternity.  If you remember that, they will remain involved and will guide your fraternity to success.

This question was submitted by one of our readers. If you have a question you want me to answer go here to submit it: Fraternity Advice.






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2 thoughts on “4 Steps to Get Your Fraternity Alumni More Involved

  1. Pingback: 4 Steps to Get your Fraternity Alumni more Involved – Fraternity Spark

  2. I got three things to add to what Pat said.

    First, alumni newsletters are about alumni.

    We do want to know the chapter still exists and is doing well. Make the point and move on. We don’t care who you did a mixer with or the details of your latest philanthropy. Be very concise.

    Unless we’re advisors, after a few years we don’t know anyone in chapter. It’s good to humanize yourselves to us to reinforce the connection, but we’re not going to read long stories about college kids we don’t know or care about. We’re especially not going to read a letter from the President or officer bios. I like doing one quick (~200word) story on one active that talks about something they’re doing with the school – on the football team, student government, etc.

    75-90% of the newsletter should be alumni and school related news. Do an update on the football recruiting class that just signed. Give the football schedule, how to get in on season tickets with other alumni, tailgate details, etc. Talk about new construction or whatever else I don’t know because I haven’t been back there in years. I like seeing an update on one alumnus from each era/decade – kind of a where are they now piece. And, I want to see marriages, births, and deaths.

    I don’t mind an appeal for money. Give the different options – tax deductible to educational foundation, non-deductible to chapter, alumni association, housing fund, etc. Give me options. I don’t mind a listing of seniors and their majors &/or a quick feature on one graduating senior who might need help finding a job.

    You can go a few pages with this. Use publisher or something to make it look professional and create it as a pdf. This is all electronic now, it’s not like it costs you anything to print. Just don’t try to make a book out of it. Maybe 5pgs give or take it good. Treat it like a newspaper or magazine.

    Second, I have to contradict Pat a bit on alumni associations. With a young chapter, it’s more understandable that you don’t have a mature infrastructure and you’re alumni association may find itself roped into a lot of things it shouldn’t be doing just because there is no one else. But, that really isn’t good for the association or alumni relations in general.

    Alumni associations are great. You need one, but they really aren’t supposed to be liaising with the university, negotiating leases, or fundraising for chapter. Alumni associations are for alumni, not for supporting chapter. That are an equal, parallel, and simplified version of chapter that’s by and for alumni. The money they raise goes first to pay for their events & priorities. With what’s left over they will give back to chapter when, how much, and for what they choose. That’ll still be a lot, but don’t act like they owe you something.

    Third, I got in an argument recently with another alumnus about this. Go to this link & click on the “product knowledge” video from Phired Up: http://www.ato.org/AlphaTauOmega/downloads/phireduprecruitment.aspx

    This is the one that says to give your ritual away – not literally, but be straight forward about the meaning and purpose of your fraternity.

    I bring this up in a discussion about alumni relations because a lot of members don’t take the meaning/purpose to heart as much as some of us do. As they move on from college – get that family, mortgage, job, etc – the things that meant a lot to them in college can lose meaning. If the fraternity is just an affinity group then they aren’t going to care about it as alumni. They’ll care about the people they shared it with and the experience they had, but they won’t care about the modern member and won’t care very much about the chapter. That’s about to be you in a few more years if your chapter isn’t on the right track.

    I really think the best way to make loyal dedicated alumni is to make actives that take permanent ownership of the meaning of the fraternity and value it higher than even the relationships they have with their brothers, the school, or much of anything else. Make good actives, and 20 years later you’ll have amazing alumni relations and no trouble recruiting lots of dedicated alumni leaders.

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