small fraternity

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:

Is there a benefit to having smaller numbers in your fraternity?


Answer:

Yes there are.  The following are a few that come to mind:

  • You should know all your brothers better.  It is easier to know 20 guys than 100.
  • Each brother will have more opportunities at leadership roles.  This means that each brother will have more input into the future of the fraternity.
  • Each brother will have more opportunities with the intramural teams.  It is much easier to crack the starting 5 on the intramural basketball team when your fraternity is smaller.
  • Housing becomes easier.  It is much easier to find a house to accommodate a small fraternity.

That being said, I think this is a loser’s mentality.  Either your fraternity is growing or you are dying.

In my experiences, fraternities that say they want to remain small are the ones that don’t have the ability or ambition to get big.  And that is a shame.

While the benefits listed above hold true, I think the benefits of being in a larger fraternity greatly outweigh them.

The obvious benefit is by having more brothers, you will have more money.  This will lead to being able to do more things than the smaller fraternity, and should be a lot more fun.

Also, your status on campus will be greater.  While status is a superficial thing, it is human nature for your chest to stick out a little more when people think you are part of an elite organization.

Also, fraternity recruitment should become easier.  More guys means more guys recruiting.  Also, a larger fraternity will have more of a presence on campus, which means the fraternity will sell itself.

Finally, and probably the most important reason, is for the longevity of your fraternity.  If your fraternity is small, then you are only one bad semester away from being in serious trouble.  What happens when your fraternity is 20 guys, but 5 of them are going to graduate this year?  That puts a lot of pressure on your recruitment ability, and gives the fraternity very little room for error.

I can understand why a fraternity wants to remain small.  You want to make sure you have real relationships will all your brothers.

This makes perfect sense.  However, don’t ever let this become a cop-out for not putting in the effort to recruit and improve your fraternity.

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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3 thoughts on “Is There a Benefit to Having Smaller Numbers in Your Fraternity?

  1. Tyler – you are right – a 150 man chapter will probably have to grow another way. The point remains though that a chapter is either growing or dying. Once the brotherhood becomes satisfied with the status quo the chapter will be in trouble. Organizations always need to be striving for the next goal or challenge.

  2. I think all four of your bullet point benefits are wrong, and I agree with your comment on them being a loser’s mentality. I agree with your opinion on having a larger chapter, but you are dead wrong on “growing or dying” because there is most certainly a point of diminishing returns. I think that ‘point’ differs from campus to campus and is based largely on the sizes of other chapters on campus. That’s why having a vibrant and full greek system on campus is so critical, because all of the chapters are interconnected whether they like it or not. Kind of like the economies of Europe right now.

  3. There is a cost of doing business. Every campus/community is different.

    Every campus has slightly different risk mgmt policies and degrees of interpretation & enforcement. Whatever that scenario is defines how you have to do social events. The community around you defines both the cost of executing those methods and the number of social events you must do per year to compete with readily available alternatives (in order to recruit and retain members). While a lot goes into that calculation, the numbers are pretty straight forward. When you’re talking about buses to venues 30 miles away 20 times a year, that can easily become $100k. If you’re in a dry county where events in your house are tolerated then it may be 30k. The number of people in your chapter/size of events is not entirely irrelevant on the cost side, but it’s less of an impact that you would think. A venue, transportation, or entertainment cost isn’t all that variable based on the number of people involved. It may be somewhat scalable, but there is a base price that must be overcome.

    You also have a recruiting cost that is highly variable based on how things work at your campus. That could well be a third or more of your annual income. You may find yourself in a situation where the cost per bid accepted is not recouped until the guy is paying dues in his junior year. That’s bad.

    And there’s all the other costs from housing to nationals, intramurals, philanthropy, etc. At the end of the day, it’s incredibly expensive to run a fraternity chapter.

    If you have too few guys, you’re going to cut corners to get by. You’re going to do flagrantly illegal rush events, and underground or just non-compliant social events. All of those things risk your charter, and teach a brand of ethics I don’t think you want your alumni walking around the business world with.

    So, while there are certainly pros & cons to small versus large chapter (I could probably add a few to Pat’s list), the real question is do you have enough economies of scale to achieve your required operating expenses. If you don’t, you are in the process of destroying yourself. Once you achieve that number, if you want to have a conversation about how big is too big, then by all means feel free to get more selective and improve your quality, or reach a little higher and have the resources to dominate the market. But, don’t talk about the good aspects of a small chapter when you’re really dying.

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