What is a Fraternity President?
A Fraternity President is responsible for leading the chapter. This includes organizing and motivating the membership. It also includes managing fraternity operations and finances to ensure the longevity of the chapter.
How To Be a Successful Fraternity President?
The answer to ‘how to become a successful fraternity president’ is the same as how to become a successful leader. You become successful by serving others.
As president you are responsible for a large business. You are large financially – probably with six figures of revenues. Fraternity life is unique though, because your employees and customers are the same people – the brotherhood.
The fraternity president needs to be sure that each brother feels like they get great value from their membership and from the dues they pay.
Think about it. The morale of the chapter would be much higher if each brother thinks that they are getting much more in return for what they are paying. Let me use an analogy:
Let’s say you are a huge fan of your college football team. You purchase season tickets for $1000 a season. It is expensive, but you love the team and you happily pay. When you have an off season, you are frustrated because of your significant financial commitment, but you love your team so you support them anyway.
However, let’s say your team changes their course of action, and offers a stupid good deal. Let’s say they decide to sell box seats for only $100 for the season. In that box you aren’t only sheltered from the elements, but they have great food and drink. In addition, you get a reserved parking spot that has electric hookup to make tailgating awesome. Further, when you show up for the very first game there is an expensive team shirt sitting on your chair waiting for you along with a personalized letter from the coach thanking you for supporting the team.
Finally, the game atmosphere is fantastic. The other fans are energized because they are getting the same great deal you are getting. And the product the team putson the field is a lot of fun. There are a ton of big plays that always keeps you on the edge of your seat. The teamwins a lot more than they lose. The result is you are proud of your team. You wear your team gear wherever you go, and you are passionate in defense of your team.
Let’s bring this back to the fraternity world. Which type of chapter is yours? Are you the first one that is expensive and offers little return? Or are the one that is affordable and the brothers gets a huge return on their investment?
To become the second one, there is a process. The first step is you have to clearly understand what the brothers want out of their fraternity experience. My football analogy is easy because all football fans would be happy with the same thing. As you know very well, fraternity brothers are a much more fickle group.
It is important to realize that if you work your butt off to achieve a goal that isn’t important to the brothers, then you will have lost. I fell into this trap as a fraternity president. I set our goal to win the chapter of the year award at our fraternity’s national convention. I pushed the brothers into doing a lot of things that they didn’t want to do to try to win this award. While we didn’t win, we did get an award that signifies that we were a top 3 chapter. When I brought that trophy back to the fraternity house, no one cared. I thought they would have been elated that our chapter was recognized as one of the best in the country. That award didn’t matter to them. As a result, I did a poor job serving those that I was charged with leading.
To avoid making the same mistake I made, the fraternity president needs to develop this understanding by having genuine conversations with the brothers. The president needs to find out what the brothers really want. Then the president needs to develop a plan to exceed those expectations; even if the wants and desires of the brothers are different than what is important to the president.
- Housing – What if there was a way to make the housing experience better? Maybe have a huge fundraiser where the proceeds go to paying for a certain portion of the house or making the rent next to nothing? Maybe invest a little extra to have a first rate chef serve meals? Maybe pay for a maid service to ensure the house is always clean?
- Leadership – Fraternity men want to become leaders. Why don’t you invite influential leaders in your community to host roundtable discussions about leadership at your fraternity house? Why don’t you invite the football coach or basketball coach over to discuss leadership? Why don’t you host a seminar on campus where you bring in a well-known speaker to discuss leadership? Why doesn’t your chapter create a new member program with the sole purpose of training and developing leadership?
- Social – Why not take your social program to the next level? Why not have the best parties on campus? Why not figure out a way to get an A-list band to one of your parties? Why not take epic road trips? Why can’t your formal be a first rate event?
- Finance – Why do your dues have to be high? With clever fundraising, your chapter can eliminate the financial responsibility of being a brother. With frugal management of the fraternity budget, your chapter can stretch a dollar to ensure that the brotherhood gets a great return on their financial investment.
- Academics – What can your chapter do to ensure the members of your chapter exceed academically? Maybe you have study hours where the chapter hires tutors to assist brothers with their assignments? Maybe the chapter culture has been created where the older brothers assist the younger brothers to achieve academically?
- Girls – Maybe your brothers want to have more and better prospects with women. Does your fraternity offer enough sorority events? If it does, are your brothers socially competent enough to make it worth your while? Maybe you need to have an etiquette seminar? Maybe you need to have a class for the brothers to have more success with women? Maybe more date functions where brothers with girlfriends help find dates for the guys who are single?
Regardless, find out what is important to the brotherhood. Understand their expectations, and then be creative in exceeding them. You lead by serving others. Give the brothers much more than they could have ever expected from their fraternity experience and you will have a happy and growing chapter.
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Fraternity President?
While the mentality is always serving the brothers, there are roles and responsibilities that the fraternity president has to ensure the chapter is successful.
The main responsibility is to ensure the longevity of the chapter. As a leader, the president’s job is to leave the fraternity in a better place for his successor. It is the job of the next president to do the same. If the chapter can be constantly growing and improving, it won’t take long until the chapter is something special.
To ensure longevity, the president has to have critical focus on four areas:
- Recruitment – Your chapter is either growing or it is dying. There is no middle ground. It is essential that your recruitment efforts are a success. It only takes a few bad recruitment periods for a fraternity to get into critical times. The president needs to have a very active role in recruitment. They can be the chapter’s best recruiter because their title gives them a status which will impress recruits. They also need to make sure the brothers are motivated to actively participate in rush. To learn more about recruitment, check out this article: The Complete Guide to Fraternity Recruitment.
- Finances – If recruitment is the #1 way to grow your chapter, finances are the #1 way to kill it. The president must have a close working relationship with the treasurer. He must work to help establish the chapter budget, and ensure that the chapter stays within those guidelines. He must make sure there is no waste when the fraternity spends their money. He must make sure the chapter’s bills and financial obligations are paid on time. He must also look for ways to increase the chapter’s income, but also look for ways to reduce the chapter’s debt. Then he must make sure that tremendous value is provided from those funds.
- Brotherhood – The president must make sure the brothers are happy with their fraternity experience. They need to be having fun, and excited to be a brother. A way to make sure morale stays high is to make sure the brothers always have something they are looking forward to. One thing to look out for is over-scheduling the brothers. No one likes mandatory. Make the events the things the brothers want to attend, not events the brothers have to attend.
- Housing – Your fraternity house can make our break a chapter. A great house is a source of pride and is the heart of a fraternity. A bad housing situation is a disaster. If the financials of the house don’t work, that will cripple a chapter. The main reason house finances don’t work is because a chapter can’t get enough guys to fill the house. The main reason a chapter can’t get enough guys to live in the house is it is a bad living arraignment. The president needs to make sure that the house is run like a business. It needs to provide great value to the residents, but is also needs to be an asset that is a great investment for the chapter.
To fulfill these responsibilities – the president has many roles to fill. Examples:
- Model Brother – The president must be a model brother in how he acts and how he presents himself. Not only is he the figurehead for the chapter internally, he is the representative externally. He is the role model for the younger brothers. He must achieve academically while also showing the traits of good leaders. The chapter – and especially the younger brothers – will look to mimic the president’s actions. As such, he always needs to be collected and in control.
- Visionary – The president also needs to be a visionary. Put another way, a good president will be an ideas guy. The president shouldn’t be saddled by what the chapter currently is. The president should be striving and pushing the envelope to see what the chapter can become.
- Motivator – The president is the cheerleader for the chapter. They have to be the first to buy into the vision of greatness, and then motivate and encourage the brothers to follow suit. The president must realize that everyone is motivated differently. Some react to one-on-one talks. Some react to positive reinforcement in group settings. The president must know his brothers and recognize what makes them tick. Then he must put forth the effort to motivate them the right way.
- Organizer – The president is an organizer. Sure, the responsibilities for most of the chapter operations falls on a committee head. However, the president should always be there in the shadows helping that chair succeed. He must do so without taking over and dominating the situation. And when success happens, he needs to happily give the credit to the committee head, even if the president played a more prominent part in the success of the event.
- Mediator – The president is a mediator. Conflicts will arise in the chapter. Brothers will bicker and fight. If those issues can’t be resolved, sometimes the fraternity president has to get involved. The first step in mediating fraternity issues is getting the brothers together to see if they can handle their own issues. The best course is them figuring out and solving their problems themselves. If that can’t happen, the president may need to get involved to help clear the air. Of course, when the president gets involved he runs the risk of putting himself in a position where he isn’t wanted. If he doesn’t get involved though, divisions can be created in the chapter that are very unhealthy. These must be avoided at all times.
- Challenger – A leader must challenge the status quo to get better. An organization cannot reach its full potential unless it is striving to tackle to push through its current barriers. Getting the chapter to believe in this mindset is a tricky task. On one hand, you need to push the brothers out of their comfort zone. On the other, you can’t push too hard in fear of losing them.
- Present – The fraternity president has to be present. He has to lead by example. If there is a house clean-up, he has to be there. If there is a new member event, he has to be there. If there is a fundraiser or community service event, he has to be there. If the president isn’t there, the rest of the chapter will think ‘can you believe the prez? He is making us do this crap and he can’t even show up.’ In your mind you may think you have a good reason for missing an event. You don’t. You have to lead by example and always be present. Just showing up is a big part of the role.
What to Expect as Fraternity President?
There are negative emotions you will feel as the president of your fraternity. It is a stressful position with many requirements. And of course, you are doing this in your free time when you aren’t focused on your main job – school.
You can expect to deal with problems as fraternity president. You will be seen as the clean-up guy. Whatever mess or problem that is created will need your assistance to clean up. The result is you will have to deal with a lot of situations that create a negative energy. You must be aware and able to deal with that.
You will also spend a lot of time worrying. It will be hard to enjoy parties because you will be worried about someone doing something stupid and getting the chapter in trouble. You will worry that the brothers aren’t happy with how you are running the fraternity. You will worry about your success during recruitment. There will be a lot of worrying, and you need to be prepared for it.
Because of the problems and worrying, you will often feel alone. You will wonder if you are the only one who really cares. A lot of the work you do will be by yourself. Things will have to be done, and it is your job to do them. However, the rest of the brothers will be having a great time at the same time. This is tough to handle mentally, because you will much rather be playing than working. It is what you signed up for though.
There will also be time management challenges. In addition to being a full-time student, you now have the full-time job as fraternity president. You may also have a part time job to help pay for school. You could be involved in other extracurricular activities. You may have a girlfriend. It will be hard to cram all that in a day. That is great practice for real life though.
Not all the experiences are negative though. In fact, most are positive.
You will have a tremendous sense of pride as president. You will feel ownership in the organization. Your ego will love that the brothers look to you for guidance and expertise. It is extremely rewarding that the new members that are initiated while you are president will always look at you as the president of the fraternity. They will have never seen you another way, so they will always think that you were ‘the guy’.
You will also have pride in your personal growth. You will be forced to grow and become a better version of yourself. Your year as president will lead to many selfless acts. You will be giving back to your best friends, and you will be giving back by offering the most precious resource – your time.
This leads to a very rewarding experience. You will sit back and be proud that you were the president, and you will be able to lay claim to starting new events and traditions.
Being president also gives you great access to a larger Greek Community. You will be forced to attend events and meetings representing your fraternity. This access could lead to new friendships and open the door to invitations to really cool events.
Further, you will also have access to your fraternity’s national community. You will be responsible for representing your fraternity at your national convention and at other leadership forums. Here you will meet the presidents of other chapters of your fraternity. You will make new friends, and also get to compare thoughts and ideas on how to better run a chapter. You will meet volunteer alumni brothers who maintain the passion they had for the organization. All is a great experience.
What the Fraternity President Gets Out of It
You get the obvious – a richer, fuller fraternity experience. However, you also get the best leadership training you can get on a college campus.
Some of our chapters are over 100 men. Some have healthy six-figure budgets. Some are responsible for multi-million dollar properties. Our events host hundreds of people. We give thousands of hours to our local communities in the form of community service. We have to organize athletic programs. We have to market ourselves. We have to recruit new members. We have to teach them our ways. We do all this while achieving academic excellence.
To make the job tougher, we have to lead in an environment with an unpredictable and young membership that doesn’t always make sound decisions. This leadership takes place in a community that scrutinizes your every move, plots ways to entrap you and make your life harder. Many outsiders don’t understand fraternity life, and are openly against what they know nothing about.
If you can succeed in this environment. If you can lead your organization to success when considering all those factors, you will be prepared to lead men when you graduate. You will have gained very valuable experience and developed critical interpersonal skills that will take you a long way.