fraternity house run down

We’re having an increasingly hard time getting people to live in the fraternity house. It’s the cheapest place to live on campus, and living in the house gives you cheaper dues, and yet people still want to move out or not move in. It’s getting to the point where it’s becoming a financial burden on the chapter.  Do you have any other ideas about how to convince people to move in without forcing them to? And when does it come time to call it quits and get rid of the house?


Your house cannot be a financial burden on the chapter.   In nearly every case the chapters who get in severe financial trouble are the ones with problems filling the house.  If you are having to subsidize the house with chapter dues, then you need to seriously consider not having a house.  While this may seem like a drastic measure, your brotherhood has proven that they don’t want a house since they won’t live in it.  Your organization cannot continue to hemorrhage money for something the brothers don’t want.

Of course, this is the last resort.  You want to get brothers to live in the house.  Your first step is to figure out why brothers don’t want to live in the house.  Create an anonymous questionnaire for your brothers to fill out explaining why they don’t want to live in the house.  Make it anonymous to make sure you are getting the real answer from brothers.  Then your challenge is removing these barriers to living in the house.

Hopefully, these barriers will be easy to overcome.  If not though, it may require you to move or give up your house all together.


I have a new member that was elected the graduate relations chair. What are some ideas of events or advice you have for him?


This position is my commonly called the alumni chair.  The main responsibility to this position is to keep your alumni aware of what is happening with the chapter through newsletters and other communications.

Most chapters are horrible at this though.

If your new alumni chair would spend a half hour a semester writing about the latest news in the chapter, then email it to all your alumni, then he would be doing more than most chapters.  Your alumni would also appreciate the update.

Here are some other resources that will help:

How to Start a Fraternity Alumni Association

Know Your Fraternity Alumni, Don’t Just Meet Them

4 Steps to Get Your Fraternity Alumni More Involved


We have a new pledge and he wants me as a big brother really bad, but he can’t because I’m ineligible. Should I recommend him to pick someone else, or try to work out kinks to be his big?


Don’t get lost on titles.  This is something that fraternity men get all worked up about but in actually means very little.

If you want to be this guy’s big brother, then act like it.  Take him to dinner.  Teach him what you know about fraternity.  Make sure he is set up for success academically.  Be a friend and a mentor.  You don’t need the official title of big brother to do all those things.

Hopefully he is getting the same type of guidance and involvement from the guy who becomes his official big brother.

These actions will show the new member that fraternity is not about status or titles, it is about a group of men bonding together to help improve each other.  That is a powerful lesson to teach a new member.


I want to help my fraternity have more quality members and my concern always arises due to the fact that when members cross or are initiated into the organization, they lose their passion for the fraternity or get too caught up in partying.  They forget that the reason they even joined the organization which should be to build brotherhood, strengthen ourselves as leaders, scholars and men, and to serve our community.

What do you believe are some effective strategies to get members to be more active in the fraternity and not leave/become inactive?  Members who do go inactive reflect poorly on the fraternity.  It is as if we are recruiting the wrong type of people or not giving them motives to stay active in the organization.


You answered your own question with the last sentence in your question.

Recruiting better will help – but understanding your chapter will help out more.

By understanding I mean you have to understand what your members are looking to get out of their membership.  Too often motivated executive boards will try to impose their interests on the brotherhood and those will not align with the desires of the chapter.  When that happens, you have the situation you describe.

I talk about this very subject extensively in my new book – The Chapter President.  You need to figure out what the brotherhood wants, then you need to figure out how to motivate them to action to achieve those goals.

Changing fraternity culture is not the easiest thing to do, so don’t become discouraged while you travel down that path.  Realize though it will be worth-while and will teach you a lot about your own leadership abilities.

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.

One thought on “Getting Brothers to Live in the Fraternity House, Alumni Chair Issues, Brothers who Party too Hard and My Favorite – the Ineligible Big Brother

  1. On the Housing question…

    I agree with Pat that you should not be subsidizing a house form dues. What might be more appropriate is charging the chapter rent or making them responsible for bills. Of course that will be paid out of dues, but it has a shared sacrifice/contribution effect rather than the chapter seeing it as a benefit to residents & not having respect or shared ownership of the house.

    From a policy perspective, just make them live in the house. We have a bylaws requirement that members must live in the house one year during their active membership. If we don’t fill with volunteers then we go to the bottom of the seniority list (ranked within each pledge class by grades) and tell the low man he’s moving in or paying a $500 fine. If he pays we move up to the next guy till we either fill the house or have enough money to cover the vacancy. It’s an incentive to live in the house earlier so they aren’t faced with a potential fine or choice to break their lease in some off campus apartment. We’ve made exceptions for RAs that have to stay in the dorms because they help feed us recruits.

    From a property management perspective though… Why do they not want to live in the house? It is in bad shape? Is it left so messy by them that no one would want to live in that? Do they have constant parties that make it difficult to live there? There’s some good reason(s) and you need to figure out what they are so you can address them.

    House rules and serious enforcement of them can improve living conditions a heck of a lot. Instilling that sense of shared ownership would help too. If you’re at a loss for how to manage, do you have in town alumni that can check up on them? Can you have the housing corp select the active house manager? Maybe give that guy a discount on rent as he’s theoretically an employee of the housing corp rather than a chapter officer? Or if you really have to then outsource to a private property manager (usually a local real estate agent). They’ll collect rent for you for a price, but they’ll also check up on the property and keep you informed so you can take prompt action.

    Finally, is the thing in serious disrepair or just not competitive with the places people are choosing to rent instead? If that’s the case then maybe you need to do some capital reinvestment. If this isn’t something you can fix then maybe you need to think about changing houses, building a new one, a major remodel… hard to say without knowing a lot more of the specifics, but I know you can figure it out.

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