How to Turn a Drinking Club into a Fraternity

fraternity drinking club

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: My chapter on campus is still fairly new, obtaining our charter in 2009. Our chapter was accepted into the university IFC a year ago.

Our chapter is very divided, unfortunately. Many of us want to foster a growth in the fraternity and make it into a more fulfilling experience all around via IFC. This is taking our chapter in an entirely new direction away from our intermediary standstill. The other half can’t be bothered and see IFC as a complete hindrance of rules, etc. and, I believe, remember when we weren’t a part of IFC and how it was more of a drinking club.

There is a lot of dead weight in the fraternity because of this. (I would say a good third). Naturally they are the ones that do not participate in fraternity events. Convincing brothers to cut the dead weight would be an extremely difficult task. The only option I see would be to simply concentrate efforts on future pledge classes and instill a new mindset with them. Any advice would be grateful. Thank you.

Answer: You are facing a situation that nearly every new fraternity faces.  The reason is obvious.  When you colonized, you really don’t know what you want your fraternity to be, but you know you need to grow.  So you take anyone you can get your hands on because you need the numbers.

The predicament happens when the guys who ‘get it’ realize that the fraternity can be much more than a drinking club.  However, you can see why some guys would be upset because they thought they did join a drinking club.  You are changing the fraternity into something they didn’t sign up for.

At this crossroads, you need to clarify the vision of your fraternity.  You need members to understand the requirements and obligations of membership.  Once this vision is established (democratically) then those who aren’t on board should be removed from the chapter with no hard feelings.

Of course, this isn’t going to be fair to some brothers, but in the long run you’ll be doing them a favor.  If you are turning the fraternity into something they don’t want to be a part of, then there is no need to delay the inevitable.

So what are some tips to get through this transition?  I would do the following:

1) Set a clear vision.  At the start of the semester, be sure the chapter collectively decides the semester’s goals for the organization.  Then, make sure all brothers commit to achieving these goals.  This will ensure everyone is on the same page.

2) Provide value to brothers.  Brothers pay X amount in dues a semester.  They should be able to see the value in the money they contribute.  If they can’t, then they will eventually quit because fraternity won’t be worth it to them.

3) Hold brothers financially accountable.  Make all brothers sign promissory notes.  The brothers who don’t pay get taken to a collection agency.  This should not be an issue if you are doing #2 right.

4) Focus on winners.  You will have gung-ho brothers who are willing to do whatever to improve the fraternity.  Focus on those guys.  Keep them happy and motivated.  Don’t waste your time on the trouble brothers. It isn’t a productive way to spend your effort and you will get nothing positive from your efforts.

5) Eliminate the dead weight.  If there are guys who are true dead weight, then cut them.  Do it quick and don’t dwell on it. And never look back.  Don’t let them steal another ounce of energy from you.  However, be sure they are true dead weight.  Brothers who disagree with the vision are often seen as dead weight and they are most certainly not.  It is very good to have guy with differing opinions.  What you don’t need are guys who don’t care or who do things that harm the chapter.

Of course, your true question related to #5 – how to cut the deadweight.

If you follow #’s 1 through 4, then the deadweight will take care of itself.  The drinking club brothers won’t enjoy fraternity because it is no longer what they joined.  As such, they won’t want to pay and they’ll get pissed when they are held accountable for paying.  The icing on the cake will be when they don’t get the attention they deserve because the rock stars in the chapter are now the focus.

Finally, I commend you for stepping up and realizing that your chapter and fraternity can be a lot more than it currently is.  Your road to get it to respectable will be difficult and challenging.  I assure you though it will be well worth it and you will look back with pride at what you create.  You will also become a better man and leader through the experience.  Good luck!

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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