Merge With another 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: I was wondering if you had any experience or advice on the subject of chapters merging together. Our chapter has been hovering around 20-30 members for the past. We are considered a ‘small’ fraternity on our quite large campus. There are currently 24 IFC chapters averaging at least 50 members. While we appreciate the cohesiveness of being a smaller chapter, our size puts us at a disadvantage compared to our counterparts.

Recently, we found out another chapter on campus may soon start the process of being disbanded and rebooted due to low membership numbers. Several of their members have approached our chapter about the possibility of disaffiliating with their organization and joining our ranks.

As in a corporate merger, this would provide us with several advantages, making us large enough to compete with other fraternities, as well as giving us more income to accomplish more as a brotherhood

What is your take on this? And what would be the best approach to implementing this? I should note that our brothers have recently found out about this opportunity and at the moment a majority are lukewarm about the idea.

Answer: In the 3+ years of the site this is the first time this question has come up.  It is an interesting one to say the least.

The first obvious issue with your plan is the other guys will have to get a release from their national fraternity to join yours.  The difficulty of this varies depending on fraternity, but this has to happen.  For this conversation though, let’s assume that this issue has been take care of.

I get the feeling that there are some people in your chapter who think this may be the silver bullet you guys need to break through the small fraternity threshold.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

First off, there is a problem with your chapter.  If there wasn’t, it would not have a problem growing.  The problem probably isn’t recruitment.  My guess is it goes a lot deeper than that.  There is a reason why guys aren’t joining your fraternity.  You need to solve that to grow.

Now, this problem isn’t a crippling issue because you are a healthy, small chapter.  That is good for you, because it probably isn’t the hardest thing in the world to fix.  If I was a leader in your fraternity, I would definitely concentrate on figuring out what the issue is then solving it.

Second, the guys who you are merging with have much bigger issues than you do.  There is a reason why their fraternity folded.  By adding these guys, are you adding quality guys who will take your fraternity to the next level?  Probably not…

That being said, there are probably quality guys in the disbanding fraternity.  It would be foolish not to take them in.

My suggestion is to take the guys that you would want to be in your fraternity, and put them through a short two or three week new member period separate from your typical new member class.  You need to teach them some of the traditions and customs of your fraternity before making them full-fledged brothers.  Also, you want to have them around for a few weeks so they can get a feel for you and you can get a feel for them.

After this couple weeks, if everyone is still on board, initiate them and make them full brothers in your fraternity.

This process should alleviate the concerns some of your current brothers have.

One final thought  – realize that this is really isn’t a merger.  They are joining your fraternity.  They need to leave their old letters and their old traditions behind.  Be aware of the situation from their side though.  This has to be tough on them.  There is nothing wrong with making small concessions so they can have a tie to their past.  And if there are enough guys joining your fraternity, then their past really has become your past.

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.

2 thoughts on “Should We Merge with Another Fraternity?

  1. I agree it’s an interesting question.

    From a business perspective (and I’m big on that), I absolutely get what you’re saying about chapter size. You are below critical mass. That means you struggle to be relevant (not even compete) on your campus and likely cut lots of corners on risk mgmt due to lack of funds in order to maximize what you can do just to have any hope of recruiting & retaining enough members to survive. You probably have wide swings in the quality of chapter leaders just because there are so few people to choose from that it’s impossible to be consistent, which means you have huge continuity problems. You’re not turning out a ton of alumni so there’s probably not a lot of support there. Yeah, I completely get it. Being a small chapter in a big chapter world screws your ability to operate. However…

    Philosophically, every fraternity is about something different. You joined yours in theory because you agreed with the principles and mission of your organization. These other guys did the same. Now they’re just going to bail on what they believe in cause they don’t have enough guys and they’re going to latch on to what you believe in just because you’re a logical merger candidate. I hope that gives you pause, cause whatever else our orgs do that belief/mission stuff is the only reason we actually exist.

    More practically, I’m concerned. This other chapter is on the verge of disbanding because they can’t maintain numbers. Why is that? More importantly do you want to introduce their flaws into your chapter? If those guys aren’t motivated to recruit or they’re just low quality folks that drive away recruits, whatever the case, I’m worried you might just be introducing their disease into your org.

    Secondly, you have to be prepared for the fact that they’re going to stick together and your guys are going to stick together. A marriage of convenience doesn’t cause you to integrate. There will be problems.

    Longer term, I agree with Pat. Even if you can work through the initial issues and boost numbers with the addition of these guys, that’s a temporary situation. How are you then going to double the number of recruits you’re taking? You got your chapter that hasn’t been able to grow, and this other chapter that’s about to shut down for lack of numbers. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I can’t even imagine how crazy voting on potential members would be with all of you in the room together, but I guess at this stage you might take anything with a pulse. I hope that makes you a little uncomfortable too so you realize there’s a problem and you work to fix it.

    I also agree that there may be a few guys on a case by case basis that would be great additions to your fraternity. By all means take a look at them, but don’t package deal them in with a lot of dead weight that’s going to drag you down.

    Overall weird situation. I think you can make some good out of it, but all out merger should be a no-go. I would hope your nationals would agree with that position too, but that very much depends on what nationals we’re talking about.

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