The Go Green Challenge

In light of yesterday’s Earth Day awareness and celebration activities, I decided to put yet another one of my “crazy ideas” in print. I’ve had this idea rattling around in my head for about three months now. It’s part fundraiser, part cost savings, and part sustainability. The idea I’m referring to is a fraternity or sorority Go Green Challenge. If you’re looking to implement some sustainable initiatives within your chapter house while raising some additional funding, this challenge may be a solution.

The Concept:
During the next academic year, your chapter adopts strategies aimed at conserving resources within your chapter house. By reducing the amount of gas, water, electricity and other resources used by members within the chapter house, the cost of operating the house will undoubtedly be reduced.

Additionally, you seek out the support of your housing corporation, landlord, host institution, or whomever happens to serve in the “landlord” role of your chapter house. Ask your landlord to assess the utility usage over the past three years to put together an average operating cost of these services.

Here’s where the challenge comes in. By reducing their impact, the chapter will be saving the landlord money in utility fees. By benefiting their landlord, the chapter is well within their rights to ask for a favor in return. That favor is the heart of the Go Green Challenge.

After a years worth of intentional conservation, the chapter would be given 50% of their total savings back, while the landlord keeps the other 50%. The Go Green Challenge is a mutually beneficial, collaborative agreement between your chapter and your landlord.

Let’s assume that by implementing a variety of resource and energy saving initiatives, the chapter is able to reduce their utility bills by $1,000 over the course of the year. They would then be given $500 as a reward to be reinvested back into the chapter. Despite giving the chapter $500, the landlord would still walk away with $500 that they were not anticipating.

The Go Green Challenge creates incentive for conservation; the more resources the chapter saves, the larger their payout will be at the end of the year. Does your chapter need a new lawnmower, TV, or washing machine? This might be a unique fundraising solution.

That’s the Go Green Challenge concept. It makes a whole lot of sense to me. Do you think your chapter is ready to try it?

If your chapter is looking to reduce their impact on the environment and save money at the same time, you’re not alone. Many fraternity and sorority communities across the country have implemented green initiatives. Here are some of my favorites that will provide your chapter with real solutions for obtaining your conservation goals:

Looking for even more ideas? Check out this comprehensive list from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Like this idea? Do you think it would work? Leave your opinions in the comments section!

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“No Report”

I have a huge pet peeve when it comes to chapter meetings. I can tolerate leniency in Robert’s Rules,  improper attire, and even phones going off inadvertently. My chapter meeting ‘nails on the chalkboard’ moment is when an officer or committee chairperson utters the two words, “No report”.

As a chapter leader, you are either elected or appointed because the chapter values the work you do for the organization, and trusts you to work diligently to advance the causes of the organization. Chapter members take time out of their busy schedule to gather for chapter meetings. They get dressed up, proudly place their badge over their heart, travel to your meeting location, sit through dozens of reports, and take notes (sometimes).

They do all of this to gain a full understanding of current chapter operations as well as the short-term and long-term objectives of the chapter’s leadership. They want to hear your ideas, get a better understanding of your plans, and find ways to support your initiatives.

Yet, when a chapter leader addresses the general assembly, and decries, “No report.”, they are telling the chapter one or more of the following:

– I have done absolutely nothing with my position since the last time we met. Despite the fact that I hold this important position in the chapter, I do not value my position enough to put forth consistent work output. You trust me to continuously work to make this aspect of our chapter better, and I have let you down.

– What I’m doing in my position is best left behind the scenes. I’m committed to getting the job done… under my terms. I don’t want, nor do I need your input; my way is the best way, and asking for your help or input is futile. When I finally reveal my plan, I expect you to do exactly what I tell you to do.

– My position is irrelevant!! Sure, my title looks great on a resume, and I get to sit in the front of the room, but there is nothing more that I can do with my position. Why do we have a Director of Recruitment T-Shirts anyway?

– I’m lazy. The bare minimum is just fine by me. I’ve already done everything that my predecessor did last year, and I’m fulfilling the written obligations of my position. Innovation and progress isn’t something I need to worry about, that just means more work for me.

"My Bad"

– I don’t value your time. Sure, I have plenty to talk about; we actually have a big event coming up that I could use some help with. The thing is, I got caught up in a “Clarissa Explains It All” marathon before our meeting, and I didn’t take the time to collect my thoughts or prepare a report. Sorry you went out of your way to come to this meeting to hear what I have to say; I’ll just e-mail everything to you tomorrow.

So the next time your sitting in a chapter meeting, executive meeting, committee meeting, or even a council meeting, and somebody stands up and declares they have nothing to report, feel free to ask them why they have nothing new to tell the chapter.

Thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment.

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Get the Most Out of Your Leadership Consultant’s Visit

This post is a guest post from Pat Daley aka The Fraternity Advisor.
Pat Daley was a two year chapter president and was his university’s IFC president. He also was recognized as his university, chapter and national fraternity man of the year.  He is the author of thefraternityadvisor.com – a website dedicated to fraternity leadership.

We all know the drill.  The leadership consultant is coming from the fraternity’s national headquarters.  The fraternity president tells all the brothers to lay low for a few days until the consultant leaves.  When the consultant arrives, the chapter house is a ghost town, which is believed to be the safest way to handle the visit.

This is such an unbelievable waste.  The leadership consultant is not a spy from nationals.  He is a brother who is probably fresh out of school, but wanted to stick around for a year or two because he really believes in what fraternity life is all about.  He is there because he wants to help you, not because he wants to get you in trouble.

So, how do you get the most out of his visit?  First off, you need to be coordinating things with the consultant before he ever steps foot on campus.  You need to help him schedule any meetings he may request – such as a meeting with the Greek Life advisor or the chapter advisor.  You need to find out the purpose of the visit.  You need to find out what skills he has, and what he can do for the brotherhood.  This ensures you can adequately be prepared to get the most out of the visit.

Then, you need to be a good host.  Chances are, this guy spends most of his time on the road bouncing from chapter house to chapter house.  The least you can do is attempt to be as accommodating as possible.

When he finally arrives, treat him like a brother – because he is one!  Be sure he interacts with the brothers and gets to see what your chapter is all about.  Let the brothers know that they are expected to ask questions, and hopefully the consultant’s answers will help to improve the chapter.

Also, be sure to show the consultant a good time.  All work and no play is not fun.  Take the time to show the consultant some of spots that makes your school and your area great.

Finally, be sure to agree that you will stay in touch.  Hopefully, you will have formed a relationship with the consultant where you can contact him in the future for advice.

Having a leadership consultant visit is a fantastic opportunity for the fraternity.  Be sure to take advantage of it to make your chapter stronger.

Have a comment? Leave it here.

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What if Seniors Stuck Around?

Last night, T.J. Sullivan, a friend, fellow fraternity and sorority life blogger, and founder of CAMPUSPEAK, sent out the following tweet:

In his tweet, T.J. was talking about his experience working with fellow fraternity and sorority professionals and volunteers; having the same conversations without seeing any major changes.

T.J.’s question led me to thinking about why it is that we are also having similarly cyclical conversations with undergraduate fraternity and sorority members, and why it is that truly measurable, positive change is so hard to create.

My reaction? I feel that what we are unfortunately seeing is a lack of continuity over time within our undergraduate chapters. In my experience, students assume their first leadership role during their sophomore year (think committee chairperson), then progress to a more heavily involved leadership position during their junior year (think e-board in the chapter or governing council), then by the time senior year comes around, the undergraduate wants nothing more than to wipe their hands of any form of leadership commitment.

What this means is that the leaders within our fraternity and sorority communities typically only have two years to implement change; not only within their chapter, but amongst the entire community. It seems as if students are hearing the message, getting pumped up to create change, then simply getting burned-out before any true change takes place. Hence, senior year comes around and it’s all too easy to pass the ball to the next guy or girl, and forget about their dreams of a better chapter and/or fraternity and sorority community.

The motivation gets sucked out of our members, and the message goes with it. This may be one of the reasons that fraternity and sorority professionals are constantly repeating the same messages, and seeing unsatisfactory results.

So what if seniors stuck around?
That extra year of involvement could go an incredibly long way in the continuance of the message you’ve been preaching for the past year or two. Your chapter may be in desperate need of a steady, consistent voice advocating for the kind of changes and ideas you picked up at AFLV, UIFI, summer convention, or another leadership conference. Staying involved means the you are fulfilling your commitment to be an active member of your chapter for the entirety of your time as an undergraduate.

What if your chapter was able to utilize the knowledge, vision, and experience of your senior class to shape the direction of your organization? What if some of your seniors stayed in the house instead of moving off campus so they didn’t have to be bothered with day to day operations? What if they all showed up to meetings, didn’t request to be granted early alumni status, and actually worked to develop and transition the younger leaders in your chapter?

So how can this actually happen?
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for this problem. Naturally, our older members will get burned-out, need to focus on graduation and job hunting, or may even be interning or studying abroad. Despite these issues, the paradigm can be shifted through small, yet consistent nudging. It is my hope that a determined group of seniors within your chapter may still have some gas left in their tank; these are the brothers and sisters who can start the process.

The more that these senior members can help out the younger leaders within the chapter, provide advice, and alleviate stress, the better the experience will be for the younger leaders. Accordingly, reaping the benefits of committed seniors remaining active within the chapter, those younger members will be more apt to sticking around themselves when senioritis comes calling.

As an underclassmen, you can help too. Recognize that holding a leadership position within your organization is a grind, and often times of little reward to the individual. Your job as a member is simple; don’t make life suck for the leaders within the chapter.

As simple as it is to say, this task seems to be difficult for a lot of members. Do your due diligence to hold true to the values of your organization that you agreed to when you took an oath to be a lifelong member. Be a willing and active participant in chapter activities by serving on committees and running for leadership positions yourself. Lastly, by all means recognize the experience that these older members are bringing to the table, and seek to utilize this resource.

If you find that this article is a fairly accurate depiction of the seniors in your chapters, why not make a commitment to bringing these members back into the fold? It’s as simple as asking for their help. “Hey Casey, I’m trying to plan this event next semester, and am having a hard time getting it off the ground. I know you have a ton of experience doing stuff like this, and I really value your opinion, do you think you can help me?”

You may be surprised at the simultaneous look of shock and gratitude that will wash across the seniors face with a comment like this.

So what’s your opinion on seniors exiting early? Do you have some solutions yourself? Make sure to share your ideas in the comments section.

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The 6 Commandments of Fraternity & Sorority Life

Inspired by the stand-up of the late George Carlin, in which he simplifies the 10 Commandments, I decided to take some time of my own to simplify everything we are doing as fraternity and sorority members into a brief list that anyone should be able to understand.

(In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the bit – warning, language is definitely NSFW)

And so, without further delay, I present to you my
6 Commandments of Fraternity and Sorority Life
:

Thou Shalt Make a Life-Long Commitment
Joining our organizations means that you are committing to a life-long membership in a remarkable organization. This means you’re not allowed to go into hiding during your senior year, or graduate never to be seen or heard from your organization again. This means being a good alumnus/alumna, giving back to your chapter, staying financial, and forever holding true the the values you accepted in Commandment 2.

Thou Shalt Hold Yourself and Other True to Your Oath
At some point, we all took some sort of an oath to hold true to the values of our organization. Most likely, you were kneeling down, maybe with your hand in the air, on a book, or over your heart. That commitment isn’t just something we do for ritual when we cross or get initiated; it is your personal commitment to yourself and the organization. If you can’t rememeber exactly what it was you committed to, go back and read your ritual book. Of equal importance, you need to hold your brothers/sisters accountable to this commitment; feel free to remind them of the oath they took whenever you see them behaving “questionably”.

Thou Shalt Work to Understand the National Organization
The true value and significance of your fraternity or sorority isn’t truly understood until you get outside the walls of your own chapter. Attend a local/regional/national meeting, visit another chapter, apply to serve as an undergraduate representative or summer intern. When you get a visit from a consultant, truly work with your consultants to understand the structure and current state of your organization. Finally, if you truly want to understand what it means to be a fraternity or sorority member, attend an interfraternal event such as UIFI or AFLV.

Thou Shalt GRADUATE
You are absolutely no help to your chapter if you fail out of school; remember that you are a student first. One of the best things our organizations have in place are the programs and services designed to improve the scholastic efforts of our members. Let’s assume for a minute that your chapter embraces this value and has a chapter GPA above the all men’s/women’s average at your school. How great does it feel to be able to tell prospective members, parents, and Greek haters that statistically speaking, your chapter is academically outperforming the rest of the student body?

Thou Shalt Serve
All of our organizations emphasize service as an essential value that is core to the development of our members, and the betterment of our communities. You can check out my last post, “Life Changing Philanthropy“, for some tips on improving your philanthropic and service endeavors.

Thou Shalt Represent Every Fraternity and Sorority Member
To the general unaffiliated public, there is no difference between the letters on your chest, and those on mine. When you or your chapter screws up and ends up on the nightly news or campus newspaper, it hurts your schools entire fraternity and sorority community, as well as the international fraternity and sorority movement. Every single fraternity or sorority member carries this tremendous burden, understand this fact, and ensure that you are doing your best to represent all of us.

Do you have your own suggestions for additional commandments? Make sure to leave a comment!

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Life Changing Philanthropy

This week, I was able to attend the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors Michigan Drive-In Conference. A hot topic of discussion centered around the value of service learning within our fraternity and sorority community. This discussion got me thinking of how we can be more intentional with our philanthropic endeavors in order to equally impact both the organizations we are supporting and our members.

Philanthropy is something that we, as fraternity and sorority members, take great pride in. We see the value in supporting organizations that work for the betterment of life and society. In addition to the amazing monetary contributions of our fraternity and sorority communities, the opportunity exists for our members to have a truly life changing experience while doing philanthropy work.

I can look back to my own life changing moment when I was a freshman, and new member in my chapter. While working with the Easter Seals of Central Pennsylvania, I was able to meet an amazing girl named Lyndsey. Despite undergoing chemotherapy treatment, Lyndsey and her family came out to support our community during our Bounce Marathon fund raising event. Seeing her strength and her commitment to the initiatives of Easter Seals made me want to work even harder to raise funds for the organization. As a result of that experience, I devoted the remainder of my undergraduate experience, as well as my professional career to encouraging other fraternity and sorority members to partake in a similar experience.

Understanding the value of this type of experience for our members, here are some things that your organization can do to make your philanthropic efforts truly life changing moments in your members lives:

Plan Wisely
Identify an organization that has a connection to your members or your organization (this may have already been done for you by you national headquarters already). That connection will encourage participation amongst your members. If your members can relate to the cause, they will be far more likely to devote their time and energy, as well as to educate others and advocate for the organization.

If you already have a philanthropic organization designated by your national headquarters, and your not sure why, feel free to give them a call and ask why they chose that organization.

Meet With The Organization
During the planning stage of your event, take the time to meet with the individuals and/or organization that you will be supporting. Identify exactly why it is that they need your support, and figure out how you can best do so. Bring as many members as possible to this meeting, this message needs to permeate your chapter.

Educate Your Members
Before the event, take the time to explain to your members why this philanthropic endeavor was chosen by the organization, and the impact that will be made as a result of their efforts. Ask for a representative(s) from you chosen organization to come to your chapter meeting, or host a specific event just for them. Allow them to explain to your members the benefits and value of their work. Putting a name and face on the organization will have a tremendous impact on your members willingness to support them.

Work WITH The Organization
Keep a close connection with the organization. Give them a seat at the table when your planning the event. Ask them to be present at your event as a means to motivate members as well as those who you wish to donate. You may be surprised at how willing an organization can be to support your efforts. Creating this positive relationship will make things much easier in the future.

Celebrate Your Success
The worst thing you can do after a philanthropy event is to announce how much money you raised at chapter meeting, and never speak of it again. Whether it is on site at your event, or a later date, take the time to recognize the hard work of your members, and the impact that you have made. This can take several forms but should make a point to differentiate this program from any other event that your organization participates in.

Take these steps, and hopefully you will turn your arduous fundraiser into a truly impactful, and potentially life changing experience for your members. Do you have a similar experience, or have ideas to improve philanthropy events, make sure to share them here.

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