Happy New Year! It is such a blessing to have a whole year ahead just waiting for us to write a new chapter in our lives.
New Years is also a time for reflection. I recall seeing all the successful Tri Sigma Chapter’s recruitment photos from last fall on facebook. It is so exciting to see healthy collegiate chapters grow and do well. The same can be said for active Alumnae chapters that are helping sisters to stay connected, and to realize there is fantastic sorority life after college. However, I confess that while my collegiate chapter is doing very well right now, thank you very much, that was not the case while I was still on campus.
My heart goes out to struggling chapters. I know your pain. I can remember planning great formal recruitment parties that everyone seemed to enjoy, and then watch potential members take bids from larger sororities on campus. Where did we go wrong? We would ask that question over and over. National visitors would come with advice and ideas that we would implement, but then we still came up short. The truth of the matter is, Formal Recruitment is no magic bullet. There are probably exceptions, but I can almost guarantee you that no small chapter ever became a large one through participating in Formal Recruitment alone. If you are a small chapter who wants to grow you must get to the COR of the matter.
Continuous Open Recruitment (COR) is the solution to chapter membership growth and also maintaining healthy membership. In the case of my college chapter, we fell into the trap of seeing membership recruitment as a season, rather than an on going process. We would hope to recruit a large membership class during formal, and if that didn’t happen, well better luck next time. This road leads to nowhere FAST! Recruitment needs to be a state of mind, as you make new friends on campus invite them to your sorority functions. Reach out to students in class. It never hurts to be friendly, and to be honest, most students on campus do long to make friends and feel a part of things. A sister once told me that she was just not comfortable talking to classmates. I promise you that attitude will kill a small chapter. You must be willing to leave your comfort zone and reach out or you are done for. No one can do it for you, not Nationals, another chapter, only you. If Tri Sigma has been a positive choice in your life, you need to share that with others.
As for larger chapters, please keep in mind that you are only a couple semesters away from becoming small and struggling if you do not strive to keep your chapter at total. I cringe whenever I hear collegiate chapter members say they do not have time for COR. Membership is the lifeblood of your group. Following formal recruitment, if you fail to continue to take new members until you reach total, your chapter is slowly bleeding to death. Discipline is the key, continue to recruit until you reach total. Doing so will help your chapter accomplish two important tasks. First it will insure healthy membership, but even more importantly, it will teach your new members about recruitment. They will prove to be your best resource and should be included. This will give them an opportunity to share our sisterhood with their friends, and give them a sense of ownership.
Alumnae chapters are not exempt from membership issues. While they no longer compete with sororities for members, they must strive for sister’s valuable time. Their challenge is always to plan programs that appeal to all ages and interests. The key to Alumnae chapter growth is to offer a variety of activities combined with a flexible schedule that allows more sisters to participate. For example, a group might have a few regularly scheduled business meeting, but also offer spin off interest groups, such book discussions, movie nights, get away weekends, Sigma Mommies who meet for toddler play dates, Golden Violets who meet for lunch, young Alumnae who meet for dinner, etc. The whole group does not have to participate in everything that is planned. It is indeed a challenge, but it truly is the best way to reach out and involve everyone. Alumnae Initiation also provides another avenue for chapter growth, and a way to offer the benefits of sorority life to those who may not have had the opportunity while in college.
So as we look at the year ahead, let us be resolved to contribute to the growth of our sisterhood, and to involvement that will last a lifetime.
Jacqulyn King (Alpha Phi) is a retired high school Library Media Specialist, and she and her husband Mark divide their time between homes in Michigan and Florida. She belongs to the West Michigan, Central Michigan and Southwest Florida Alumnae chapters. Her blog Confessions of a Sigmaholic runs the third Tuesday of every month.