Hi, potential new member!
Sorority membership is a lifetime commitment (that comes with a lifetime of benefits), but finances can often create barriers that affect the short-term sorority experience. If you’re working to cover costs for school, it may be challenging to think of sorority membership as adding value or as an investment in your future.
What can social organizations provide that you can’t get elsewhere? That’s a great question. Your first-year experience can be overwhelming; between figuring out how to get to classes, making new friends, getting to know your professors, familiarizing yourself with a new place…
Anyone who has said that you get what you pay for, knows that saying can be applied to sorority membership. It might not always be easily to articulate some of the goods and services that a chapter might budget for, such as:
- Social events, with other groups (can be fraternities, sororities, or non Greek-letter organizations)
- Philanthropy events; to cover costs of resources or materials
- Sisterhood/member-only events: e.g. chapter retreat, movie day, ‘Paint Nite’, private group fitness class
- Member leadership and educational programming: e.g. costs to send delegates to Conventions and conferences, hosting programs and facilitators
- Refreshments at events (have you ever attended a dinnertime hour event, with no food?!)
- Apparel: sweaters, t-shirts, hats, socks, whatever you can dream of… it is likely branded with the organization’s letters. Many chapters often do group orders for matching t-shirts or sweaters, but the offerings can vary based on cost per item, shipping, and major upcoming events.
Now, how can you ask about these things (and many others) when you don’t know how much it really costs to be a member? Here are a few questions you can ask to help better inform your decision:
- Are your dues all-inclusive? If the active member responds “Yes”, be sure to follow up by asking if the members pay for any individual items or events outside of what is paid in membership dues. All-inclusive may simply refer to the events hosted by the chapter; it may be a combination of some events and one apparel item.
- Are there housing fees for members not residing in the chaper facility? On campuses where chapters have houses or suites, members residing in those spaces experience membership in a different way based on their proximity to chapter resources. You may also be paying for a meal plan, cleaning services, or investing into other maintenance or insurance needs. If you’re not residing in the house, but still have access to use it for meals, events, and more, it is a reasonable cost to assume as a live-out member. The space is yours as a member, just not as a tenant, which still comes at a cost.
- Why are dues more expensive for new members? This question may be read as confrontational, but it is important to understand the distinction. There are a number of one-time fees that new members pay, and those fees are no longer included after you are initiated into membership. The cost of your member badge, fees for adminstering the new member program, and an initiation fee, are just some of the additional expenses that only occur once in your membership experience.
In terms of expectations, you should be assertive about getting clear answers to your questions. If finances are a barrier for you, don’t count yourself out just yet! There are a variety of ways chapters bill their members, and there are also unique payment plans that exist for active members in order to accommodate a payment schedule or an even number of payments. These programs don’t typically exist for new members, so make sure you’re very clear about the chapter’s payment expectations and requirements before taking that leap. You’ll be better for it.
Yours in sisterhood,
Let’s chat! What challenges or barriers exist for you, when considering making any financial commitment (not exclusive to sorority membership)?
Stay tuned for next week, I’ll be breaking down the stigma around discussing finances as an active member and helping you understand how to communicate the cost and value of your membership dues.