Sorority membership is a lifetime commitment! How do we talk about that with potential new members? Is it the social events that entice them to join? The access to a worldwide network after college? Raising money for philanthropies? What fills your cup with joy (or, for the crafters in our midst, glitter) in your membership experience?
Imagine that, for some of our members, the financial commitment is the exact opposite of filling your cup. The very thought of spending money outside of tuition fees, housing expenses, food… it could drive someone up a wall. It is becoming more common to find students working one, two, or even three jobs in college just to make ends meet. When faced with the choice between a rent payment and sorority membership, sorority may have to wait.
Last week, in my post to PNMs, I said that you get what you pay for. My membership dues paid for a myriad of events, resources, and opportunities for my chapter. However, when I look at the overall investment I made as a collegiate member, here are the two things that stand out to me:
- Leadership development opportunities: my organization (and many others) host annual training events, to provide various officers with the tools to be successful in their roles, as well as a network of their peers simultaneously serving in those roles
- Continuous education: self-guided programming (the “self” in reference to the chapter) is truly undervalued because it allows the development of members within their own space to both participate in and facilitate critical discussions; a bonus is the unparalleled experience of external facilitators (including some amazing alumnae!) who have been trained to share their time and talent with a chapter
That does not mean that I personally didn’t see value in any other part of the membership experience. These were the things I told myself I was willing to pay for; these two aspects strongly aligned with my personal values and were the things I knew I could justify paying for when every purchase felt like a financial burden. Social organizations can provide you with an unmatched college experience; sororities fit well into this category because our organizations are forward-thinking, looking to develop us not to be great at 21 years old, but to strive to be better every day.
I couldn’t put a price tag on that, but below are some tangible items and experiences you can put a price on and should ABSOLUTELY be communicating to PNMs. Be honest about whether these are included in your membership dues, or if there are additional fees.
- Social events: e.g. Formal, socials/mixers with other organizations
- Apparel: e.g. chapter t-shirt, chapter backpacks
- Refreshments at events (generally speaking, hosting events during meal times and not having any food or drink is a practice I rarely see outside of college)
- Sisterhood events (internal): events hosted at a chapter facility or a campus space, with associated costs (e.g. chapter retreat)
- Sisterhood events (external): same as above, but hosted outside of chapter facilities or campus spaces
- Inter/national dues: the costs that allow chapters to have staff support in all areas of chapter life (this is so important!)
- Administrative fees: the costs associated with all of these resources your chapter gets to use (e.g. finance/billing software, recruitment voting software, copies of workbooks for educational program participants, etc.)
- Housing fees (live-in): rent and utilities, maintenance costs, etc.
- Housing fees (live-out): access to use the common spaces, access to food in the house, maintenance costs, etc.
If you want to provide a genuine outlook on cost, focus on answering these questions:
- “Are your dues all-inclusive?” If “Yes”, be sure to explain what is meant by all-inclusive. Identify any individual items or events outside of what is paid in membership dues.
- Are there housing fees for members not residing in the chapter facility? If your chapter has a house or suite, it’s important that all PNMs know that the privilege of accessing the space comes at a cost. Whether or not a member lives in the house, having a clean space to host meetings or events is something we would all be fortunate to have.
- Why are dues more expensive for new members? Do you remember when you were a potential new member? There are a number of one-time fees that new members pay, and if a PNM is not clear about those fees upfront, it will have a negative impact on her overall experience.
Potential new members are trusting you to help them navigate one of the biggest decisions of their college years, and we owe it to them to make sure their questions are heard — and answered honestly.
Yours in sisterhood,
Let’s chat! How can you, or how do you currently, make the financial commitment for membership easy to understand for someone who is not affiliated with your organization? Is it different from how you would communicate the value of membership dues to an affiliated member?
Stay tuned for next week, I’ll be discussing the intricate balance between community involvement and study time. Time management *really* looks and feels like at 18 years old, and that isn’t talked about as openly as I wish it were (disclaimer: I, too, did not know how to effectively manage my time at that age and that’s okay.)