Fraternities: Eight Steps to Restore Trust

This post is directly related to David Brooks’ article The Evolution of Trust.  “Trust”  is the glue that cements the entire Fraternal apparatus, therefore Brooks’ article is, I say, mandatory reading for Senior Leaders at the Headquarters of any large Fraternal organization.  (Helpful too is a ‘real world example’ by a great mayor in Charleston, South Caroline. Click here.)

Unquestionably, Fraternities have lost an immeasurable amount of trust in the last generation, maybe two. They’ve lost it with universities, parents, the surrounding campus community and a very large number of exceptional students of all stripes. To a wide swath of the American public the words “Animal House” and “frat house” are interchangeable. As per a recent cover story by Atlantic Magazine, that’s the hard reality and there is no use even debating the point.

The hard question is “How to get “trust” back into the Fraternal equation?

Fraternity leaders can nibble at the edges, tweak here and there, pound the same drum harder about the evils of alcohol, drugs and predatory sex; the need to clean up dirty Houses, improve rush, induce more involvement from the Alumni, make nice with Greek Life. The truth is that more blaw, blaw, blaw about the same old issues won’t change a perception that has been hardening for a good long time.

What’s needed is a whole new approach!

Something that will do for Fraternities what the machine gun did for warfare.

Here, I say, our “machine gun”,  built, improved, operated and  showcased inside a summertime House that is otherwise idle and empty in the summer. This is Pilot undertaking that is low-risk, low-cost, at minimum revenue neutral, with a  “worst case” scenario that if every element fails, the Chapter House goes back to its same old routines.

As forcefully as I can state it, this Pilot is designed, over time, to change the whole landscape of how Fraternities are operated – as far as the eye can see!

To include this as well: The same young men who helped build it have a chance to make lots of money promoting it and recreating the Model for the benefit  of the entire Fraternal network. {See AirBnb for education and inspiration.}

Pipe dream? Not if these Steps are followed with skill, energy, determination and intelligence:

Eight recommendations to ensure Pilot success – and regain trust:

1. Showcase the House in the summer of 2015, waxed, polished, landscaped and utterly safe so that “Campers” – kids ages 10-16 and their adult leaders – will be attracted to it in ways that contributions from the local community can be expected and induced. (The promotions to the Campers must start in September 2014. The outreach to the local community would begin around April 2015.)

2. Fund-raise (and partner) with those who have Missions parallel to the Mission of the Fraternity. Good examples include, among many others: Youth Build, Eagle Scouts, Big Brothers, Junior Achievement. These are rich ponds visionary Fraternities should both fish from and add (seminar) nutrients to them with win-win results. {See Academic studies to confirm the extraordinary value of “camping” experience for those in and around puberty. Click here.} SPECIAL NOTE:  Fundraisers should include holding events such as “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes“.  Additionally, hold seminars inside the House (all year long) with topics about mitigating the problems of alcohol, drugs and sexual abuse.(See 5 below.)

3. Ensure that high on the totem pole are efforts that generate cash for camping scholarships — and make this a mainstay effort all year  long. {To include strong financial incentives for those who do the grinding.} Add to this an organized crowd-funding mechanism – and don’t be surprised with six figure results. (Kickstarter is just one of many; but a good place to start.)

4.Make highly innovative deals with vendors, like Michael’s Catering — (we know them well). Induce Michael’s’ to provide the cooks and the menus and their help to enlist Healthy Food Providers to contribute to the Pilot. Who doesn’t want to help young kids have experiences valuable for a lifetime?

5. Also in the 2015 summer hold one-day and two-day seminars that focus on improving the organizational needs of Campers: Fund-raising, crowd-funding, web-site and phone-app building, public relations, social media, video-making, cash, budgets, property and risk-management. The whole enchilada. {A good seminar example here} (For more seminar ideas, click here.}Put the Gurus and the visiting adults in nice, nearby motel rooms, work hard to support their needs and take good notes. Then, all year-long, make sure that the Chapter practices what the Gurus preach.

6. Charm city officials into providing free bus passes; the university to open their sports arenas; hold swimming events where the  Campers can also splash and play; get rubber boats for river-rafting and free camping gear from ball caps to boots, flashlights, fishing rods and footballs…. ……whatever will cause a smile (by the donor) and make good memories (for the kids). (By the way, this is by far the hardest and most important element in the Plan – How do we make it an exceptional experience of lifetime value? and improve it every single year? It’s a question rarely asked but the most important of all!}

7. Provide public tours of the House pointed to parents who have incoming college kids ….. make sure to include the press. Take lots of pictures and post to Instagram, Snapshot, Facebook and Twitter. Include warm invitations to the local newspaper…they have more reach than is commonly accepted. And need great stories like this one can be.

8. Do the numbers. Eight weeks of camping @ $350 per week X 40 kids grosses about $112,000.  Add a Bed & Breakfast for a two-week period –  $100 per night X 20 rooms X 14 days – this adds, more or less, another $30,000. Cut these totals in half for expenses and subtract about 25% because optimum occupancy won’t happen for at least two years, maybe three. But make sure to add back in what the community and crowd-funding contributes….it will be a surprisingly large number…..even in Year One.

But the real worth is reversing bad perceptions and bad habits, replacing them with vastly improved bank balances and vastly improved Houses  — a 21st Century Fraternal Model like nowhere else in the country. What’s that worth?




About oregonhibbs

I'm passionate about improving access to education, worldwide, sailing, Duck football (I live in the shadow of the University of Oregon in Eugene) and connecting with people with ideas and work that "can change the world". With this in mind, I am the "Skipper" for Global Learn Day, which you can find out more about at OREGONHIBBS.COM ; Write to

Posted on July 1, 2014, in Flipped Fraternities & Restoration. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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