As a sorority alumna, you’ve got a good career, responsibilities and a life you’re proud of. You’re involved in your community.
You have friends and family whom you love, and who love you.
You have your setbacks, but who doesn’t?
The future looks bright.
You’ve got things figured out in every aspect except one: alumnae-chapter engagement.
Either you’re overextending yourself and volunteering for every event and project in sight, or you go months without connecting with your undergrad sisters.
Sisters always seem to need someone to volunteer to do something—philanthropy work, serving on a chapter advisory board or housing committee, or managing a fundraising campaign, to name a few.
So how do you know when you should step up and help? And when is it better to let another alumna take the reins? The answer to those questions depends on you, of course. But there are definitive steps alumnae can take to get the most out of volunteering.
During times when you can’t volunteer, you might feel guilty enough to fill the gaps with donor gifts.
Although chapters are always fundraising, and your gifts always make a difference, donations don’t really solve your dilemma of finding a balance with chapter involvement.
So what gives? How can you have conquered so much of life like a Zen master, but when it comes to sorority life, you’re struggling to determine how much is enough?
With a little perspective, finding that sweet spot may be easier than you think.
That’s why Pennington & Company wants to help you Find Your Alumnae Chapter Balance.
What Joining an Alumnae Group Means for Sorority Engagement
Part of your trouble finding an engagement balance may have to do with lack of structure.
Not all women will have the time to dedicate to an alumnae group, but if you do, engagement becomes much easier as a member.
Whether it’s the housing committee, a chapter advisory board, or another chapter-level alumnae group, your membership keeps you involved by its very essence.
Think about it. You meet regularly to discuss your relationship with the chapter and relevant chapter business. You’re constructively engaging with sorority life and planning ways to be more involved and improve your sisterhood.
Sorority alumnae balance is basically built right into these groups.
Your group should devise a volunteer schedule including dates and types of duties, and keep all members abreast of upcoming chapter activities where they’re needed.
Spreading out the engagement in a fair and equal way can help keep you from being too aloof or overextending yourself.
Consider picking up at least one major chapter duty per semester tied to your volunteer group, like helping manage overall engagement, capital campaign fundraising, or sorority house finances.
Smaller, short-term engagement needs can be more at your and your group’s discretion.
If you don’t join a local group, consider how you might get involved with your sorority on a national level.
Nationals are always looking for more alumnae to get involved. Become a national officer or state alumnae coordinator, join a national committee, or present at leadership conferences and national conventions.
Whatever you decide to do, having the backing of an official sorority alumnae volunteer group will bring structure and balance to your engagement.
Even Wonder Woman Needs Balance
You may see yourself as a heroine, swooping in to save the chapter when they cry out for help, but too much cape crusading and you’ll burn out fast.
Get used to saying “no” to things. Practice it in the mirror if you must.
You’re not the only alumna out there, and you don’t need to commit to every volunteer opportunity under the sun.
When a major sorority capital campaign rolls along—such as for a house renovation, build or purchase—figure out the role you’re comfortable playing and stick with it.
If that means you have time to play a management role in the campaign, then stay to that, and don’t divert your crucial resources to too many additional tasks.
If you don’t have time but want to donate an amount that you’re comfortable with, that’s perfectly fine as well.
Or if you simply can’t participate in one campaign, don’t get down on yourself. There will always be new campaigns, new volunteer opportunities and more chances to get engaged.
Chapters with effective fundraising are already managing an annual sorority campaign with recurring gift options, which means you can give in more ways than ever.
Sorority Alumnae Balance Is Holistic
No, we don’t mean taking herbal pills and getting acupuncture—unless you’re into that sort of thing. Then more power to you.
Alumnae engagement with the chapter doesn’t always mean taking on the biggest and most involved volunteer opportunity, or the biggest commitment of time, resources or money.
Engagement is something you build over time.
Touching base with the chapter on social media, visiting the house when you’re in town, attending a Founder’s Day event, helping with short-term goals like recruitment, or otherwise staying in touch with undergrads all count as meaningful engagement.
You can also talk to your national sorority about impactful volunteer roles that require a smaller time commitment.
If you don’t have the time to commit to a major management or advisory role, and it’s not a good time to become a primary donor, give gifts and volunteer in increments that make sense for you.
Smaller commitments are no less meaningful, and each plays a crucial part in overall chapter success.
Most important of all, alumnae and their chapter maintain a balanced relationship only when both sides understand the human nature of engagement and communicate their needs to one another.
Sometimes you can dive in and help with major chapter goals. Sometimes you have to pull back and let your fellow alumnae do the heavy lifting. And that’s okay.
What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to balancing alumnae engagement in your sorority? What suggestions do you have for others to improve how and when they volunteer? Give us your words of wisdom in the comments below.