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Are fraternities and sororities ready for the Roaring '20s?


Will history repeat itself?

After the 1918-19 global flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans, the U.S. not only recovered but thrived. The following decade went down in history as the Roaring ’20s—the era of bootleggers, flappers, jazz bands and wild dance parties. Social activity was booming across the country.

Today, our undergraduate members have been cooped up for 14 months, awaiting a social collegiate experience. Yet, more than half of them have never experienced what it is like to plan and execute a social function, let alone how to be and keep others safe in the process.

Remember how much work went into safely reopening our chapter houses last fall? House corporations and chapter advisors need to be just as diligent going into this fall. We must focus on educating on good risk management practices and holding our members accountable to the high standards and expectations of our organizations. And after a stressful year for volunteers, it’s time to assess your board’s readiness to take on the challenges this fall may bring.

We must strengthen our volunteer boards.

In our development work in 2020, Pennington & Company recruited 1,088 volunteers to support local fraternity and sorority chapters—even in the pandemic. The number one reason why people give and volunteer is because they were asked! In asking someone to give of their time, we take the same approach as soliciting someone for a major financial gift. To be successful, be specific on why you need them to volunteer. Share a volunteer job description that includes time commitment and the impact they can make through giving their time.

Use technology to make volunteering easy.

No longer do we have to worry about finding volunteers who live within a 50-mile radius of the campus. Over the last year, volunteers from all generations have embraced technology and enjoyed connecting using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. This technology has made it easier for alumni to get involved regardless of their location and age.

If you have a need, you need to ask.

In addition to asking alumni to volunteer, don’t forget to keep asking them for financial support. As we’ve noted in our recent updates, when faced with compelling needs, alumni have continued to give throughout the pandemic, and we expect giving to improve even more in the months ahead. Our optimism is grounded in recent forecasting from economists, like Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell who predicted the second half of 2021 will deliver the highest level of economic growth in the last 30 years.

Thank you for all you have done to help our members have a safe and meaningful experience this year. We hope you can recharge this summer and come back this fall feeling prepared for a new school year because your support is needed now more than ever.