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What Goes in a Sorority Chapter Newsletter?


Sorority chapter newsletters are like thumbs. Everyone’s got them, if you happen to be a member of the human species, but not all thumbs are used for something useful. Thumbs are what separate us from the herd and give us the ability to build things that change the course of human civilization, or, you know, scroll through social media. Either or. No judgements here.

Like all inventions, from those as simple as the hammer to the mind-blowing complexity of a space shuttle, a sorority chapter newsletter is at its core a tool. If you wield it skillfully, it can make a world of difference. If you use it incorrectly, it’ll end up nothing more than a bunch of words and images on a page or (perhaps more likely in today’s cyber world) a screen.

In reality, the word “newsletter” is a bit of a misnomer. A chapter newsletter is a tool to engage with alumnae--especially alumnae at a distance--and create a baseline of sustained, inter-generational communication. You’re of course giving some updates about the chapter, but an effective newsletter will be tailored less toward the writer and more toward the readers, which of course are your esteemed and wise alumnae.

However, figuring out what doesn’t go in a sorority chapter newsletter is only half of your job as a newsletter designer and publisher. Pennington & Company would like to help you with the second half, which is to figure out once and for all What Goes in a Sorority Chapter Newsletter.

Alumnae and Their University Are Always Front Page News

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We’re not necessarily talking about the order of content here. Rather, in the overall tone and focus of a sorority chapter newsletter, alumnae and university news should carry more weight than chapter updates and the individual accomplishments of sisters, unless those are updates and accomplishments in which you think alumnae would be particularly interested.

Make sure this content pops with clear, bold fonts for headers that are simple and easy to read, and a simple and straightforward format such as the columned style you might see in your local newspaper. Include a stock header with your chapter’s info and information about the issue and date of the newsletter.

Adopt a more formal style of writing that is information-heavy and succinct, with a few quotes added in for flavor. For instance, if you write an article about how your university was recently ranked one of the top research universities in the health field, ring up the appropriate university spokesperson and get a few of the main points and quotes about it. If an alumna just achieved a major milestone in her career field, dig up her phone number from your alumnae database and ask her about it.

It is called a sorority chapter newsletter, after all, emphasis on news. Try to think like a reporter, teasing out the most important information about, say, an alumnae banquet, and leading with that. Cut anything alumnae might already know or wouldn’t be interested in. And always, always recognize them for any time or money they’ve donated to the chapter.

A Picture’s Worth 2,000 Words in a Sorority Chapter Newsletter

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That’s right. We’ve all heard the old saying that a picture’s worth a thousand words. When it comes to your chapter newsletter, double that.

Alumnae aren’t necessarily looking for the deep delve in your sorority newsletter. They aren’t looking to see the Sunday feature story about “how the case was solved, and what really happened.” You aren’t gunning for a Pulitzer here, sisters. What you are trying to do is keep alumnae’s attention and offer them something that interests them. An old newspaper trick is, other than for maybe the giant headline on the front page, offering pictures as the first thing to catch a reader’s eye--especially if that picture is of someone’s face. People are interested in human stories, and there’s no doubt that every picture tells a story.

The pictures you use for your newsletter may depend on what the content is on a case-by-case basis. If you get a tip from an alumna about an event you weren’t present for, ask them to email you some pictures and pick the ones that show the most faces, which translates to the most emotion. Make them large enough to draw the eye, but not so large that they distract from the words.

If a sister is recognized for exceptional academics, or the chapter holds a bake sale, add those pictures as well. If there’s an upcoming annual philanthropy fundraiser, use a particularly memorable picture from the year before that captures the spirit of the event. Paint a picture for your alumnae with the written word, but also with the camera shutter.

Chapter News: What Do Alumnae Need to Know?

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Although you ought to think this way throughout composing the newsletter, it’s especially important to remember when detailing chapter news of note. We should focus on alumnae interests, but not to the point where we skip out on chapter updates. Communication is a two-way street, so you have to offer alumnae more than one lane. Just make sure that lane is straight and to the point, no bumps or potholes to throw your readers off the shoulder.

Chapter news can fail to be interactive if you’re giving nothing more than updates, announcements, sisters’ achievements and so forth. Such everyday data should be brief or bulleted and only give the nuts and bolts. Other chapter news may be interactive, meaning that alumnae may be invited to upcoming chapter events or fundraisers, or there may be chapter news that’s mutually attractive to alumnae. Give this content more weight. Whenever chapter and alumnae interests converge, that’s where your sorority chapter newsletter will shine every time.

There are many ways to communicate and foster relationships with your alumnae, but a sorority chapter newsletter is a big one, and knowing what goes into one will help boost alumnae engagement tremendously. What’s your experience been like with publishing your chapter newsletter? What tips might you give other sisters? Give us the scoop in the comments below.