Summer. Music to just about every student’s ear, summer embodies three months of freedom, all things fun and exciting, and the total absence of deadlines, tests, and responsibilities. Ok, yes, this isn’t how it is for everyone (some of us have jobs or take classes during the summer), but if asked, we wager that the majority of students would rather it be summer then finals week.
While summer is a time to relax, unwind, and enjoy friends, family and a good beer, it’s not a time to forget about your fraternity or sorority. Many Greek chapters make the mistake of “taking the summer off” and letting their active members do next to nothing related to the chapter. Then, when the school year begins, these chapters usually find themselves pressed for time, unorganized, and unprepared. While your members may be fans of the “summertime equals time off from being Greek” theory, as a chapter leader you need to do what’s best for your chapter.
Keeping your chapter engaged, active and organized during the summer months doesn’t have to be a time consuming task, nor does it have to make the chapter hate you. Think of summer as “part-time” work for your members. They should be able to enjoy their time off from school, while still actively participating in chapter business. Here are some suggestions of ways to keep your chapter in the loop during the summer months:
Just because it’s the summer, who says you can’t plan chapter activities and outings? The great thing about summer is that nothing ever has to be formal or mandatory. Whether you decide to host a house party, barbecue at the beach, or decide to go all out and buy tickets to a baseball game or concert, using the summer months to improve your chapter’s brother/sisterhood can reap large rewards in the end. This is especially helpful for newer members who live in the area but don’t know many of the active members. You can also use this time to get members excited for for the upcoming year; who knows, maybe you can even get them planning for recruitment, social events, or campus-wide events.
During the school year we all get annoyed by the incessant flow of chapter emails (I think I never disliked being on a “listserve” until I joined a sorority). However, during the summer, things are different. Email is a great way to keep in touch with the entire chapter (especially members who go back home or study abroad), and keep members up to date on chapter business. And, as we said before, nothing has to be formal! Have fun with your email blasts (this isn’t chapter meeting after all) by adding shout-outs to members who are out of the country, including random links to things you think are funny (try fmylife.com, it’s worth it!), recounting stories of what you’ve been doing, and giving suggestions of places to go (“Thalia Beach: a great place to tan and check out the surfers!”). Also encourage other members to “reply all” if they have ideas, links, or stories to share. You can also have members send you information to include in upcoming emails to avoid clogging your inbox.
Active Online Discussions
If your chapter uses any type of online discussion service (we recommend ChapterBoard), make sure to utilize this space during the summer. Besides from emails, online discussions are great ways to keep members actively involved, and to keep the ball rolling on chapter business. Get a head start on other chapters and plan for fall recruitment, organize practices for inter-chapter sports (and keep your members in shape!), and get your members’ feedback on upcoming chapter events. Additionally, you can use your online discussions to simply keep members in contact with each other. Creating discussions about the NBA playoffs (will the Lakeshow pull it off?), Stanley Cup Finals (2 years in a row for the Red Wings?), or MLB games (Dodgers or Giants?!) will keep your fraternity brothers debating, disagreeing, and engaged. And if sports aren’t your sorority’s forte, how about the new season of “The Bachelorette” (can I just say, the foot fetish guy is disgusting!), the changes on “The Hills” (Kristin Cavallari replacing LC?) or the new Harry Potter movie. Whatever your chapter’s interest, keep members entertained and involved through online discussions during the summer (who knows, you might get some chapter business done too!).
Facebook, Twitter & MySpace
This is the age of social networking, with the majority of college students having at least one account on the above mentioned sites. Even if you don’t Facebook, MySpace or “tweet”, use these services to your chapter’s advantage. Encourage members to keep in contact by writing on walls or updating their “status”. Create “just for fun” groups about random chapter things (you know you’re a [university name] [your fraternity or sorority] when…), or post your upcoming chapter event so everyone will know.
Phone Calls & Texts
When all else fails, don’t be afraid to use the phone. Some members simply don’t want to check email during the summer (too reminiscent of the school year or maybe they’re worried of finding an email from a professor), and some simply forget. If you can’t get a hold of a member via email, try calling or texting them. Even if its for something unimportant, such as a house party or barbecue, guaranteed they’ll appreciate the call rather then missing out on the fun.
My final point: the summer should be fun for everyone, including you! Make sure that not only are you organizing the events, but you’re attending them too. Remember: just because you’re the master planner, doesn’t mean you can’t partake in the festivities and make some lasting summer memories of your own… just don’t forget the sunscreen when you pass out on the beach.