Over the last four years, I have engaged in an in-depth inquiry into the nature of fraternal brotherhood and sisterhood. I have learned a great deal about the fraternal experience in those four years, and have published and presented research that I think represents a fundamental shift in focus for those of us working in the fraternity/sorority industry.
Of all that we have learned, one finding stands out above the others: a brotherhood or sisterhood based on belonging – a feeling of connectedness and mattering – is the single most important aspect of the fraternal experience.
In our research, we have quantitatively studied over 30,000 fraternity and sorority members, and have engaged in in-depth qualitative analysis, hearing from fraternity and sorority members themselves about the experiences that shape their feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. And those students have resoundingly stated, over and over again, in their own words and in their answers to survey questions, that a feeling of belonging is of paramount importance.
Belonging is the single most powerful predictor of retention in fraternities and sororities. It is the single most important predictor of overall satisfaction with the fraternity/sorority experience. It is the single most important predictor of organizational commitment and attachment. And belonging is the key that opens the door to the most altruistic versions of brotherhood and sisterhood – a drive to hold one another to high standards and to strive together to achieve greatness. Show me a chapter with retention issues, motivation issues, or involvement issues, and I’ll show you a chapter with belonging issues. The importance of a brotherhood or sisterhood based on belonging cannot be overstated.
But as I have studied and talked with fraternity and sorority members across the country, I have reached a troubling conclusion – the vast majority of our undergraduate chapters do not actively or consciously work towards creating a sense of belonging to their members. Even in chapters that measure high on belonging, we often see the haphazard nature of the connections within the group. Only the very best fraternities and sororities are actively working, in every aspect of chapter life, to create that sense of belonging among members.
Luckily, we have studied those groups who make strides towards creating a sense of belonging. We understand how they recruit. We understand how they organize their new member education programs. We know the types of brotherhood and sisterhood activities they host, how they socialize, and how they hold one another accountable. In our qualitative study of the “best” fraternities and sororities nationally, we have gleaned lessons that I am now ready to share with fraternity and sorority everywhere.
My new keynote program, “The Power of Belonging” is the culmination of this research. In it, I help students understand the importance of belonging, and provide them with powerful and effective strategies aimed at creating a stronger sense of belonging in their chapters. In doing so, I help fraternity and sorority members rethink their approaches recruitment, new member education, accountability, brother/sisterhood programming. The result? Students will leave this program with a fresh perspective on what matters in fraternity and sorority, motivated to refocus their efforts on the creation of belonging, and equipped with tried-and-true strategies to build a stronger sense of belonging among their members.
The importance of belonging cannot be overstated. It is the single most important aspect of the fraternal experience, and “The Power of Belonging” may be the single most important message the students in your community need to hear.
Learn more about keynote speaker, Gentry McCreary and his new keynote: campuspeak.com/mccreary.