Different Vehicles of Fraternity

If you haven’t read the latest entry on T.J. Sullivan’s blog, you may want to give it a tumble.  It’s an interesting read in which T.J. presents the idea of alumni members being able to join an additional/different fraternity later in life, one "that is more relevant to their adult lives, adult network, adult interests."

This post isn’t a response to T.J.’s ideas.  Since his post references service clubs, I saw an opportunity to bridge my love for fraternity with my love for these civic organizations.   It also occurred to me that many current undergraduates and fraternity alumni don’t quite understand these organizations.  I didn’t before I began working for one of them.

Bottom line: I believe that these organizations can provide the fraternity or sorority member with an outlet to express the values of his/her Greek organization after graduation.  

Service clubs might best be known for the logos you see as you drive into a city or town.  They have diverse names and histories, but also have a lot in common.  Each seeks to bring citizens together to serve their community.  It’s a very grassroots and democratic approach to social change.

As an example of what these clubs can offer, let me describe more fully one of them: Kiwanis.  I belong to Kiwanis and work for Kiwanis, and so I can speak best to this kind of experience.  

I guess the simplest way I’ve found to describe Kiwanis clubs (and service clubs in general) is to use the analogy of a road trip.  If you are a person with a heart to serve (the target market of service clubs like Kiwanis), then you likely want to make the world a better place.  That’s the destination of your life’s journey.  It’s the point on the horizon that you’re trying to reach.  The route to get there is service.  That’s the name of the road.

Many people will try to walk that road alone.  There is a heroic notion to the rugged individual walking an arduous path.  Fine.  But it’s a long journey fraught with exhaustion and frustration.

Like any journey, the service path is more easily traversed with a vehicle.  That’s what Kiwanis clubs are – vehicles to take a person along the road of service to their destination, to their vision of a better world.  It’s a vehicle large enough to accommodate lots of like-hearted people.

It’s not that Kiwanians are looking for a shortcut to get to their destination.  They just know they can go further – that they can achieve more – when they take the journey in a vehicle with others.  It’s also a heck of a lot more fun.  It’s like a road trip.  Members take turns driving based on their interests.  When you are feeling down or tired, someone else can take the wheel.  Laughter and fellowship make the journey easier.  Isn’t that what we have learned from our fraternity experiences as well?

Kiwanis Club of Lafayette (Louisiana) refurbishes a park.
Simply put, Kiwanis is a fraternity for men and women who believe serving others is a way of life.  Like a college fraternity, there are leadership opportunities and purposeful camaraderie.  But service is primary.  It’s the centerpiece on the table around which Kiwanians gather.

There is a great fraternal aspect to organizations like Kiwanis.  Because we rally around a shared purpose – service – we are able to build deeper friendships. 

If you came to my Kiwanis club meeting, you would feel fraternity.  There is love for each other in the way we joke with, laugh with, encourage, recognize, and push each other.  But now comes the caveat:  my club experience may be very different than the Kiwanis club experience in your community.  Each one – like each fraternity chapter – builds its own culture.  The best way to know if it’s the club culture and environment you want to is to visit and spend time with the members.

Fast facts…Kiwanis is for men and women…service focus is children with programs that covers all ages…perhaps best known for sponsoring youth service clubs including Key Club (high school) and Circle K (college)…worldwide with clubs in over 80 nations…almost 100 years old.

How do you join such an organization?  Track down the local club in your community (see below for link), and invite yourself to a meeting.  See how it feels.  See what the members are like.  When you’re ready to join, the club can walk you through the process.  These aren’t secret or exclusive clubs.  If you have a heart to serve, then I can say with confidence that you will be welcome as a member.

Josh Orendi of Phired Up Productions wrote a great blog post about visiting a Kiwanis club, which you can read here.

I strongly urge you to consider a service club when the time is right for you.  As members of fraternities and sororities, we are called to give the best of ourselves to the world we inhabit.  I have found that an easy way to live out the values of my fraternity, and to answer the call of leadership, is to ride in a vehicle called Kiwanis.  Simply put, I know that I can achieve more for this world in a Kiwanis club than I could alone.

Whatever your choice for how you express the values of your fraternity/sorority beyond campus, when it comes to giving generously of your talents, just keep two words in mind: never stop.

You can learn more about Kiwanis at www.kiwanis.org and I invite readers to give their own testimonials of the clubs and organizations they belong to in the comments section (I'm looking at you Masons, Rotarians, Lions, Optimists, Toastmasters, Jaycees, Junior Leaguers, and others.)

The Best Leadership Strategy We Never Use

nce upon a time there were two sorority chapter presidents whose organizations were right next door to each other.  And each was dealing with a similar challenge.  Within each sorority, a handful of members had stopped attending meetings and other functions.

At the first chapter, the president stressed about this issue privately, trying to develop ways to re-engage these lost members.  The more she thought about it, the more frustrated she became about these members’ lack of commitment.  She pulled every leadership book she had and every binder from every leadership event.  She studied and thought and decided that she needed to take this issue head-on.  It's important for leaders to inspire action, right?

The next chapter meeting came and the president closed it with a speech about commitment and motivation.  She stood up and raised her voice, trying to use passion to deliver the message clearly:  this apathy would not be tolerated any longer!  Most of the members in the room nodded their head.  The missing members were…still…missing.

As such, things did not improve.  The disengaged members still did not show up to meetings and other events.