What are the usual things that come to mind when you think about Greek-letter organizations? To many Jim Belushi in a toga is quintessential, while others think about groups of young people working together to construct homes for displaced people. Others may think about how many of these organizations were founded to bring like-minded people together in order to provide networking and other education- or career-focused opportunities.
No matter how you view fraternities and sororities, both social and professionally themed, you probably didn’t think of these groups as nonprofit organizations. Whether you are in college now and are thinking about getting involved with a Greek organization or are well past your dorm-living days but are still interested in volunteering your time and effort to improving the lives of young men and women, you may want to consider the benefits of these unique third-sector organizations.
"If you want to prepare yourself for future third-sector leadership, consider getting involved with a Greek-letter organization that interests you!"
Greek-letter organizations are generally not considered to be nonprofit organizations in the same sense as more traditional nonprofits. For tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Service generally classifies Greek organizations as “social clubs” (501(c)(7) filing status although some have 501(c)(3) or another filing status which have a slightly different tax rules than other nonprofits. However, they are usually still exempt from a number of taxes as long as they are meeting certain criteria. These criteria have historically been rather lax, affording the organizations a degree of discretion with their operations. However, in recent times, the IRS has become more stringent with auditing the use of funds and ensuring that the organizations are abiding by the set standards. This increased scrutiny has led to some Greek chapters losing their tax-exempt statuses. Although this is unfortunate for the individual chapters, the heightened precedent helps to ensure that monies are being allocated in a manner that best fosters the student personal and professional experience!
You or someone you know may have participated in Greek organizations. Social programs, professional networking and experience, and skill-building opportunities are all benefits of such involvement. Leadership skills are honed through team projects and outreach opportunities, as well as via organizational leadership positions. By taking on leadership roles and by learning to work in a team environment, Greek students position themselves perfectly for future positions of authority.
Thankfully, the fun isn’t relegated to students: Career professionals and other interested parties also have many opportunities to get involved with Greek activities. There are a few main ways that you can get involved, some that you probably hadn’t ever thought of:
- Work directly for the organization. Organization central offices (where executive-level, organization-wide professional operations take place) are the main headquarters for national and international operations and are staffed by a number of professional, salaried employees. While the majority of the central office staff are former undergraduate members, there are usually a number of nonmembers on staff, engaging in similar tasks as professionals at other nonprofits.
- Stay Involved. Were you a past student member of an organization? Then you have many opportunities to continue to contribute to widespread organization growth and success, as well as the ability to enrich the experiences of current members. Whether participating in local alumni groups, helping to fundraise for capital campaigns, or mentoring younger members, Greek organizations definitely take the “for life!” mantra seriously. Put down the checkbook, head back to the fraternity house, and lend a hand this weekend!
- Offer professional advice. Greek organizations are always more than happy to enlist the support of former members and nonmembers alike in volunteer capacities that are related to professional endeavors (organizing networking events, professional etiquette seminars, interview training, etc.) for student members. This involvement can sometimes even be reciprocal as many a good “mock interview” has turned into a real job offer for impressive undergraduate Greeks!
In terms of reputation and overall outreach, Greek organizations have come a VERY long way since Lambda Lambda Lambda versus the jocks! Although they aren’t what usually comes to mind when one thinks of nonprofit organizations, the kinds of activities that both active as well as alumni and professional members engage in are akin to many traditional third-sector organizations. Additionally, the experiences that are dervied from participating in leadership positions are directly relatable to a number of nonprofit management and administrative responsibilities. If you want to prepare yourself for future third-sector leadership, consider getting involved with a Greek-letter organization that interests you!