The Strawberry Patch

Enrichment and Inspiration for Beta Sigma Phi Sisters from Marilyn Ross

Chapter Organization

By Jack Ross
October 1989 - The Torch of Beta Sigma Phi

Chapter size probably seems like something that just happens, but truly, it isn't. The size of a chapter is determined by plan or by default. Healthy, successful chapters take factors like progression, possible transfers, scale of chapter activity, and average attendance into consideration. They may not do this in a formal way, but they are aware of these things and plan around them in keeping the chapter at its ideal size.

There is the first decision in the process of planning. What is the ideal size? How is it determined? Unfortunately that decision is sometimes based on the number of members that homes can accommodate--not for meetings, but for socials with husbands and family. Those are important and enjoyable occasions, but everything else the chapter does, and even its survival, is affected. Everything from the number of members available to give programs to the ease or difficulty of ways and means, service and social events depends on the size of the chapter. "Many hands make light work."

Alright, what is the ideal size for a chapter? There isn't one answer, but about 20 members is the best answer, based on reports from chapters of their success in friendship, social activity, and service. Part of the reasons for that is the variety. Different people like different things, so a larger chapter will have greater variety in programs, socials and projects. In this way, some members lead at one time and others at other times. Full involvement of every member in every project isn't necessary. Leadership and participation are shared. No one is overworked, and interest and enthusiasm stay high. When these factors are absent and a chapter is small, projects tend to be repetitious, eventually become boring, and mean too much work for too few hands. Disinterest sets in. This is compounded by the greater demands a small chapter must make upon the time available to its members.

Some very desirable things are possible in a chapter of about 20 members that just aren't possible in a small chapter. For instance, the work of standing committees can be shifted to different groups throughout the year. One set of members can be the social committee for regular parties, another set for some special events with families, and still another group for dances and Founder's Day. Progression also becomes possible, and won't deplete the chapter. That is important, because another name for progression is renewal. Progression provides new friends. It also provides a time for members who have been carrying leadership roles to reach a new plane, providing a period for renewal before picking up leadership in a new chapter.

Sadly, when a chapter becomes small, rushing, like everything else, is more difficult. However, the most common concern is expressed in the words, "We don't know anyone to rush." That generally means, "We don't know anyone who is already a close friend who we haven't rushed." The best answer, obviously, is to never let the chapter get that small. But if and when it happens, it becomes important to realize:
 1. Every member of the chapter will benefit by a larger chapter.
 2. There are women nearby who would love to be your friends.
 3. They need to be asked.
 4. Making friends (rushing) is a normal part of social life.
 5. All friends were once strangers.

A friend once told me that his sales manager, on my friend's first day of work as a salesman, pointed out the office window and said, "There are a half million prospects out there for you." My friend asked if his boss could just point out one. That is the process; thinking of every possible prospective rushee and selecting the best ones to ask. As a continuing process, coupled with the awareness and planning mentioned earlier, rushing ensures a chapter of "ideal size."

Chapter organization means organizing for success. It isn't only a matter of rushing a lot. It also means organizing the chapter to provide the kind of experience the members want and need. Rushing provides each member with a quality experience in exchange for time invested. Accomplishment without overwork, variety allowing for everyone's special interest, an effective support group, and ever-expanding friendships are the factors which really dictate ideal size.

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