Virtual Brotherhood and Support
The news surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on college campuses across North America has created a sense of uncertainty for our Beta chapter members, volunteers and alumni. Most, if not all, campuses have made the decision to shift to virtual instruction for the near future or the remainder of the academic term. Beta’s General Secretary, Board of Trustees and staff want you to feel confident in continuing to engage as a chapter and interact with one another, even if it’s at a distance.
Consider the topics below to continue engaging and involving your chapter members. Some serve as a reminder to officers or volunteers, while others are ideas for fun, virtual activities.
Do you have a great idea that you'd like to contribute? Let Director of Chapter Services Erin McHale know, and your idea could appear here!
Life has thrown us all a bit of a curveball, and Beta undergraduates likely need advisors' help now more than ever. Keep the following in mind as you assist the chapter in navigating these uncharted waters:
You’re in Charge.
The chapter counselor, along with the chapter president, should be “quarterbacking” the plan to regroup and keep the chapter on track. If the chapter counselor is unable to do that, or if the position is vacant, another advisor should assume the leadership role. In the absence of available advisors, the district chief should take the lead.
Host an Advisor Meeting ASAP.
Pull all advisors together on a conference call or webinar to discuss the campus/chapter status and assign action items. Before the call, each advisor should make personal contact with their officer and be prepared to report out on how he’s doing and what urgent actions need to be taken.
Advisors need community, too, so consider a standing biweekly advisor check-in call. It doesn’t have to be a long meeting, but it will help you delegate tasks and ensure things are staying on track.
Talk to the House Corporation.
If your chapter is housed, talk often to house corporation leaders about housing, leases, financial impact and plans for cleaning the facility. The advisors, executive officers and house corporation should be collaborating on any important decisions about the facility and payments. Communication is key!
Consider a short communication to parents, letting them know that Beta is here to support their sons. Encourage them to reach out to you with questions or concerns.
Rely on Your Experience and Best Judgment.
These are strange times and we’re all trying to make the best decisions we can. Rely on your personal experience and best judgment, remembering that our goal is to keep the executive team focused on the future and keeping all members connected to Beta.
Ask for Help.
If you need direction or help, just ask. Reach out first to your district or regional chief. If he is unable to help, contact Beta’s Administrative Office (800.800.BETA), where you’ll be directed to the best staff member to answer your questions.
Although day-to-day chapter operations look a little different right now, there are still important matters to tend to over the coming months. Consider the following as your team continues to plan and execute on the administrative tasks necessary to stay on track for summer programming, awards and more:
Involve Your Advisors.
Your advisors are dealing with similar challenges in their jobs and families, yet are still an invaluable resource during to help you plan virtual meetings and events, figure out executive board priorities, and help the chapter or colony during this time. Invite your advisors to all virtual executive board, chapter and new member meetings.
Access MyBeta and double-check the accuracy of your roster. Later in the spring, once your campus makes a decision about graduation, process the graduation transactions for your seniors. This will ensure your roster is up-to-date and you’re not overcharged for General Fraternity fees.
If there were pending Kai Committee cases or sanctions, make sure those are documented somewhere so activity can resume when you return to campus.
Year in the Life.
Review the Year in The Life document online. Reporting deadlines, awards applications deadlines and program registration deadlines can be found there.
We recommend that the executive board continue to meet weekly via Zoom, Google Hangout or other virtual platform. Invite your advisors! Important topics to cover include:
How is everyone feeling? Who needs extra outreach and support?
Chapter meetings, brotherhood events, meals and other fun activities can happen virtually. Try to do something once a week, whether business or brotherhood oriented.
Continue to develop and refine your summer and fall calendars so you are organized and understand deadlines and key actions.
Preparation is Key.
When you return to campus, what needs to be ready? Are you prepared for recruitment? Is your new member program ready to be certified? Is your budget and calendar completed for the fall term?
Achieving Your Goals.
How can you continue working on your Keystone Priority Plan goals? Can you revise them to be accomplished virtually?
What long-term goals do you have as an executive board that you can work on virtually and make progress on now?
Stay in Touch.
Reach out to your most vulnerable brothers. A major part of your role is to create strong morale within the chapter, and now more than ever your members need friendship and support.
Finances will no doubt be a major stressor for many of Beta's chapters and colonies during this period of change and uncertainty. A few tips for ensuring your financial obligations are taken care of are below, and Associate Director of Business Operations John Underhill, Tennessee '13, is available for any chapter needing additional guidance in this area:
If your chapter or colony had social, brotherhood, philanthropy or any other events planned for this term, they’ve likely been cancelled per federal, state and/or campus guidelines.
Ask executive officers and committee chairs for a list of outstanding contracts and financial commitments (e.g., down payment for formal location). Then, ask that they contact the vendor to negotiate a lower payment or cancel the contract.Make sure you know about any down payments you’re owed or cancellation penalties. We recommend involving your financial advisor on any calls or meetings with vendors who might be reluctant to refund payments.
Figure out who/what the chapter or colony currently owes and reconcile which chapter or colony members have paid, who still owes the chapter, has outstanding balances, etc. Then, consider the following questions:
- Where are bills and invoices being sent?
- Is someone checking for mail and forwarding invoices appropriately for payment?
- Do you owe money to the IFC for the spring term? Do they expect payment, or have they waived fees?
- Have you paid General Fraternity dues and fees (check your balance at MyBeta > [your chapter] > Reporting > Finances > GF Statement)?
Until the chapter's financial status has been fully evaluated, make no promises about refunding dues. The chapter needs to be financially healthy, with a cushion to last through the summer and into early fall, before any individual refunds should be given. Work with your advisor on a global reconciliation.
If you can refund some dues, great. Even a small amount can build good will with your members.
Your executive board should update the budget after you’ve determined all event cancellations and refunds. Ask your financial advisor for assistance with reallocating funds. Then, start working on your fall budget, which should ideally be approved by the start of summer. You can vote on the budget via a virtual chapter meeting or via an online survey.
Remember that new members likely were paying your chapter or colony for their initiation fee this semester or quarter. If you don’t initiate them until the fall, your chapter or colony will not be charged until that time. So, don’t forget to budget for that expense that you would ordinarily incur during this semester.
If your chapter or colony has a house, make sure to reach out to your house corporation board and find out what the plan is moving forward. House corporation responses will vary widely based on university recommendations, lease agreements and CDC guidelines.
It's hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel right now, we know, but one day (hopefully soon) chapter operations will return to normal. It's best to consider a few things as your leadership team looks forward to that day:
Being away from campus shouldn't mean your chapter operations stop altogether. There's still plenty to consider adding to your calendar, including:
- Continue to update the chapter calendar with virtual events.
- Monitor your campus news alerts for any modified academic dates. Most campuses are still working on their plan for finals and commencement, so pay attention to those key deadlines.
- If you have spring new members, start thinking about a timeline for initiation over the summer or upon return to campus.
- Plan to have a summer exec retreat to refocus the team and get ready for the fall term. If the team is geographically scattered, host the retreat virtually over a few hours on a weekend.
Substance-Free Housing Policy.
August 15, 2020 is the deadline for full implementation of the Substance-Free Housing Policy for all chapters. Are you prepared? How can you develop a healthy sense of urgency or a reminder for your members to ensure your first reunion back on campus this fall doesn’t put your chapter at risk of violating this important policy?
Events and Programs.
Beta continues to monitor recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as it relates to any summer programs. You can find up-to-date information regarding each of the programs under each of their respective pages on Beta’s website:
At this time, we encourage all chapters to plan for the fall semester to begin on its regular schedule. This may obviously change, but its best to be prepared for a regular return to campus. Since this period of time away from the chapter is longer than anyone is used to, we recommend the following:
- Officer retreat. The exec team and advisors should set aside a half-day very early in the term (ideally before classes start) to review goals, finalize the calendar and have a good plan in place. More than ever, next fall we all need to hit the ground running!
- Brotherhood retreat. Hosting a brotherhood retreat just before or right as members return to campus is a great way to welcome everyone back, have fun together, set goals and focus on the coming term (including recruitment).
- Recruitment Prep. Recruitment may be more difficult moving forward as we are in unprecedented times. How is the chapter planning ahead to engage as many potential Betas as possible? We recommend that the recruitment team have weekly or biweekly planning calls, beginning now, to work through plans and assignments. We don’t know what might happen with orientation sessions or summer programs, so you need to be prepared to mobilize quickly. If members of the recruitment team typically live in the house over the summer, talk to the house corporation now about options for alternate housing.
- Budget planning. We recommend developing two budget models for the next academic year: one that assumes all members will return, and another based on a decline in membership, as some students may not return to school. Of course, your estimates will vary based on the type of school and the profile of your membership. Start thinking now about your fixed versus variable expenses and how you can keep dues at an affordable level but still give your members a great experience.
It's easy to see how a brother-to-brother connection is especially important in these days of social distancing. Virtual engagement will feel different, but there are plenty of ways to ensure the Beta Spirit lives in on:
Keep meeting. Continue to host chapter meetings weekly by utilizing video conferencing software!
- Zoom offers a great, free service with 40-minute meetings of up to 100 people!
- Beta has also developed a quick resource guide if you are looking for more options to engage using video/teleconferencing software.
- Distribute minutes regularly. If you don’t already have a way to get meeting minutes out to your members, now is a great time to get the process in motion. Using resources like Google Docs, chapter listservs or GroupMe ensures you can get information out to your members and alumni quickly!
Schedule time to catch up. Some of the daily conversations and interactions you would normally have aren’t happening right now. Doing weekly “team check-ins" or scheduling a roundtable for brothers to share what is going on in their lives is important and can keep you feeling connected.
- Watch a movie together. Turn on Skype or Google Hangout and put on your favorite movie or new release. Added bonus: you can mute the guy who won’t stop quoting his favorite lines.
- Go to a museum. Google Arts and Culture has compiled over 500 virtual tours of museums and national landmarks. Explore some of the world’s most renowned sites and collections of art and history with your brothers.
- Start a book club or conversation circle. The nice thing about a book club is you can read the book separately and save the conversation for those moments when you can come together. If you’re not much of a reader, choose a documentary or short article instead. There are also several fiction and short story podcasts you can use.
Have Dinner With Brothers.
Missing some of the connection you felt at meal times? Schedule a lunch or dinner to group call or video conference your brothers while you enjoy your favorite foods. You can even set some conversation topics ahead of time for added engagement.
Organize a Trivia Night.
Programs like Kahoot allow you to create your own trivia games to play with friends online. Challenge your brothers to a little friendly competition and see who is a trivia champ.
New Member Engagement.
Continued connections amongst brothers is important, but they are critical for new members still finding their place in the brotherhood.
- Attend a webinar together. Online learning and engagement is always growing and evolving. From things like TedTalks to webinars offered by subject matter experts, there is plenty to learn together, much of which can be easily connected back to our values.
- Use resources from Son of the Stars. Beta provides online resources to chapters and colonies using the Son of the Stars Member Orientation program. We are happy to share these resources with any chapter looking to supplement its new member education. You can find these resources on Lessonly.
- Engage your seniors and recent alums. Learning from the leaders and experienced members of your chapter can be incredibly helpful for your new members and rewarding for your alumni and older brothers. A simple video conference or panel-style phone conference allows for presenters to share experience and new members to ask questions.
Even with classes happening online, graduating Betas can still get the "senior send-off" they properly deserve.
- Video testimonials. Many of our chapters encourage seniors to deliver testimonials to the chapter about their Beta experience. Think of it as a public reflection on your time in the chapter as an undergraduate. This activity is easy to do virtually using video conferencing. You can also have seniors prerecord their testimonials or even go live on Instagram to deliver their message to the chapter.
- Virtual “thank you" cards. A great way to recognize seniors is to thank them for all they have done for the chapter as a collegiate member. The chapter can record short, 30-second thank you/recognition videos on their phones which can be sent to the member directly or compiled by the chapter and edited into a single montage for each graduating member.
The bonds of brotherhood are still forming for Beta's newest members. Consider the following as you find new ways to promote involvement and engagement in this new environment:
Continue New Member Meetings.
This is a critical time for new members to feel like they are part of your chapter or colony. Education sessions or meetings should continue weekly via Zoom or Google Hangouts (or as often as prescribed in your new member program).
Need ideas or help engaging your new members virtually? Reach out to your pledge education advisor, or another advisor, for creative ideas. For additional assistance, you can contact Beta’s Leadership & Education Department (Chris Mueller, Claire Dixon, or Cody Hike).
Make sure you are inviting your new member advisor, chapter counselor and other executive board members to new member virtual events.
Many new members haven’t established the deep connection that you and your brothers share yet, especially if they’ve only been part of Beta for a couple of weeks. You'll, therefore, need to be mindful and get creative with how they are connecting to brothers.
Virtual meals, a Netflix Party or online video games are great ways to casually interact. Try assigning each active three new members to personally reach out to in the next 10 days. Little actions will go a long way to make sure they feel like they still belong to your chapter.
If you haven’t initiated yet, your campus has probably restricted your ability to gather as a chapter. The General Fraternity recommends you follow CDC guidelines, which currently limit gatherings. You should plan on not being able to initiate until over the summer or at the beginning of the fall term.
For now, make sure you set a tentative date and notify the new members about their new timeline. Reinforce to new members that initiation isn’t the end all, be all part of their Beta experience. They’re still a part of the chapter or colony now and important to all of you.
Giving other men the Beta experience you’ve been able to have (well, minus the quarantine) is one of the greatest legacies you can leave. Even in this time away from campus, there are ways to share the Beta story with potential members in order to keep your chapter strong and healthy. Virtual recruitment might sound weird, but we're all in the same boat and there are actually some great and unique things you can do to protect the lifeblood of the Fraternity.
Have a weekly recruitment committee meeting using Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.
During these meetings, clean up your recruitment tracker, think of creative and unique ways to generate names for potential new members, develop recruitment trainings for the chapter, discuss how you can be recruiting year-round (not just through formal recruitment), and prepare for the logistics of your campus' next formal recruitment cycle.
Engage the Chapter.
While the recruitment committee is hard at work, it's important to find ways to engage the entire chapter. Two easy ways to do this:
- Send out a name generation survey.
- Group brothers by region/hometown and encourage them to reach out to their high school guidance counselors for names of men coming to campus that they could welcome. Once you get a name and contact information, make sure to add them to your tracker.
- Send out a name generation survey.
Connect With PNMs.
Virtual recruitment meetings can be effective!
Consider using FaceTime or Google Hangouts to connect with a potential new member (PNM), whether that's someone from your PNM tracker or someone from your high school coming to your institution next year. Now more than ever, we can extend the hand of friendship to those who may just need to know someone is thinking about them.
Get creative! Invite PNMs to play video games, participate in a chapter book club or podcast debrief or play online trivia through Kahoot.
Potential members may want to meet the rest of the chapter, so consider inviting them to a virtual brotherhood event or organizing a small group virtual hangout (take a look at the Member Engagement section above).
The most important thing is to continue building relationships with PNMs even when you’re not on campus.
Not being on campus gives you a great opportunity to build and practice a year-round recruitment strategy. Meeting men through formal recruitment isn’t the only way to recruit. Talk with your recruitment committee and chapter leadership about how to share the Beta story with men each day of the year. Year-round recruitment doesn’t mean giving out bids year-round, it means making friends year-round.
Invite Them to Join.
If your IFC and campus allow it, consider inviting men to join by offering them a bid virtually. Get their address and send it in the mail or via email. Let them know you’re impressed by their character via Google Hangouts or FaceTime, then go from there.
Make sure you review membership expectations clearly to avoid any miscommunication that may happen virtually.
You’ve never used the Men of Principle Scholarship before? Contact your leadership consultant or Zach Lepperd at the Administrative Office. They will be more than happy to help you create a plan to successfully recognize high achieving men on your campus. Recruitment through scholarship is a great way to engage a PNM and add to your names list
Social Media Blitz.
Now is a great time to step up your social media presence with photos and videos built around Beta’s values and your chapter’s points of pride. Encourage members to post photos of them studying, helping their younger siblings with remote school work or helping out around the house. Share posts from Beta’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts to tell the full story of the Fraternity.
At the end of the day, people join people. If you can establish a strong connection during this time when you, your chapter and PNMs are away from campus, think about how those relationships will grow when you get back!
It will look different to recruit virtually, but think about it, you will strengthen the recruitment pipelines for your chapter while making sure men in your community feel supported and connected during this unprecedented time.
As COVID-19 developments continue to evolve rapidly and the response at the campus level varies widely, the Fraternity is reinforcing its recommendations to all house corporations:
Follow your host institution.
Monitor, understand and follow guidance offered by your host institution. The status of each campus may change suddenly and frequently, so please stay informed and check in with your host institution regularly.
Proper procedures and communication.
If your house corporation chooses to close the chapter house, please follow proper procedures and stagger move out times. The Fraternity encourages all house corporations to establish a primary point of contact for tenants and their parents, and to consult your existing lease agreements as you communicate with residents about expectations and potential modifications to your ability to house them.
Follow CDC guidelines.
If your chapter house remains operational, please follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Specifically, the Fraternity recommends proper cleaning of the facility and that house corporations work with food service providers to ensure all food safety guidelines are being followed. The Fraternity cautions against opening the Beta house to non-resident members or guests.
In addition to the guidance presented in the menu above, below you can find answers to some frequently asked questions regarding insurance coverage and further assistance:
Is there any insurance coverage if we end up closing the house and lose a portion of rent?
All occurrences triggering coverage of the business income policy is dependent upon the presence of direct physical damage resulting from a covered cause of loss. A virus or other communicable diseases generally do not constitute damage. However, if a disruption of operations occurs and there is a loss of rents, Holmes Murphy does recommend filing a claim which will require a response from the insurer. An additional resource is here.
If we close the house for the semester, is it now considered to be vacant?
Holmes Murphy and our underwriters understand these are unprecedented times and will not be mandating vacancy adjustments for falling below 50% occupancy unless your property was already considered vacant under the policy. Please review this resource for more information.
Does our liability insurance cover the house corporation if a claim is brought against us due to COVID-19?
From Holmes Murphy: "Your General Liability policy provides coverage in situations in which an individual brings a claim or files a lawsuit alleging they sustained some sort of bodily injury, property damage or personal injury arising from the negligence of Beta Theta Pi. Bodily injury includes sickness or disease sustained by a person. Therefore, if a member brought a claim or filed a lawsuit alleging they contracted the coronavirus arising from the negligence of the organization, your General Liability Insurance Carrier would likely respond. The GL carrier would be obligated to provide a defense and conduct a claim investigation up until the point where it determined whether or not the organization was indeed legally liable for contraction of the virus. If the organization was not legally liable, coverage would be disclaimed or denied to the person bringing the claim and the matter closed. If the GL carrier felt the organization was somehow negligent, a settlement would be negotiated. While you never say never, we find it highly unlikely that the Fraternity could ultimately be held legally liable for a member or another third party contracting the virus. Please keep in mind that these are our general comments. Ultimately, coverage for any claim/lawsuit brought will depend on the specific allegations included within the claim or lawsuit."
Is there a way to reduce property insurance costs?
We strongly recommend that every house corporation review the property insurance discount flyer. Director of Cornerstone John Reineke and Associate Director of Cornerstone Colin Close can answer any questions you may have about qualifying for any discount.
Are you aware of any financial support being provided to house corporations through the aid packages that were passed or are being considered by Congress?
From Arnold and Porter (Law Firm supporting Fraternity and Sorority Legislative Items): "The Small Business Administration (SBA) has created a page for COVID-19 small business loan guidance. On Tuesday, March 17, SBA revised the criteria for states seeking an economic injury declaration related to COVID-19 to make it easier to qualify. We strongly encourage house corporations to look at this program, which is likely to evolve significantly in the coming days as Congress passes modifications and injects hundreds of billions of dollars into the program. A group should apply for support as soon as possible if they are eligible because the new criteria to come may or may not be as favorable, and demand for this program will soon far outstrip financial capacity. Again, fraternity and sorority house corporations may be eligible for up to a $2 million loan through the Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Here’s what the SBA says about them: 'These loans are for small businesses, agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture enterprises and nonprofits affected by disaster to help meet working capital needs or normal business operating expenses through the recovery period. Businesses are eligible for these loans regardless of whether or not they have suffered property damage.'" A helpful one-pager with information about the process can be found here.