How To Choose The Best Community Service Fraternity/Sorority For You

By Melody Chi on March 17, 2015

Fraternities are getting a bad rap in the media lately– and whether that is justified or not is another question entirely– but they can also do a great deal of good.

Community service fraternities, frats whose main mission it is to perform beneficial acts for the community, are particularly helpful.

[And before I go any further, let me make it clear that by “fraternities,” I don’t mean strictly all-male collegiate organizations. Instead, fraternities can (and, in this case, do) refer to co-ed collegiate groups.]

But how do you choose which community service fraternity is right for you? Great question, and the answer is this: by reading on!

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First, let me give you a little basic information. The main national community service fraternities are Alpha Phi Omega and Epsilon Sigma Alpha (both are co-ed), while the primary national sororities (these are mostly-female organizations, but males are allowed) are Gamma Sigma Sigma and Omega Phi Alpha.

Let’s move on to some background on these four major fraternities/sororities.

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First, according to the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) website, APO was founded in 1925 at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. It currently has over 350 active chapters in the U.S., with over 25,000 active members and more than 400,000 alumni.

Alpha Phi Omega’s goal is to help their members develop “leadership skills” by participating in “service projects on their campus, in their community and across the nation.” In general, APO’s mission is to “[make] the world a better place.”

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The second fraternity on our list, Epsilon Sigma Alpha (ESA), was started in 1929 in Jacksonville, Texas. According to their website, ESA has since amassed more than 700 chapters and 10,000 members. Like APO, Epsilon Sigma Alpha’s purpose is to “create a better world through excellent work locally, nationally, and internationally.”

The first of the sororities on this list is Gamma Sigma Sigma (GSS), which was founded in New York City in 1952. It has more than 60 active collegiate chapters and more than 25 alumni chapters. GSS’ mission is “to gather in the spirit of helping others.”

Although GSS’ official name is Gamma Sigma Sigma National Service Sorority, its website emphasizes that it does not bar members based on sex, so males are welcome to join.

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The last (but not least!) community service sorority I’ll tell you about is Omega Phi Alpha (OPA) National Service Sorority. According to their website, OPA possesses 31 active collegiate chapters in the U.S. and 5,000 members worldwide.

Its mission is to “better the lives of others worldwide by collaborating with organizations and volunteering through a flexible service program.” Through this, OPA strives to turn its members into “lifelong, service-minded leaders.”

Now that you’ve absorbed some background knowledge on these four major community service organizations, it’s time to decide which one (if any) you want to join. And that can be a tough decision!

After all, how do you decide which community service fraternity/sorority to throw your hat in when all of them are so wonderful and there’s even more out there than I’ve mentioned so far?

Well, to narrow it down, consider the following factors.

1. Think about your location.

Although all of the four fraternities/sororities I’ve focused on so far have chapters across the nation, some areas of the U.S. contain a higher number of chapters than others. Unfortunately, this could mean that one or more of the frats or sororities is unavailable in your local region, so do some research beforehand to see what your options are.

The four websites I’ve linked above have tools that easily show exactly where their chapters are located, so take advantage of those and plot out who is in your surrounding area.

2. Look into the specific cost.

Fraternities/sororities typically require their participants to pay dues for joining and for their continued membership, although this fee amount varies by organization and specific chapter.

If you’re willing to pay but have a strict budget as to how much, contact your local fraternities/sororities and ask exactly how much their specific fees are. (Chapters commonly require their members to pay either monthly, quarterly, by semester, or annually.)

In addition to their stated dues, joining and remaining in a frat or sorority also typically incurs other costs. For instance, most fraternities/sororities produce and sell clothing with their Greek letters and such on them, so if you want to stock up on these popular items, you might have to save beforehand. In addition, many chapters hold social events for their members, or may ask for additional fees to host certain philanthropic efforts.

Campusexplorer.com’s article regarding the cost of joining a frat is a good resource that explains the obvious and hidden fees of fraternity/sorority life.

3. Consider the size of your local chapter.

Do you want to be among a small group of people or do you prefer a large group?

For example, if you lean towards smaller gatherings, a less populous (but no less awesome) sorority such as Omega Phi Alpha might be the best choice.

On the other hand, Alpha Phi Omega’s larger size usually means bigger local chapters, so if that’s your preference, consider joining up with them.

4. Research their current projects.

If you have a specific philanthropic interest that you’d like to focus on with your fraternity or sorority, research their current or future projects beforehand and see if they match up with your preferences.

Many community service fraternities/sororities (including the four I’ve mentioned) focus on helping many groups of people at one time, so there isn’t a shortage of projects for you to show your interest in.

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