The Seven Habits of Successful House Corporations

1. Operate Like A Business

  • Alumni Leadership
    • Alumni and Parent Relations programs in place
    • Recruit leaders who possess a passion for the chapter
    • Follow a specific plan for volunteer identification, recruitment, training, and recognition
    • Identify 2-3 core leaders and surround them with others
    • Invest in education
    • Identify those with a “thick skin”
    • Ensure that everyone is having fun and is recognized
  • Reporting
    • Incorporate
    • File annual report
    • File other tax reports
  • Property Management
    • Establish a budget
    • Decide if professional and/or volunteer management is needed for: chapter finances, alumni chapter and house corporation finances and property maintenance
    • Ensure that a professional or volunteer makes inspections weekly
    • Ensure that the house corporation property manager and undergraduate house manager speak weekly
    • Meet with the chapter as a whole at the beginning of each semester
    • Utilize an online maintenance form
    • Follow move-in and move-out procedures
    • Enlist a Resident Advisor, if possible
    • Implement a 5-Year Master Plan
    • Budget and ensure you complete maintenance every holiday and/or summer
    • Hold the chapter accountable for  cleanliness and damage
    • Use security cameras (it’s controversial, but it works)
  • Master Lease and House Rules
    • Ensure that you post and distribute rules for use of the house
    • Follow a master lease that includes fees, rules, etc.
    • Require the chapter to use housing/member contracts rules need to be posted in the lobby, in members’ rooms, on the website, emailed to members and parents, and attached to member leases
    • Discuss with the chapter each semester
  • Meet on a Quarterly Basis
    • Set annual meeting schedule and promote via email, newsletter, and website
    • Conduct meetings in different markets (top 2-4 markets where your alumni live)
    • Invite alumni and parents in the market you are meeting to a reception (this will cultivate them and possibly identify new volunteers)
  • Recruit New Volunteers Every Few Years
    • Identify sharp undergraduate leaders who are graduating and recruit them to your board
    • Establish a volunteer recruitment committee focused on recruiting a few more volunteers
    • Conduct an interest/involvement survey
  • Follow One- and Five-Year Master Plans and Budget
    • Involve advisors, house corporation members, parents and undergraduates in developing and updating 1-Year and 5-Year plans every year
    • Produce an annual budget
    • Focus on alumni/parent relations, finances, fundraising, land, facility, and volunteers
  • Resources On Your Website
    • Everything you do should go on the website (public and private areas)
    • Educate all alumni and undergraduate leaders on where resources are
    • Review and update annually
  • Beat Your Competition
    • Your philosophy must be: “How can we remain competitive not just today, but 10-15 years from now?”
    • What can you provide that is better than apartments, dorms and other fraternity facilities?
  • Open Communication
    • Stay involved with University house corporation committees and your national house corporation, if available or appropriate
    • House Corporation officers communicate with each other regularly
    • House manager and property manager communicate weekly
    • Require the chapter to provide monthly accounting reports to the board
    • House Corporation update email to all board members monthly and all alumni and parents annually
    • House Corporation meets at least quarterly
    • Every term or quarterly meeting with entire chapter and officers
  • Have Fun!
    • Volunteers join to be around others they enjoy – remember that

2. Execute Master and Individual Leases

  • Officers sign for chapter use each year in March/April (house rules attached)
  • Chapter secures signed leases by all members (renters, meal plan, and dues)

3. Research, Charge Market Rents & Collect It

  • Research rent fees on apartments, houses, dorms and other fraternities every 1-2 years
  • Ensure that the chapter understands why you have set rent at the level you have
  • Set the rent and collect 100% (use professionals as needed)
  • Bill up-front and provide a discount and, for those who cannot pay in-full, use payment plans

4. Establish A Maintenance Reserve Fund

  • Budget to put away no less than 5-10% of your annual revenues
  • Complete a Life-Use Assessment of your facility to help set an appropriate budget
  • Consider adding an undergraduate building fee

5. Reduce The Debt and Fundraise

  • Do not let your debt get out of control
  • Rule of thumb for long-term debt is no more than $5,000 to $10,000 per bed
  • Conduct an annual fundraising drives, soliciting donations from alumni and parents
  • Complete a major fundraising campaign every 20-25 years

6. Fill The House

  • Do whatever it takes to keep the facility at least 90% full
  • Have the chapter incorporate a point system for move-in and move-out priority

7. Develop A Sense of “Ownership” In The Undergraduates

  • Invite chapter officers to attend all board meetings
  • Recruit officers to help the House Corporation set the rent and rules
  • Have fun with the undergraduates with an annual meeting trip