Minute with the Board – June 2023

by Jason Bergeron, Executive Director

Thank you to the AFA Board of Directors for allowing me to step in for this month’s Minute with the Board. 

There are an incredible amount of moving parts within the AFA ecosystem – many of those being things we rely on to continue to provide value to the profession. Our volunteers and staff provide the human and intellectual capital necessary to fuel our initiatives. Our financial resources help AFA to both maintain and to resource new capital investments and projects designed to improve member value and to better serve the profession. 

One area, however, that gets little attention is our data – what we know about the humans and the industry we serve, how individuals move through the sorority/fraternity profession, when they enter and why, when they leave and why, and where they choose to invest their time, treasure, and talent. 

Starting in October of 2021, AFA and the AFA Foundation began the process to search for a new data solution that could support the demands of ‘Forward to 50’, AFA’s Strategic Plan. What followed was a 20-month journey of proposal review, decision-making, and preparation and implementation that has yielded a new data home. And while this might not be the type of investment that will draw attention, it may be one of the most impactful long-term investments AFA and the AFA Foundation have made in recent years. Our ability to build, maintain, and leverage stronger data about our profession and the people who serve it is critical to tackling the more modern challenges of persistence, retention, and professional preparation. But data for the sake of data are an exercise in ‘wheel-spinning’, meaning data are only as good as our intentions to use it for meaningful, focused decision-making.

So what is driving our future data efforts? As we continue to invest staff time and financial resources into stronger data, let’s chronicle some of the ways in which we are framing data solutions around critical questions are at the front of our continued efforts:

Where are our professionals in their journey? This may seem like an essential question, but being able to track our professionals’ journey over time is essential to understanding pipelines into our profession, better understanding around what facilitates entry into our profession, and better understanding when, where, and why professionals depart. 

Who is, and isn’t, being included in the work of our profession? Understanding salient identities of our professionals, and where they do this work, can assist AFA is understanding where pipelines into our field aren’t being developed, how colleges, universities, and different communities of sororities and fraternities are being included or excluded in our work, and how to create pathways into AFA for those historically excluded. 

Who is supporting our profession? Beyond the core of those doing front-line work with sorority and fraternity communities, there is a wide community of senior level administrators, CEOs, volunteers, and educational partners who are invested in making the work of sorority and fraternity development more meaningful, more impactful, and more focused. 

What experiences keep our professionals persisting in this work? What experiences facilitate departure? Diminishing pipelines into the work of the sorority and fraternity profession, coupled with increasing opportunities for departure, continue to be a concern for the success of our field. Stronger data around professional development experiences and their relationship to persistence in the field is essential to supporting professionals in building a long-term commitment to this work.   

New data systems won’t allow us to answer these questions on day one, but continued improvement will allow us to build more robust data that will help us to chip away at these questions. And your ability to support and participate is central to that effort. When AFA asks for your educational history, it is so we can understand preparation pipelines into our work. When AFA asks for your employment history, it is to better understand opportunities for upward mobility within our field. When AFA asks for your current professional level, it is so we can provide more targeted professional development that meets your needs in the moment. And when AFA asks for your volunteer interests, it is to better match you with a volunteer role that compliments your membership experience and leverages your skills and talents. 

We are deeply excited at the opportunities stronger data presents, and we look forward to continuing to serve our profession in increasingly focused and intentional ways.

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