Fraternal organizations are groups that are formed based on a common bond, as with social or academic interests. Examples of fraternal organizations include college fraternities and sororities which are based on religion, previous members, or just common interests. Sometimes these organizations provide great networking opportunities that allow graduates a smoother transition into the workforce. They are often granted preferential tax treatment as 501(c)10 organizations and provide certain benefits to members such as discounted life or health insurance coverage.
These organizations have a storied and prominent place in the history and development of the U.S.; however, during the American Civil War fraternal institutions were largely dormant outside the military because the nation was preoccupied with the war. Prior to the Civil War, fraternal organizations had experienced an increase in popularity, while organizations that opposed them experienced a decline. Some early fraternal organizations were based on faith-driven precepts that encourage cooperation and support among members within the group. While the concept of a fraternal organization is derived from the idea of brotherhood, and many organizations continue to be exclusively comprised of men; however, today, memberships do not necessarily have to be restricted by gender.
Trade guilds, which were predecessors to trade unions, made up of professionals from a given trade are also forms of fraternal organizations, with groups such as Freemasons as persistent examples. In addition to the guiding principle that led to the formation of a fraternal organization, many groups also perform community service or charitable tasks.
The photograph composite is courtesy of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a strategic partner of Americans All. They are made up of Irish and Irish-Americans dedicated to the promotion, protection and preservation of Irish culture and traditions in America.