A fraternal organization is a society that usually has specific purposes and power structures. These organizations are often organized around academic institutions or specific trades. There are also some fraternal organizations that are very secretive about their internal workings and are highly protective about certain pieces of information. A fraternal organization may adhere to codes of conduct set forth by the founders or leaders of the group and they may follow certain ceremonial practices such as initiation rites. If a fraternal organization does adhere to codes of conduct, there may be disciplinary proceedings for members who breech those codes.
In many cases, a fraternal organization is populated and led by men. There are, however, similar organizations that are open primarily to women. These organizations are called sororities. There are also some organizations that are referred to as fraternal organizations that are made up of both men and women, or even women exclusively. The Order of the Eastern Star, for example, is a large fraternal organization that is open to both men and women.
There are various ways in which a fraternal organization can be funded. Funding for the organization often comes, at least in part, from donations from members of the organization. Depending on the age of the fraternal organization, it may be able to support itself with income from investments that were made over many years.
Many people, especially those living in the United States, know fraternities best by their presence on college and university campuses. It has been common for fraternal organizations to have campus chapters since the beginning of the 19th century in America. There have been some reports of abuse within fraternal organizations on American college campuses, including dangerous hazing and initiation practices. Some of these incidents have even made news headlines. Despite these incidents, there are many people who remain committed to the fraternal organizations that they join in college and remain connected to the organization for many years after graduation.
In addition to college fraternities, there are also fraternal organizations for people who share a trade. The original purposes of these organizations have been replaced in many cases by unions and insurers. Some fraternal organizations that were originally based on a trade, however, are still in existence. In these cases, the purposes of the organizations may have been adjusted as the needs of members have changed.