by Matt Mattson
Since Phired Up Productions was founded, we've had many people ask us, “With all the problems that college groups — especially fraternities and sororities – have, why do you focus on recruitment?”
Well, the answer to that is two-fold. First of all, we still do some consulting work for organizations that goes beyond recruitment. You’ll find Phired Up staff members facilitating values-based conversations, you’ll find us helping groups strategically plan, you’ll find us helping with leadership training and other educational programming as well. But our focus is mostly on recruitment… And that brings us to the second answer to the above question:
Everything always ends up boiling down to RECRUITMENT!
Not convinced? Let's take a look at what many people would consider the Top 5 Challenges of a collegiate Greek organization (and while recruitment itself is normally among these top 5, we’ll leave it out for this exercise).
- Money. The problem isn't normally that a chapter has too much money. In fact, many fraternity/sorority chapters are constantly struggling to get by financially. If that isn't the case, then almost ALL fraternity/sorority chapters have dreams about what they could be, what they could do, and what they could accomplish that are blocked by their limited financial resources. So let's look at this problem as one of two questions that needs to be answered: a) “Why doesn't the chapter have enough money to survive?” or b) “How can the chapter get enough money to accomplish their big dreams?” The answer to both questions is, “The chapter needs more high quality members to either pay their dues, pay higher dues, do more fundraising work, or drive revenue to the chapter in some way. The answer is always a higher quantity of higher quality members.
- Hazing. Hazing is, of course, a very common problem in chapters. It causes significant attrition, it hurts the chapter's reputation, and it is a risk management nightmare for whoever is paying the chapter's insurance. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. So many high quality chapter leaders and advisors will ask us how to stop hazing in their chapter. While that's a tough question to answer, I would argue that THE END OF HAZING STARTS WITH THE BEGINNING OF BETTER RECRUITMENT PRACTICES. If a chapter is first gathering a high number of prospects from which to choose their members, the question can be asked “Why haze if you already know you're getting the highest quality members on campus?” Further, recruiting a higher quantity of higher quality members means that there will be more strong-willed new members who can stick up for themselves and stop hazing practices in their tracks — often it takes just one (and that one rarely comes from traditional recruitment practices). The answer is always a higher quantity of higher quality members.
- Reputation. A chapter's reputation can be its most prized possession or its greatest weakness. It affects the chapter's ability to attract new members, its ability to have strong relationships with administration and community members, its ability to have fun social events — nearly all aspects of the chapter can be strengthened or decimated by reputation. Where does reputation come from??? The members. Where do the members come from? Recruitment. Instead of trying to turn bad into good, start with good — or better, GREAT members. Your reputation will not be changed by marketing campaigns or nicer clothes — only nicer members and better recruitment campaigns. The answer is always a higher quantity of higher quality members.
- Apathy. For those of you who have read Good Guys or seen a Dynamic Recruitment Workshop, you know the story about HORSES and MULES. If you haven't heard this story before, I’ll cheat and give you the moral of the story: You can't PUSH the MULES in your chapter to get involved and be helpful — they're stubborn and hopeless. If you want motivated chapter members who do the hard work it takes to run a GREAT organization, RECRUIT MORE HORSES LIKE YOU. That's all there is to it. Apathy comes from apathetic people. The answer is always a higher quantity of higher quality members.
- Relationships. The last of the Top 5 Challenges is maintaining strong relationships amongst chapter members. While every fraternity and sorority we've ever talked to claims to have the tightest brother/sisterhood on campus, every single one of them also admits to having bickering, sniping, bitching, fighting, and gossiping among members. In my opinion, the only way to really keep the relationships amongst chapter members as strong as possible is to ensure that you have the strongest possible members making up the organization. Having more members means less work for all (which equals happier leaders). Having higher quality members means nicer brothers and sisters. And setting the right expectations of membership during the recruitment period creates a level playing field for strong relationships to bloom. The answer is always a higher quantity of higher quality members.
The point of this isn't to say that ALL problems are ALWAYS solved by recruitment. But, if you consider what is actually in your control, you realize RECRUITMENT is one of the few things that you can work on to make a huge impact throughout your chapter.
If you want to move your group from mediocre or struggling to EXCELLENT, stop spreading your limited energy around trying to put out fires in every corner of the organization. Focus your energies on the one thing that can head off future problems at the head. RECRUITMENT.
The answer is always a higher quantity of higher quality members.