by Jessica Gendron
What would two chapters that are well over 200 members each want recruitment help for? I asked myself the same question last month when I was approached by the Delta Gamma chapters from Mississippi State and Ole Miss. I was taking a little break during their two-day Membership Academy when the chapter recruitment directors and recruitment advisors from these two chapters approached me and asked, "We would love for you to come do this training for our chapters. Are you available in two weeks?"
Lucky for me and for them, I was. However, when they asked me, I had to pause for a double-take. Recruitment help? These chapters make quota. These chapters are at total. These chapters have great return rates. Was I dreaming or were these chapter women really that smart?
Let me clarify what I mean by "smart". These women are smart because they recognized that size does not always equal success. They realized that regardless of their current success, there was always room for improvement and further development. They realized that recruitment help didn't always mean help "growing in size". They recognized that recruitment could be better.
So on a wonderful Sunday afternoon in March in Oxford, Mississippi, the Delta Gamma chapters from Mississippi State and Ole Miss got "recruitment help". Here's a little insight into what they found beneficial to them.
We scare people. We should be more normal.
Let's just say that Ole Miss and Mississippi State haven't exactly gone "no frills". Helping their members recognize how scary and intimidating recruitment can be for potential members was the first step to helping them understand how they can make their events better. We focused on making the environment comfortable for their potential members AND their members by removing some of the scary stuff they do.
People join people, not sororities.
All of the "stuff" they do during recruitment (chanting, singing, outfits, drinks, skits) isn't why the women join their organization. Women join because of a friendship or a relationship that they build with one or two of their members. Every single one of their members had a person who was the reason they were a Delta Gamma. The key to successful recruitment is focusing on the people and the relationship we can build with them. That is why they join ‐ because of a person.
How to be a horse.
With chapters of 200+ women, it's impossible for every woman to have a leadership role or "positional authority" in the chapter. The great thing about recruitment is that you don't have to have "positional authority" to be a horse (someone who does the work). We focused on how each member could have an impact on the recruitment success of their chapter by using their ability to have good and meaningful dialogue with potential members. They could be the person who is responsible for a woman joining.
Talking about sorority in a good and meaningful way.
Every sorority says the same things about their organization to potential members. Everyone has the best sisterhood, raises the most money for their philanthropy, has the highest grades, and blah blah blah. There is nothing that allows their organization stand out by saying the same things everyone else does. We focused on using the features of membership in their chapter (sisterhood, philanthropy, service, fun, events, leadership, etc.) to open the door to talk about the benefits of those things ‐ what they will gain as a person from those experiences. Then we took it to the next level by teaching them to share their personal experiences with the features of membership and what they have gained from those things. These are much more meaningful conversations than just talking about the stuff that you do like everyone else does.
Having better conversations during recruitment.
Good skills are the core of good conversations. Since we know that the relationship is the most important thing in recruitment, their ability to have good, genuine conversations is paramount. Too many times we think that controlling the conversation means doing all the talking ‐ usually talking about the sorority. The truth is the way you control the conversation is by doing the listening and question-asking. The conversation is then centered around the person, not the sorority. We taught them how to start the conversation with questions centered around broad common areas of interest until they found something they had in common. From there the conversation is natural, normal, and allows for good relationship to be formed.
Sharing their personal stories.
When I asked, "Has your sorority changed your life?" I got a resounding, "Yes!" Sharing those personal stories about how the sorority has changed your life has the biggest impact. You can say you have the best sisterhood and that you love your sisters, but when you share a personal story about something that demonstrates how great your sisterhood really is, I believe you. Sharing your personal stories allows you to be genuine and talk about your experience in a good way. The whole time the potential member is thinking""I want that." It's relatable and real in a process that typically feels pretty fake.
Bottom-line, these Delta Gamma women were smart. They saw room for growth and improvement with their chapters even though they typically pretty high performing in recruitment. Regardless of whether you are 2 members or 200, there are always opportunities to make your recruitment better, not just by increasing your size, but by increasing you members' ability make your process better, more genuine, and less scary.
Three Technology Tools Every Fraternity Should Use
Every fraternity should have a chapter website. The website should have some basic information about their history and what they stand for. It should also have a clear way for potential new members to request more information about the Brotherhood. For those chapters without any website experience, Google Sites offers an extremely simple free website building service. http://sites.google.com
Facebook is a great tool for any fraternity. Most fraternities use Facebook to organize events. Almost 95% of students on college campuses use Facebook. It's great for communication related to recruitment and philanthropic events. http://www.facebook.com
Mass Texting Program
Most fraternities have issues with passing a message to each member. With a utility like Tatango, all you do is push one button and every member of the fraternity will receive a text message at the same time. This makes mass communication of changed meeting times and locations extremely easy. There are a few websites that do this service, but I recommend Tatango.com http://tatango.com
The Two Best Ways For a Fraternity to Use Facebook
Promoting Philanthropy and Recruitment Events
1.) By creating an event listing on Facebook, it gives you the
opportunity to send reminders to event attendees. You should be
careful not to take a person's “RSVP” too literal. In my experiences,
if a guest RSVP's, he will only come to the event 80% of the time. In
a similar respect, if a person says he is a “maybe”, you should only
expect him to show up approximately 10% of the time (or less).
Special Guests Require Special Attention
2.) Always give important guests special attention by sending a Facebook message
after you send the event invitation - it goes a long way. Make sure the note is
from your personal face book account (you can also send a group
message – this is not personalized and defeats the purpose).
Make sure to address the individual by name so he knows it is
not a mass message. This is particularly important for
recruitment events. You should send personalized messages to all
potential new members.
General Follow Up Guidelines
3.) Always Follow Up three days and one day before an event.
You can do this by sending a mass message to the entire
group. A group message will go to all members of the group who are
listed as “Maybe Attending”, “Attending”, and “Waiting
for Reply”. A reminder three three days prior to the event makes
it likely they will not make other plans. A reminder the day before
the event will make sure the doesn't slip the student's mind. We all know
that it is easy to forget an event every now and then.
Screening Potential New Members
According to psychologist Samuel Gosling and author Malcolm Gladwell,
it is possible for someone who has never met you to have a better
understanding of you than your closest friends. Gosling
conducted experiments where individuals browsed students' bedrooms and
were able to judge the students as accurately as friends they have
known for years. A student's face book page is similar to their
bedroom in the sense that they leave a footprint of their
personality on their Facebook page. These footprints can be blatant
(music tastes, favorite books) or subtle (pictures, Facebook groups).
What Really Matters to Potential New Members
These footprints can be very important in judging an individual's
character. They can help show what particular students really care
about. Are they in groups such as “Legalize It” and “Thirsty
Thursdays” or are they in student government and the community service club? Do
their profile pictures show them doing keg stands or accepting an
award? In my experience, students with professional Facebook profiles tend to be
more likely to be fraternity workhorses.
Values Based Recruiting
You may or may not choose to use Facebook as a screening tool. If you choose to not use Facebook, you should have a screening system in place. The Phired Up Blog promotes a values-based selection process. If your fraternity does not have a values-based selection process in place, you should have a meeting with your chapter advisor or university advisor to help create one. Here is a Sample Values Based Selection Plan (link to http://www.phiredup.com/files/admin/Values-Based_Selection_Process_Example.pdf)
Phired Up recently met a fraternity man named Robert Cavezza. Robert graduated in December of 2008 and has a recruitment success story to share. In a series of guest blog posts over the coming weeks, Robert will share his unique point of view on recruitment. Phired Up welcomes partnerships of this kind, and hopes to share other people's recruitment perspectives in the future. Even if we don't agree 100%, we're open to sharing this forum to ensure that anyone with a great recruitment idea can share it with the world.
My name is Robert Cavezza and I recently graduated. I was a four year fraternity undergraduate and used technology in recruiting to "save" my fraternity. Here is my story.
It was the Spring of 2009. We had just lost our fraternity house and there were only five of us left. Four of us were graduating either in May or next December. We NEEDED a large new member class. It wasn't an option.
It wasn't as if our fraternity didn't have anything to offer. We had one of the highest GPAs on campus and we all knew how to have a good time. We attended two different Phired Up Recruiting seminars and national headquarters recruiting seminars. For some reason, we were not able to connect the dots.
Two Weeks Into Recruitment"
We were two weeks into recruitment period and we had no potential new members and no leads. We were brainstorming possible ways to get new members at a meeting and someone mentioned the idea of a mass email. Our fraternity office supplies a list of student emails and the list can be segmented by GPA. We had nothing else to lose, so we decided to try sending the mass email.
The announcement of the sale of our fraternity house would be in the school newspaper the next day. We thought this would be a great time to send out the emails.
The Email and The Response
That night, I spent eight hours learning how to use and format mail merges. A mail merge is a way to use Microsoft Word to send out personalized emails to a large number of people. The email was sent a little before 3am that night. It was sent to a few more than 3,000 students and the mail merge allowed me to personalize each email using each student's first name. Before I woke up the next day, there were 60 emails in my inbox.
We planned three information sessions at different locations on campus over the course of the next two weeks. We emphasized the benefits of the fraternity and how it changed our lives. After the third information session, we had a pledge class larger than the Brotherhood. Our membership grew by 400% that semester.
The Future of Fraternity Recruitment
The internet is going to become increasingly important in fraternity recruitment. Josh and Matt have asked me to answer questions that some of you may have about using technology in recruiting. If you have a specific technology related question, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it might be featured on this blog in the coming weeks.