Horses, Mules, and… Donkeys?

by Matt Mattson

I’m no livestock expert.  Let me start out by admitting that.  I talk to some students occassionally, however, that have a lot of experience with livestock and they often like to correct my lack of equine experience.  This conversation will often come up following a Dynamic Recruitment Workshop that includes the analogy of Horses vs. Mules (get some info on this here.)

In our analogy of Horses vs. Mules we often teach that there are two types of members — HORSES that make up 10%-20% of the chapter but account for 80%-90% of the results, and MULES… the rest of the members.  Our most important message in that analogy is that HORSES RECRUIT HORSES while MULES RECRUIT MULES.  So, instead of the horses spending all their time trying to push or pull their unmotivated mules to just show up for recruitment work, simply GATHER YOUR HORSES AND GET TO WORK.  You can get more results by recruiting with your MOTIVATED MEMBERS than you can trying to motivate your mules. Your horses are who you want on the front lines of recruitment anyway.

I had an undergraduate fraternity gentleman challenge this assertion recently.  He was one of those livestock/equine experts, and he pushed me to re-think our analogy.  Devin Patton, a member of Alpha Gamma Rho at University of Idaho shared these thoughts with me over E-mail today.

Coming from a livestock background I thought to myself, mules aren’t worthless.  And coming from living within a fraternity I also thought that there aren’t just people who work hard and people who do nothing.  So I started trying to figure out a better way to explain this so I could bring it up to Matt after we were finished. 

To me a mule is an animal that is half a horse, so it has some ability within it to do a good job working.  But on the other hand it is half donkey, so it is half an ass.  I’ve spent a little time packing mules recently and I came to the conclusion that while mules aren’t the type of animal that is going to put out all of its effort and energy to the cause at hand.  You can still take several mules, tie a pretty heavy load to their backs, and lead them along with a horse.  Even average mules will just line out and follow packing their load, and a lot of times they will do this better than most horses, but there has to be a leader showing the mules where to go. 

I began thinking the similarities and my perceptions of the type of men that live in most fraternities.  And I thought, there are guys in fraternities who when given a job, they will do their job very well, but as soon as the job is done they go back to doing nothing until a leader gives them another job.  I thought well that sounds a lot like a mule to me. 

After the presentation was over I presented my case to Matt for him to change his presentation, and to change his definition of a mule.  Surprisingly he agreed with my idea about three kinds of fraternity men.  And after I explained that mules aren’t the worthless animals, that those are the donkey’s, he started laughing and said nobody had explained that to him before but it explains a fraternity house a little more in depth than just horses and mules.   

There are horses who are the leaders within the fraternity who may not have the most skill, but they put forth the most effort and are willing to go to their limits if need be.  Then there are the mules, which with a horse leading them have the ability to pack a pretty heavy load and do a good job.  Which leaves me with the donkeys; the donkeys are the true worthless animals.  Granted sometimes you might get a donkey to do some sort of work, but donkeys have a bad habit of just deciding to quit at the most inopportune times creating a lot more work for all the others involved in the situation.  So just remember, if you have a mule who is half-assing it sometimes, that is just because it is half an ass.  Just be glad you don’t have a donkey on your hands for they are complete asses.

So, perhaps there are horses, mules, and donkeys/asses.  I still assert that you want your horses on the front lines of recruitment so you are sure to get horses in return.  However, Devin’s lesson is that good leaders (stallions) can give specific tasks to some of the mules, and they’ll carry that load.  There are jobs to be done that mules should do.  There is leadership that should be done by horses.  Then there are the asses in your group.

I’m still confused by all the different actual variations of real-life stallions, horses, donkeys, mules, asses, jack-asses, etc.  But I do know that unmotivated members are NOT a valid excuse for recruitment underperformance.  Gather your horses, assign tasks to your mules, and leave the barn door open for your donkeys as you just go out and get to work recruiting more high performing members.


by Matt Mattson

I’m going to admit right now that I’m not a huge March Madness guy.  I filled out a bracket this year though.  It’s awesome!

My point being, nearly everyone and their brother gets a bit of March Madness this time of year, and it is a great recruitment opportunity.  I’ll keep this short and quick.

1. Host a March Madness bracket competition to drive names onto your Names List.  Maybe even do it for charity.  Distribute brackets, collect people’s predictions, compile data, and most importantly, get everyone’s name and contact information.  I don’t condone gambling on college sports (much), but I gladly paid $5 to get in a pool with my 2010 bracket.  I would have been even more prone to doing so if I knew that 1/2 of the pot went to the winner and 1/2 of the pot went to a charity that I cared about.  Consider being the organization that organizes the mass March Madness hysteria on your campus.

2. Looking for some small activities to engage potential members in?  Well, it turns out that between March 18th, 2010 and April 5, 2010 there will be something like 63 amazing drama-filled basketball games on TV.  Watch them with your friends.  Enjoy.  See, recruitment is easy.  :-)

The Listening Table

by Matt Mattson

While wandering around USC’s campus the other day making friends (which was a blast), I happened upon a very creative student organization recruitment tactic. 

There were a number of tables set up along the main drag of campus — there were some political groups, the Greenpeace folks were out there, a guy selling tickets to play paintball, a Relay-for-Life group, and a gospel choir selling delicious $1 cookies.  All were doing good work tabling, but there was one other table that really stood out to me.  They had a sign hanging on their table that read, “What’s Your Beef With Christianity?”

Now, religious content aside, I was first intrigued because their sign was a QUESTION, and not a statement.  So, I walked up and asked them about it.  I assumed they were an atheist/agnostic group that was looking for like-minded people with whom they could commiserate, but I was wrong.  At first they wouldn’t really tell me who they were, they just said…

“We’re here to listen.”

So, I asked them what their position was, and they said…

“Actually, we just want to learn from people.  We’re here to listen.”

Then I asked them what they were going to do with my response, and they said…

“Just think about it and learn from it.  We’re ready to listen.”

So, I started sharing my viewpoint.  They kept asking more questions, listening, taking notes, and asking more questions.  Suddenly I found myself blabbing on about a topic that was meaningful to me, and I was being listened to seriously.  It was awesome.  That doesn’t seem to happen much on a college campus — especially at organizational tables that are typically meant to “get your name out there”.

Imagine, setting up a booth or doing marketing work that wasn’t meant to SHOUT OUT HOW AWESOME YOUR ORGANIIZATION IS…  Imagine just offering to listen.  Listen to others’ opinions of you and your group.  Listen to others’ ideas for your organization. Listen to others’ ideas about your campus and community.  Listen to learn.  Listen to engage. Listen to connect with others.  Listen because it will make the other person’s day.  What if we just listened more.

Turns out this was a Christian organization, and they NEVER ONCE tried to tell me anything about their viewpoint.  We engaged in meaningful dialogue, but they weren’t trying to convince me of anything, they were just trying to connect with me, learn from me, and likely create an opportunity to follow up with me.  Smart.

Fall Down Seven. Stand Up Eight.

by Matt Mattson

fall-downThere’s an old saying that goes, “Fall down seven times. Stand up eight.”  We’ve all probably heard that, but when it comes to recruitment, that saying has two very important messages this time of year.


1. Feeling frustrated or disappointed because your recruitment results to this point have been lackluster?  I understand. Maybe you tried hard at the beginning of the semester, but everything has just sort of fizzled out since them.  You didn’t get the quantity of members you wanted/needed, so instead of working harder to drive more members into your group, you just go about the business of ignoring recruitment and working on the other organizational stuff.

So, you fell down.  Get up. 

There is still a great opportunity left this semester to get back on the recruitment horse.  My advice: simplify and go.

Take out all the planning, events, marketing, and hoopla.  Set all that aside.  Find 20-30 friends of the organization.  Work with those potential members for the next two weeks EVERY DAY to see what you might be able to accomplish.  Interview them, take them to coffee, tell them point blank that you’re trying to get a second wave of new members and they’ve made the short list.  Get up and make that push.  Find five other members in your chapter that share your desire for a higher quantity of higher quality members, and just get up, get out, and go.

It’s the perfect time to get your Second Wind.

I am working with two different chapters right now that are in this situation.  The beginning of the semester had some challenges, and while that hurt a little bit, both of these groups have a renewed commitment to pushing forward and making the rest of this semester the stuff of legends.


2. Did you try some of Phired Up’s Dynamic Recruitment techniques, and they didn’t quite work the first time?�
Remember, one of the lessons we teach at the beginning of our Dynamic Recruitment Workshops is… Our style of recruitment is probably different than what you’re used to.  You’ll probably “swing and miss” when you try this stuff the first time. You’re actually supposed to screw it up the first time around.  What matters is that you practice, try again, and watch yourself improve.  Watch your confidence level slowly rise and then soar.  Watch your results first trickle in, the explode.  Fall down seven, stand up eight.

Get up and go.