How Alcohol (or the lack thereof) is Helping One Fraternity Grow Fast

by Josh Orendi
PDTLogo_PMS539_TagWhat if an entire national fraternity chose to operate 100% alcohol free?  I can imagine the heated reactions of undergrads and alumni.  Seriously.  Try to picture it – a nationwide vote to abolish alcohol from every chapter house across the country.  Next, imagine if that organization had the fortitude to stick with their alcohol free decision for over a decade.  Who would want to join?  Would current members stay?  Is alcohol-free housing a death sentence or a bold, sustainable reinvention of fraternity? Thanks to Phi Delta Theta , we have the answer.

I scheduled time to talk with Associate Executive Vice President Sean Wagner and Director of Expansion Demarcko Butler to ask them about the impact of bold decisions in recent years at Phi Delt and to see if they plan to shake things up again anytime soon.  What I learned is there’s more than a story of alcohol-free housing.  This is a fraternity with a history of doing things differently, leading by example, and YES they are preparing to go big again….

Phired Up: Let’s start with the numbers.  How did alcohol-free housing impact recruitment?
Phi Delt: Here are some benchmark numbers…

1997:  Alcohol free decision was made.
2000:  Alcohol free policy fully adopted.
2000 – 2012:  23% annual increase in new members and 16% increase per year in initiates
2012:  We’re up 14% from last year and reached 4000 new members this year for the first time in over 20 years.

Perhaps the most impressive number of all is that our average colony/chapter size is 64 members.  That’s significant since the national average hovers around the low to mid 40’s.

Phired Up: Are you experiencing positive growth trends with your expansion efforts?
Phi Delt: Yes.  We have installed 60 chapters since 2000.  In the last year we’ve installed 8 new groups at an average size of 41 new members.

Phired Up: What implications did that historic alcohol-free decision have on the organization other than recruitment?
Phi Delt: Ed Whipple, who is currently a fellow for NASPA and formerly was the VP of Student Affairs at BGSU and a former President of our General Council, did some significant research for us both at our 5-year anniversary in 2005 and an update to mark the 10th anniversary in 2010.  Without getting into all of the details, beyond recruitment, some of the most impressive findings included an increased GPA as now 25% of our chapters are tops on their campus in the classroom and an increase in alumni involvement as we now have 55% more alumni involved with our chapters than we did in 1997 when the policy was introduced.

Phired Up: The alumni involvement piece is really interesting.  Tell me more about that.
Phi Delt: We heard from alumni in the past that they weren’t getting involved because our houses weren’t a place they felt comfortable spending their time as a professional.  Now they’re giving both their time and treasure.  Alumni giving is at an all-time high.  Since 1997 when the policy was introduced and today, our Foundation has experienced its best years including last year which was our 2nd highest in total contributions.  Also, while we don’t track local giving, Pennington and Company has helped our local house corporations raise $7.5 million between 2005 and today.

In addition to our houses being nicer, they are also safer; we averaged 12.3 alcohol claims prior to 2000 and today we average less than three a year.  Liability insurance costs have come down substantially offering a much more affordable experience for our members.  Today the average insurance rate for fraternities hovers around $160 per member; our rate is almost half that at $78 when you factor in both initiated and new members.

Phired Up: If numbers are up and Phi Delt is experiencing all these additional benefits, why aren’t more fraternities following your example on alcohol?
Phi Delt: That’s a question you’d have to ask them, but it has obviously worked for us and we’re very proud of the results.    In the meantime, we’re very happy to have created a bit of a niche.  All Greek letter organizations were roughly founded on similar principles but by taking alcohol directly out of our value proposition from a living environment standpoint, we’re happy to be offering an opportunity that our EVP Bob Biggs famously calls a “learning-living laboratory.”

Phired Up: Is alcohol-free housing the biggest reason Phi Delt has grown so consistently?
Phi Delt: More than anything I believe that by removing alcohol from our facilities we have been able to focus on things that make us a better organization.  While there is still a great deal of risk management education that we do and incidents do come up, our chapters, volunteers, and staff no longer regularly focus on incidents involving alcohol we have all been able to broaden our focus.

From a chapter standpoint, we hear from our members that they have gotten outside of their houses for social activity and have become more involved on their campus which has helped build relationships and bigger Phikeia (that’s what we call our new members) classes.  From a staff standpoint, our collective hand in the increased numbers is due to the programming that we’ve been able to do because we haven’t been constantly “putting out fires.” This includes creating new recruitment training, online education, a new branding campaign, alumni loyalty program, a large virtual footprint in social media, the Iron Phi program, and much more.

Phired Up: Tell me more about Iron Phi.  A lot of readers may not be familiar with that program.
Phi Delt: The Iron Phi program is homegrown, born out of the MBA program and brain of long-time staff member Steve Good.  Steve’s great idea was to harness the tremendous enthusiasm and pride that we have for Lou Gehrig as arguably our most famous alumnus and a partnership with The ALS Association, and channel that into a program that challenges our members to take on an athletic challenge and raise money for the fight against ALS and the Phi Delta Theta Foundation.  It’s working!  We’ve raised approximately $310k since February 2010 while giving Phis a chance to do some good and work towards a personal goal.

[Sean] I wouldn’t call myself a runner, but I participated with a number of staff members in a relay team during Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon in 2010 and raised $1000 while doing it. Demarkco is still trying to earn his Iron Phi Stripes…..

Phired Up: When I talk to the technology vendors servicing national fraternities, most point to Phi Delt as being an early leader from website development and social media adoption to webinars and online education.  What’s the story?
Phi Delt: In technology our recipe for success has been to experiment and to follow the trends.   We thank the folks at the Group Interactive Networks (GIN) for helping us cut our teeth on our chapter website templates in 2007. We learned through that while our undergraduate members were using technology every day in everything that they do, they didn’t necessarily know how to use it in their fraternity experience.   From there we set out to do our best to serve as a model example from a General Fraternity standpoint.  This included going for it with Facebook and everything else that has come along since, including Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and more.  If our members are using it to connect to their world, we need to at least attempt to see if it makes sense to as tool to connect them to Phi Delt.  By doing this we’re sharing best practices with chapters so they know better how to use the web for connecting with potential new members and their constituents.

Online education was a similar thing, our advisers were using online education for professional training and we were still sending them paper manuals.  We needed to catch-up.  Now we have a Chapter Advisory Board Certification program for 8 different positions. Since we launched it in March of 2011 we’ve had 498 advisers certified.

Phired Up: I keep seeing blue Phi Delt marketing materials with “Become the Greatest Version of Yourself” on campuses, social media, t-shirts.  Tell me the full story behind the new branding campaign.
Phi Delt: Our governing board, the General Council, provided the tremendous leadership in 2010 to introduce a strategic plan in 2010 called Phi Delt 2020 that has six comprehensive initiatives, but we knew quickly in order to talk about what we wanted to do, we needed to get our messaging down.  We feel like we always had a great story to tell, but didn’t necessarily do a good job at telling it.

To find our voice we wanted to find some folks outside of the industry, so we hired Pocket Hercules out of Minneapolis.  Their principles Jack Supple and Jason Smith had worked on a little brand called Harley Davidson before starting what they call “The Pocket.”  After quite a bit of internal and environmental research, they came up with “Become the Greatest Version of Yourself” as our tagline and the “Sword and Shield” as our primary external logo.  The tagline was rooted in the research and feedback that our prospective, current, and alumni members provided along with sorority women that spoke to Phi Delt building better men.  This was understood whether they knew it personally or had experienced through interacting with our members. We liked the line because it wasn’t boasting or being over the top with alcohol-free housing, it was aspirational and described the opportunity you’re getting when you sign a Phi Delt bid card.  This isn’t something that is for everyone, but an experience that top tier students on campus seek out to help them develop an individual.

Once the key assets were determined we set out to build a campaign that included an overhaul to our web presence, recruitment materials, and how we would communicate about ourselves in all ways.  To ensure that we had the brand in the hands of our chapter members as quickly as possible, we worked with a company called Advanced Online to build the PhiDeltStore to provide branded recruitment items and apparel.   We are still in the process of assessing the roll-out, but anecdotally the feedback couldn’t be better from our members and constituents.   The next wave in branding for us will be to use the brand in such a way that that we are generating demand and creating better overall awareness of the organization outside of our core audience.

Phired Up: Back to the alcohol-free and recruitment conversation … Demarcko, your job is literally to recruit hundreds of men into new colonies of the organization every year.  How do you tell a guy that he can’t have a beer in his room if he wants to become a Phi Delt?
Phi Delt: When an expansion project starts, our process is to recruit the highest caliber men in the areas of academics, involvement, service, athletics, etc.  Those individuals are either already on board with the policy of alcohol-free housing or they see it as an added bonus toward them continuing to make an impact at their particular institution.

Phired Up: Most national fraternities are proud to recruit 25 – 35 new members into a colony.  Is the same true for Phi Delt given the added restriction on alcohol?
Phi Delt: Our minimum standard for recruitment is at least 40 men.  The expansion team looks for the “never joiners” and of course the “maybe joiners”.  We use Dynamic Recruitment with a focus on the first cylinder (referrals) – sororities, coaches, faculty, etc.  Our expansion team has literally interviewed hundreds of college men.   We quickly realized that the best people are no longer looking for the fraternity to be a drinking club.  The students who are attracted to Phi Delta Theta want to “Become the Greatest Version of Themselves!”  They want to defy the stereotypes that their campus has already in Greek Life.  We are looking for “fraternity men” NOT “frat stars.”

Phired Up: It’s clear that Phi Delt isn’t afraid to be different, make bold choices, and stick with them for the long haul.  What do we have to look forward to from Phi Delt in the next few years?
Phi Delt: Our mantra around here is that the Phi Delt 2020 plan is our “north star.”  We have gotten laser focused.  If a new proposal doesn’t fit into one of our strategic initiatives, we aren’t doing it!  You can expect Phi Delt to further emphasize chapter growth and retention, a standardized new member program that leverages new technologies, enhanced branding efforts, and programming in the networking and mentoring space.  We’re doing all of this while ramping up our fundraising efforts with a goal of $20 million by 2020.  Alcohol-free housing helped us get where we are today and Phi Delt 2020 is the plan shaping the course for our future.

Phired Up: Demarcko, wanna go grab a beer with me?
Phi Delt: Sure, but not in a Phi Delt chapter house.

Article Written By:  Josh Orendi, CEO, Phired Up Productions (
Interviewing:  Sean Wagner & Demarcko Butler of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity (
Published May 23, 2012


by Matt Mattson

I watched this video the other day (it’s not about taking pictures of girls on a beach, I assure you).

Do I make my life count?  Do I matter?  Do I make the momentary choices every day that add up to a life that "counts"?  Do I have great stories to tell like these guys?  Do I live life fully?  Do I engage with the people and the world around me? These are big questions that this video stirred inside me.  I realize this is a Nike ad, but it moved me.

Those questions about making it count are why I do what I do for a living.  The work we do to teach Social Excellence is so much about helping people create fuller, richer, more fulfilling lives that MATTER.

Those questions are really what our BE THE PERSON 2012 event is all about (there’s still time to register ).  We’re bringing people together in Chicago in a couple of weeks to help them find a way to MATTER to the world.  We’re brining people together to help them do things that COUNT!  We want to challenge people to make bold every day choices, to create the world they envision, to inspire others to follow them because of deep emotional connection.

It isn’t every day that Nike gives you a big bag of money to travel around the world.  But it is every day that you have the choice to engage with people.  Say "YES" to every day adventures . Get out of the middleLook up at the world around you. Create a life full of amazing stories populated by the enchanting characters you encounter every day. Be Social. Be Excellent

#BeThePerson  #MakeItCount



by Vince Fabra

summer-challenge I’m Phired Up for the #SummerRecruitmentChallenge .

Summer is here! Students have certainly earned their summer break, balancing their school work, campus involvement and personal relationships for the past nine months. Now that the spring semester has come to a close, it’s time to focus on recruitment during the summer. However, for most college students, it seems laughable to put the words “focus” and “summer” in the same sentence. That is why we created the #SummerRecruitmentChallenge .

What motivates people? In particular, what motivates fraternity men? (“Not a damn thing!” answers the frustrated chapter president) We believe that competition, challenges and rewards for a job well done are motivation for college-aged fraternity men.

The #SummerRecruitmentChallenge will be a fun, exciting and beneficial 8-week summer long competition. Every fraternity chapter in the country is invited to participate. The focus will be on three key areas of summer recruitment.

  1. Putting names onto your names list.
  2. Hosting values based activities and events.
  3. Helping your university get students Phired Up for the fall semester.

Each week, we will tweet out (@PhiredUp ) a weekly goal or challenge. The one chapter that best completes all weekly challenge for 8 weeks, will be awarded a Phired Up Recruitment Scholarship to be given to one of their new members in the fall.

Let’s show the twitterverse what real fraternity men do during May, June and July! Let’s be the leading example of year-round-recruitment! And let’s build real relationships through summer recruitment and welcome thousands of men into the fraternity community this fall!


Impressive vs. Service

by Matt Mattson

not-impressed Do you try to impress people or serve people?

Does your organization attract members, volunteers, donors and fans by… trying to impress people or trying to serve people?

There are two ways to promote yourself, recruit people to your organizations, or position yourself socially.  1) You can try to impress people. 2) You can try to serve people.

Let’s break this down.  Imagine two organizations that both need more members.

The ABC Club just launched a major re-branding initiative complete with a snazzy new online presence, cool new signs, a whole poster and T-shirt campaign around it’s new theme, "ABC Club: Unbeatable, Unsinkable, Unmatched."  They have a booth set up on a street near you and they’re handing out pretty cool water bottles with their logos emblazoned brightly across the front. They’re all wearing brightly colored polo shirts with their new catchphrase printed on it. They hired 6 professional promoters (models) to work the booth, shake hands, and to repeat their catchphrase as often as possible.  The passersby are stopping, taking a water water bottle (in exchange for their contact information), hearing the catchphrase, and smiling politely. ABC Club is impressive. Very impressive.

The LMNOP Group just started a major initiative of their own.  They have a booth set up down the street near you too, but their booth is not nearly as impressive or shiny.  They have 6 regular looking people dressed neatly but not exceptionally.  Everytime someone walks past their booth volunteers are doing two things – 1) finding some way to make the passerby’s day (high fives, jokes, smiles, a welcoming handshake, an interesting question), and 2) asking the passerby about their needs related to their group’s cause.  The passersby are generally stopping, talking for a while, exchanging contact information, and leaving with a smile.  The LMNOP Group doesn’t have any giveaways, they aren’t wearing matching bright colored clothes, they don’t have a catchphrase (they have a list of powerful questions), and their signage is professional, clean, and simple, but not really exceptional. The reason people are engaging with them is because of LMNOP’s focus on the passersby’s needs. They’re listening and caring.  They’re serving. They want to help.

There are two ways to do business.  Two ways to do sales.  Two ways to recruit members. Two ways to make friends.  You can impress or you can serve.  Both have advantages.

I choose to serve as often as I can. Maybe that’s just because I’m not that impressive :-)   I tend to think it is a better way to approach the world. But some mix of the two is probably the right answer.  Which would you rather do?

Do you try to impress people or serve people?

The System Holds The Answer

by Matt Mattson

dr-full-color-copy I sometimes find myself stuck.  Do you ever feel that way?  You look at your organization, you look at your role in the organization, and just feel stuck.  What do you do next?  How do you push forward?  How do you improve?  How do you lead?

Then I remember, "Oh yeah, dummy, the SYSTEM holds the answer."  It’s weird, but true.  Every time I wonder what I should do next to push the organization/group/company forward, I remember that between Social Excellence and Dynamic Recruitment , the answer is there. The system works if I choose to work the system.

See, we’re all a part of membership organizations, and membership organizations are made of… (wait for it)… MEMBERS.  Therefore the quality of your organization (and everything it does) is determined by the quality of its members.  Want to get better?  Want to advance your cause?  Want to make a difference?  Want to truly lead?  –  Start with the core ingredients of your group — people and purpose.  Bring in more of the right people, who will focus on the group’s purpose, to make a larger higher quality impact.

For me, when I get stuck, I go back to doing the Dynamic Recruitment system while living Social Excellence — it lays out my answer for me.  If I do the Dynamic Recruitment system while living Social Excellence, I’m doing my job, I’m leading, I’m doing results-producing work, I’m making a difference.

For example… something I’m really proud of is that we have built our company to be very successful by doing the Dynamic Recruitment system and trying our best to live a Socially Excellent life — that’s been our whole business plan.  Cool, right?

Here is a snapshot at some of the core principles of Dynamic Recruitment, if you’re not familiar…

People Join People. All organizational members can point to the one person who is responsible for bringing them into the organization.  Relationships, interpersonal comfort, and shared personal connections are the determining factors that can influence a person to invest their time, resources, energy, reputation, and money into the organization.  Slogans, T-shirts, banners, advertising, and events have very little impact when it comes to convincing the best of the best people to join an organization.  People join people.  Organizational recruitment is about relationships.

Quantity Drives Quality. This simple statement reflects the core of Phired Up’s recruitment philosophy.  In other words, because you can’t recruit who you don’t know, the larger an organization’s social network, the larger its potential.  The larger an organization’s network, the more people it has a chance to recruit.  The larger an organization’s network, the more people it also has a chance to select from – thus increasing the probability for higher quality members.  Everything starts with an organization having specific, practical, detailed guidance on how to grow its network of “friends of the group.”  Phired Up teaches specific, practical, proven (in some instances scripted) techniques to grow an organization’s network through authentic relationship building.

Interpersonal Skills Development. Handshakes, powerful conversations, listening skills, remembering names, first impressions, body language, approaching new people and groups, eye contact, getting contact information, powerful questions, authenticity, vulnerability, and confidence.  Phired Up’s recruitment system is about personal connections and today’s young adults (especially) need practical, experiential, detailed guidance on all of these “skills.”  Dynamic Recruitment depends on members’ abilities to adopt a sense of interpersonal excellence within their social interactions. To learn more about Phired Up’s Social Excellence message, click here .

Product Knowledge. When a prospective member wants to learn more about the organization, every member should be prepared with not only the features and benefits of membership, but also powerful personal stories and insightful questions to help potential members emotionally connect to the organization. In Dynamic Recruitment, “knowing your product” is about having the ability to help others realize how the group could dramatically change their life for the better.

Behaviors of the Best. Phired Up teaches specific behaviors of high performing networkers, salespeople, statesmen, and recruiters.  These are every day patterns of behavior that provide access to a larger pool of people to interact with than most organizational members have.  Some of the core messages of the “Behaviors of the Best” include: You have to give to get (how to get contact information and how to get access to others by providing something of value to them). Ask the rest to find the best (how to engage everyone around you to identify high caliber prospective members). Follow-up or fail and Eat a bunch of lunch (how to build relationships through small activities not big events).  Make ‘em prove it (using a Values-Based Selection Process). Give the gift (re-framing recruitment to be about sharing the gift of membership with deserving others instead of trying to “get people to join”).

Audience Understanding. Often members struggle with a lack of perspective.  No matter the organization, often members only think of a small pool of people as potential members, when the actual pool is always many times larger.  Many fraternity/sorority members in particular believe their recruitment potential is limited to the people who participate in “rush” or "formal recruitment."  Phired Up’s curriculum helps expand the context of organizational leaders to understand the actual recruitment potential for their organization.  Having a greater understanding of how big the organization’s prospective audience is, where they are, and what they’re looking for results in “ah-ha” moments for most participants.

Names List. With a new understanding of their true audience, and with a firm grounding in the principles of: You can’t recruit who you don’t know. People don’t join organizations, people join people. And Quantity Drives Quality. It then becomes obvious that for an organization to reach its full potential, it cannot depend only on the people that its members currently have a relationship with – it must build a larger network. To manage that network and to keep track of its members’ progress as they bring their acquaintances through the recruitment process, an organization that practices Dynamic Recruitment uses a Names List.  A Names List is a dynamic, living, continually updated database that measures the amount of and the quality of relationships with potential members that are being built by the chapter.  This is not just a list of people the group is wishing would join the chapter – this is a list of the chapter’s entire network because Quantity Drives Quality.

Values-Based Selection. As an organization increases its network through positive, proactive, social interactions, it has the opportunity to be more selective.  Once the opportunity for increased selectivity is achieved, the organization must then select members not based on whether they’re a “good guy,” or "a sweet girl," but on measurable, objective standards that match up to the core values of the organization.  Each organization that practices Dynamic Recruitment builds a written set of membership selection criteria to ensure only the highest quality people are invited to join.  This is a key to true values-based recruitment.

Horses vs. Mules. The old 80/20 principle holds true in nearly every organization we’ve ever worked with.  For most groups, about 80% of the results are produced by about 20% of the members.  That small handful of “workhorses” can choose to try to motivate their unmotivated members (a.k.a. “mules”) to participate in recruitment, or they could just gather the horses and get to work. After all, horses recruit horses, and mules recruit mules.  When faced with a lack of motivation or apathetic members with regard to recruitment, don’t ask “How do I motivate my members to recruit?”  Instead ask, “How do I recruit with my motivated members?”

Values-Based Sorority Recruitment…It’s More Than Just Frills.

By Jessica Gendron Williams

We’ve been investing a lot of concerted effort, focus, and time into developing better resources and curriculum for chapters to better understand and execute a Values-Based Recruitment.  In my experience, there has been a significant emphasis put on chapters, organizations, and communities to shift towards Values-Based Recruitment practices.  However, that call is met more with confusion than optimism or resistance – we simply just don’t understand how.  When I say Values-Based Recruitment to sorority women, many assume that we mean “Get rid of the frills” — If they achieve that then they’ve successfully achieved Values-Based Recruitment.  Similarly, for fraternity men, they assume we mean, “alcohol free recruitment”.  While those things are definitely components to a Values-Based Recruitment, they are not all-encompassing.

We believe that a true Values-Based Recruitment includes four things:  Values-Based Criteria, Values-Based Behavior, Values-Based Conversations, and Values-Based Expectations.  Let’s dissect these four components a little more:

Values-Based Criteria:
Much of our membership decisions are based on brief interactions with complete strangers and tend to be primarily subjective and emotional in nature.  We decide on a potential member based on how we feel  about them following a brief encounter or conversation.  Often, those feelings are related to physical attributes, things in common, and an overall painless conversation. We fall in love with a potential member after having a 20 minute conversation with her about our mutual love for Harry Potter, yet we have limited-to-no knowledge of the characteristics that make her qualified for membership in our organization.  Values-Based Criteria allows us to have an actual measurement tool to determine the skills, characteristics, and attributes a potential member would have that would allow us to determine whether she is qualified for membership.  This “measurement tool” takes the values of your organization (local and national, stated and unstated) and quantifies them with things that are actually measurable.  “Cute”, “Nice”, and “Fun” aren’t necessarily bad qualifications for membership, but how do we measure “Cute”, “Nice”, and “Fun”?  How do we define “Cute”, “Nice”, and “Fun”?  And perhaps we want to add some others, like “Bold,” “Authentic,” and “Courageous.” Values-Based Criteria allows us to use our values to identify qualifications for membership that are measurable and consistently used throughout our membership ranks.  It leaves little room for personal interpretation and emotions in membership decisions and creates a process that allows us to select high quality individuals using high quality criteria that requires us to collect measurable data through meaningful conversations.

Values-Based Behavior:

Values-Based behavior addresses our common interpretations of what Values-Based Recruitment is – that we must remove frills or alcohol.  Values-Based Behavior asks two very important questions.  First, “What does our current behavior say about what we value?”  As we look at the things that we are currently doing in recruitment,we need to ask ourselves what messages our behavior sends to potential members about the things that we care about as a chapter.  We often shove excessive amounts of glitz, glam, decorations, perfect outfits and hair, dances, skits, and elaborate spreads of food into formal sorority recruitment.  What do these things say about what we care about as an organization?  Parties?  Appearances?  Fun? Decorations?  I’ll let you answer that question.  Regardless of the answer, there are likely places within our recruitment process where our behavior does not align with what we say (and believe) we’re about.  We’re sending mixed messages to our “buyers.”

The second question we should ask ourselves is “What do our values say about how we should behave?”  This allows us to understand the alternative to the frills of recruitment.  A lot of times, this question prompts us to think of the prissy, perfect, cookie-cutter version of us that we imagine our founders would have wanted, but that’s not what we mean at all.  It really means, how can we better demonstrate, through actions, the things we value, in addition to being able to verbally communicate the things we value as an organization.  If we were to adequately demonstrate what we as an organization actually value, how should we behave?  What should we do?  What should our focus be?  Perhaps we wouldn’t give a tour of the house, but instead sit in our rooms with our roommate and share stories with PNM’s of how their friendship has changed our lives.  Perhaps instead of boasting our rank academically as it compares to the rest of the community, we might plaster the chapter room walls with all of our “A” papers from the past semester.  We’ve got to think outside the box and ask, “How can we better demonstrate through action, what we really care about?”

Values-Based Conversation:
Most sorority recruitment conversations live on the surface… they are filled with typical questions about a PNM’s hometown, major, residence hall, and summer activities – questions that we usually already know the answer to from their recruitment application or our creepy Facebook stalking since the moment she registered for recruitment.  These conversations lack substance, they lack depth, and they don’t actually inform good membership decisions.  When we think about values-based conversations , most of us go immediately to the creepy zone where we imagine an intense, awkward conversation comprised of us listing off our values and uncomfortably trying to create a conversation from there.  That’s not a good solution either.  Values-Based Conversations is centered around using our values-based criteria to drive conversation topics, questions, and information we should gather so that a woman can understand what we are looking for, how it relates to our values, and so we can determine if she will make a great member.  If we know sisterhood is an important component of our organization using values-based criteria we might identify that  relationships would also be important to the PNM.   We then have questions to ask and a conversation topic that is values-based: We can ask about her relationships with friends from high school, college, family, etc.  Now, we can not only ask if she has brothers and sisters, we can ask what her relationship is like with her brothers and sisters.  Those responses help us better understand if she would make a good sister, but also tell the PNM – “This is so important to us, we’re asking about it.”  The conversation might start with a sister saying, “You know Sally, sisterhood is something we really pride ourselves on as a chapter.  We are committed to our friendships with one-another.  Can you tell me about some of your close friends from high school?”  That might sound like an interview (we’ll get to that in another blog), but it’s the right way to have a conversation that is centered around communicating our values.

Values-Based Expectations:
What are we allowing from our members and what are we expecting from our members as well as potential members – especially during the recruitment process?  Having values-based expectations means having clearly communicated expectations of our chapter members, community members, and potential new members and holding each other accountable to those expectations.  What do we expect from our members during recruitment?  Much of the time, we expect the minimum – show up (not even on time because we build in extra time because we know they will be late), don’t be awkward, be nice, vote, don’t melt down, don’t get sick, and don’t lose your voice.  Why aren’t we expecting more from our members?  Show up on time, having amazing, meaningful, deep conversation, build relationships, help with setup, cleanup and tear-down, have a great attitude, help out – and if you don’t you don’t get to recruit and you don’t get to vote.  WHAT?!  CRAZY TALK!  I recognize this might be a stretch for some of you – kicking members out of recruitment – because we often need everybody regardless of whether we want them or not.  But think about how we can we just start communicating and expecting more from them – how can we ask them to live up to the promises they made when they joined?  Some of our members will rise to the challenge, others, well, might get stuck in the kitchen.

Additionally, Values-Based Expectations is also related to appropriately communicating the expectations of membership to potential members before they join.  Do you have members that don’t show up to anything? pay their dues? act a fool on the weekend?  think that sorority is for fun, frat dudes, and parties?  That’s not a membership problem, that’s a recruitment problem.  We’re not doing a good enough job clearly communicating what it takes to be a sorority woman.  We sugar coat things during recruitment because we’re afraid we might scare women away – that the responsibility might seem like too much.  We use phrases like “you get out what you put in.” to minimize the commitment that it takes to be a member.  That is like giving people permission to suck:  That is the precise reason we get crappy members who aren’t willing to commit.  We have to do a better job of clearly, authentically, and generously sharing all of the membership commitment information with potential members before they actually commit to the organization.  We have to clearly explain to them financial commitments instead of springing it on them on bid day that they need to bring a fat check to their meeting…tomorrow.  We have to clearly explain the time commitment, behavior expectations, involvement expectations, etc. etc.  Then when a woman joins, we are certain that she understands the commitment it takes to be a sorority woman…for the right reasons.

Now, don’t freak out…
Now, at this point some of you are overwhelmed at the amount of work there is to be done.  In all honestly, yes…there is, but it doesn’t all have to happen right now.  Like much of what we teach, it’s a progression.  Pick one thing, do that, master it, try it, play around with it – then add another.  Create a plan to slowly, but surely work your way there.  Leave the plan for future leaders – make it a part of your officer transition, but don’t try to do all of it at once.  Build a system, process, or plan get yourself there aggressively, but not necessarily quickly.  We’re happy to help…just ask.

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

by Shira Tober

shrug How many opportunities in life pass us by because we are too afraid to take a chance?  How many times do we see someone we want to start a conversation with but we don’t say “hi” for fear of rejection?

Here are a few times we can hesitate to act while in college for fear of rejection:

Studying Abroad:  I didn’t sign up because I didn’t want to miss anything on campus.  What if my clubs/ organizations fall apart without me?  What if they survived and thrived without me?

Leadership Elections:  I didn’t apply because I didn’t want my application to be laughed at if there were more qualified candidates.  I didn’t want to make a speech in front of a group of people if I am not guaranteed to get the position.

Even something as simple as Office Hours: I didn’t go because I didn’t want my professor to think I was stupid.  What if he/she lowered my grade?

It’s not just in college where we stall because we are too afraid:

Dream Job:  I didn’t apply for my dream job because there’s no way I am qualified.  There are so many other better people who are going to submit application materials.

Dream Girl/Guy:  He/she is way out of my league; there’s no way he/she will see me as marriage material.  I’ll just walk away before his/her friends start making fun of me.

Fear of rejection is one of the most debilitating emotions that can run, rule, and ruin our lives.  But I say, not acting on our wants and desires (because of the fear of rejection) is an even worse fate.  So here’s the challenge, rather than thinking about the beginning (i.e. I won’t even try because I’m scared of what will happen ), focus on the end (i.e. what’s the worst that can happen? ).

  • What’s the worst that can happen? I don’t get this job.  Oh well, at least my resume is updated, I’ve made a new business contact and I got to practice my interview skills.
  • What’s the worst that can happen?  He/she doesn’t go out with me.  Oh well, he/she wasn’t actually my soul mate and do I really want to be with a person whose friends make fun of brave souls that put themselves out there?
  • What’s the worst that can happen? That person won’t be impressed by me.  That person won’t think I’m cool. Not a huge deal… there’s lots of other people. If I approach them, am curious, generous, and authentic, at least I’m giving myself a chance.
  • What’s the worst that can happen?  They won’t want to join my group. I’ll ask them. I’ll share stories with them about how it changed my life and it can change theirs too.  I’ll probably ask them again.  If they don’t join, at least I gave them a chance.

So yeah, with those last two bullet points, this post is very related to recruitment.  Here’s specifically how the saying, "What’s the worst that could happen?" relates to Social Excellence and Dynamic Recruitment .

GENEROSITY:  When we are being generous in our interactions with others, we are no longer focused on our insecurities because we are focused on making a better experience for those around us.  What’s the worst that can happen?  He/ she has a bad time in this conversation.  I am going to focus on providing a positive, meaningful experience for  him/her.  When we think about others rather than ourselves we no longer fear rejection because we aren’t battling the internal struggle, we or focusing on the external interaction. Generosity is the antidote to fear of social rejection. Focus 100% of your energy on being generous and there is no mathematical room for fear to exist.

DYNAMIC RECRUITMENT:  There are many steps and benchmarks in the Dynamic Recruitment process before we extend bids.  We get to know one another, have great conversations, share about our fraternity/sorority experience, and have conversations about what it means to be a member and what’s expected of members.  What’s the worst that can happen?  He/she doesn’t accept a bid.  But, if we are following the steps in Dynamic Recruitment and pre-closing or defining the relationship (DTR), we are only extending bids to individuals who are prepared to accept – the opposite of rejection.

There’s no guarantee that it’s always going to work out… but, really, what’s the worst that could happen?

American SOCIAL Norms

by Matt Mattson

I’m heading to Iowa tomorrow to deliver a keynote address about Social Excellence to a local young professionals networking group in the Quad Cities.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a story with our blog readers that we also included in our book, Social Excellence: We Dare You .


16338_197990077885_500387885_3101763_4061684_n Changwe Kumalinga is a college student at Creighton University in Nebraska, originally from Zambia. A conversation with Changwe reminded us that American society has a lot to learn from the rest of the world when it comes to being social, building social connections, and understanding how valuable being social is to community and society.

Recently, Changwe saw us present an educational workshop on Social Excellence for young professionals in Omaha, Nebraska. Changwe was attending as a future young professional and immediately sought us out after the program to talk about his experience.

He introduced himself and quickly proceeded to admit that he was confused throughout the first half of the program. Why were we talking about Social Excellence?  He explained that he couldn’t understand why a room full of hundreds of professionals were so intensely listening to and taking notes about something that seemed so obvious to him. It seemed so natural to him to engage in deep, meaningful, powerful conversations with others—to listen intently to stories being told and to naturally want to connect with the people around him. Then it dawned on him.

The reason these concepts seemed so natural to him, but were somehow brand new to all of these American professionals, was because of the communal, tribal nature of his ancestry. He explained that being “social” was how he lived in Zambia. The community thrived not through connections of 140 characters or less, but through real, human-to-human interaction—a true village.

Changwe went on to explain another realization he’d had halfway through the program—he’d only been in the U.S. studying for a short time, but he felt like he was starting to adopt an American social persona. He was starting to isolate himself, wear his iPod around campus, only talk to his inner-circle of friends, communicate more online than through real-life interactions—he was becoming, in a word, antisocial.

In Changwe’s words, “In my conversation with the presenters from Phired Up Productions, I found myself unknowingly drifting away from my communal principles. Somehow, I forgot the power of a handshake and neglected the significance of an intentional conversation. Even with the networking emphasis at the Omaha Young Professionals Conference, I wasn’t focused on the people I was networking with beyond trading job titles and the usual surface small talk. I wasn’t focused until I participated in the Phired Up workshop and realized most of us at the conference had no real intentions to remember people’s names and know any of their interests beyond careers.

“I mentioned to the Phired Up team that I was extremely grateful for such a timely reminder to exude Social Excellence and be the best version of me with a communal spirit. I cannot imagine any place in the world where such a lesson or reminder would not be valuable.”

Changwe shared all of this not in a disparaging way toward American culture, but with a genuine realization of the cultural differences he was experiencing. He proclaimed that Social Excellence was a vital lesson to remind him of what made him who he is—the true connections to real people in his life.

Changwe has done a fantastic job of staying connected to us since that program and we expect that relationship to deepen. We know he is bringing a philosophy and lifestyle of Social Excellence that is deeply rooted in the communal culture of his tribe in Zambia to his everyday life at Creighton.

Some of Our Favorite Tweets

by Matt Mattson

twi Are you on Twitter?  Even if you are, it can be hard to keep up with all the coolest tweets and tweeps.  We thought we’d share some particularly awesome (in our humble opinion) tweets we’ve put out over the last few months.  You’ll find tweets about #SocialExcellence and #DynamicRecruitment . You’ll also find tweets that are directed to our Phired Up Fraternal , Phired Up College , and Phired Up World audiences. Please share, stay connected to our hashtags , and make sure to follow us @PhiredUp .

Take a moment to RE-TWEET your favorites! Enjoy and we’ll tweet you later!

#betheperson who can help others find their spark. Light the Phire of the people u meet. #socialexcellence

#betheperson who wonders aloud. #socialexcellence

#betheperson who seeks everyone’s deeper story. #socialexcellence

#betheperson who asks, "What is your real passion?  How can I help with it?" #socialexcellence

#betheperson who goes to the meetings. Does extra work. Brings others to the group. #socialexcellence

#betheperson who helps others change the world. #socialexcellence

#betheperson who raises the level of discussion and focuses on making things better. #socialexcellence

#betheperson who gets that others have legitimate points of view despite the difference from yours. #socialexcellence

Honesty does not require meanness. Candor and truth are better received through love and generosity. #socialexcellence

Don’t manipulate others into working for your cause. Connect with them. Help them achieve their purpose. #socialexcellence

#betheperson who doesn’t complain, whine, or bemoan 2 others. Discuss, solve, and work with others instead #socialexcellence

Coffee and lunch are the greatest recruitment strategies in the world! #dynamicrecruitment

#betheperson who has the courage to intervene when things aren’t right #everydayhero

If you have the COURAGE to connect w/ppl, you have the POWER to change the world #socialexcellence

A movement is beginning. Handshakes can change the world. #socialexcellence #betheperson @phiredup

#socialexcellence starts with the person right next to you. #betheperson who chooses curiosity, generosity, authenticity, vulnerability.

Ppl+Purpose=Organization. Organizations change the world. Gather ppl around ur purpose. #socialexcellence @phiredup

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world" -M. Mead #socialexcellence

Handshakes>Conversations>Relationships>Collaboration>Organization>ChangeTheWorld #socialexcellence

Choose perpetual generosity, curiosity, positivity and openness to limitless possibility #socialexcellence

Intentionally connect with others 2day. Engage in deep, meaningful conversations. #socialexcellence

Believe that everyone you meet is remarkable, heroic, and magnificent. #socialexcellence

Authentic kindness breeds trust. Groups, movements, society are held together by trust. Be kind. #socialexcellence

Participate in society. Start with any stranger. #socialexcellence #betheperson

#betheperson who makes today more fun for someone. Surprise them with joyfulness #socialexcellence

Be interested and interesting. #betheperson who asks fun questions. #socialexcellence

"The world would be better if…" movements, rebellions, and revolutions are birthed from that sentence. Speak it. #socialexcellence

All leadership is social. Lead through relationships and human connections. Caring inspires followers. #socialexcellence

What is the best version of you? #socialexcellence

Can you be more curious today? #socialexcellence #betheperson

Can you be more generous today? #socialexcellence #betheperson

Can you be more authentic today? #socialexcellence #betheperson

Can you be more vulnerable today? #socialexcellence #betheperson

Can you be more socially bold today? #socialexcellence #betheperson

"I love my computer bcuz all my friends live in it." not #socialexcellence

Awkward isn’t bad. Just own it with confidence. Authenticity will reward you. #socialexcellence #soundslikeafortunecookie

Build relationships. Inspire your relationships with passion for your purpose. Grow your organization. #dynamicrecruitment #socialexcellence

Shouting loudest won’t win members, donors or fans. Caring most will. #dynamicrecruitment #socialexcellence

I don’t care about your organization until you care about me. #dynamicrecruitment #socialexcellence

Every individual is an organization waiting to happen. #socialexcellence

Recruitment doesn’t start until you know them and can contact them. Meet more people, give ur org a bigger chance. #dynamicrecruitment

Static recruitment waits and hopes. #dynamicrecruitment pursues and inspires.

You don’t have a chance to recruit that person until you’ve shaken their hand. Start there. #socialexcellence #dynamicrecruitment

High quality people are attracted to high quality things. #dynamicrecruitment

What tweeps do you most want to shake hands with? #socialexcellence

#betheperson who inspires others with their willingness to seem a little weird in pursuit of deeper connections #socialexcellence

Don’t just seek members. Inspire participants, donors, and raving fans. #dynamicrecruitment

Choosing from 500 is better than choosing from 50. Meet more people. Quantity drives quality. #dynamicrecruitment

Quality organizations are only built by quality members. #dynamicrecruitment

Ask 10x more questions today than usual. Listen intently. #socialexcellence

Everyone has experienced the greatest joys and the lowest sorrows of life. U have too. Connect authentically. #socialexcellence

When u are 100% generous or curious there is no mathematical room left for fear. #socialexcellence focuses on others.