Thank You, Fraternity.
You’ve given me so much over the years.
When I came to college, you didn’t just give me friends, you gave me family. You gave me a home. You gave me a sense of belonging and purpose. You gave me a group of people who loved me (though we didn’t say it like that) in a way only relatives had done before — and maybe not even them.
Sure, you gave me stuff to do on the weekends, stuff to wear with pride, and stuff to tattoo on myself. But you also gave me deeper gifts. You gave me pause to consider whether my actions would meet your expectations. You gave me confidence to stand up in situations when others remained in their seats. You gave me direction as I sought my own identity. You gave me a creed, a mission, a set of values to check my everyday choices against.
When I graduated, I thought that you’d given me all you had. But I was lucky enough to experience the gift of our organization beyond the walls of my school. You gave me a continent full of connections. You gave me friends who would celebrate with me and struggle with me. You gave me confidants that would stand behind me on one of the most important days of my life. You gave me a guide for becoming a better friend, a better parent, a better human. You gave me a foundation upon which I could build a life that I could one day be proud of.
Now as I reflect on all I have to be thankful for, it’s clear that so much of what I have, what I am, and what I hope to become is because of you. Fraternity, you have given me more than I ever could have understood you would when someone asked me to join you. I am so thankful for you.
Now it is my turn to give you something. The only gift I can think of that could possibly repay all you’ve done for me… The only thing I can imagine would be worthy of your favor… I pledge to give you more people to bestow your gifts upon. Out of gratitude for changing my life, I will do all I can to help you continue to change the lives of countless others. To help you give college students… home, family, belonging and purpose. To help you give them guidance, accountability, courage and values that will stay with them for life. I will do all I can to help you give the life-changing gift of Fraternity to more deserving people. After all you’ve done for me, it is the least that I could do.
Fraternity/sorority recruitment is important. Your organization actually DEPENDS upon it.
Important things are what scientists study.
So, there should be a recruitment scientist.
There is. Her name is Dr. Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre. She does fraternity/sorority recruitment science.
We think she has a lab full of beakers filled with recruitment juice and rush goo.
We know for sure that she probably has a microscope, a white jacket, and one of those head mirror thingys.
Anyway, she did some science stuff and created something she calls a “DYNAMIC RECRUITMENT ASSESSMENT.” Wow. Science words are cool.
You should take that assessment. You probably don’t have to give any blood or pee in a cup or anything.
We know it will help your chapter recruit better, and it must be covered by Obamacare, because it is free.
So, recruit better through science.
Beep. Bop. Boop. Electric noises. Robot dance. Science.
(Seriously though, we do real research because we really think fraternity/sorority recruitment is important.)
by KJ McNamara
As we head into deferred recruitment season I know a lot of sorority chapters are closely watching their “Dream Team.” Sorority recruitment “Dream Teams” are those small groups of women that chapters already know pretty well going into spring recruitment, and because they already know them (and are comfortable around them), they start to obsess over them.
You get the picture. We have been spending the entire fall semester carefully looking for and creating friendships with all of the first-year women who ‘we know we want,’ or who ‘we know want us.’ BTW, the way we do this is sometimes completely creepy… we have scrapbooks of all the girls we love and all of the times we have talked to them awkwardly prepared in a diary type notebook.
We get so excited about our Dream Team that we know exactly when they are coming to our chapter house during recruitment before they even wake up in the morning. We eagerly await their entrance into our party and know precisely where they are in the line up… truly we have some stalkerish tendencies. We read their tweets looking for hidden meanings of emojicons… thinking to our self, “I wonder if ‘Excited for Lunch Smiley Face’ means she did not have a good time at our party?”
What I mean to say is that we get so focused (borderline obsessed) on the 20 women on our Dream Team that we forget about the other bazillion PNM’s going through recruitment! Worse yet, we don’t realize the importance of getting more women INTO recruitment when we have a chance to do so (now).
There is so much talent in each PNM group, and sometimes we get so laser focused on the people we think we want that we forget to get to know all of the amazing PNMs we don’t already have a rush crush on. The hidden talent — the PNMs that will make our chapter and our members better with their membership, but who we haven’t met yet… they’re like recruitment ninjas. Sneaking around with all this power to do good in our sorority, but completely incognito. There are so many ninjas going through your recruitment process you would be shocked.
In order for us to identify if a woman is in fact a recruitment ninja, or someone who would make an excellent member if we could only unmask them, we have to be truly curious about them. We need to ask questions and listen to what they say (and care!). The topics we discuss with her must be deeper than surface-level, because her obsession with macaroni & cheese paired with her love of Ryan Gosling will not tell us if she will always show up to chapter meeting.
We need to ask questions and listen. We need to be genuinely curious and selflessly generous in conversations. Talk to her about things that matter. Ask her questions about her friends and family and how they shaped her. Talk to her about what she wants to do with her future or what it was like growing up where she is from. Ask her about her favorite things and what she does for fun and what she really cares about in life. We need to have more meaningful conversations with every PNM we encounter in recruitment… not just our ‘top girls.’
If you want the best pledge class, if you want the best women to join you, if you want the biggest pledge class… you have to stop only focusing on who you know already, and grow your network of real relationships.
If you want to find the true talent in formal recruitment this spring, don’t laser focus on the handful of women you want, instead take a good hard look at every woman who walks through your door… that is where the real, sneaky talent is. Those PNM’s are the ninjas.
by Tina VanSteenbergen
Enjoying a calm afternoon lunch at home, flipping through channels for a sitcom rerun to watch as I zone out and enjoy my sandwich, I stumble across The Learning Channel’s Say Yes To The Dress. Admittedly, I’ve never seen the show in my life, so my instant reaction was to turn the channel. Even more honestly, the only reason I didn’t immediately change the channel was because the narrator said the words “National Football League” and grasped my attention. Expecting to see a special on professional players taking dance lessons for their wedding or NFL team-themed and decorated wedding reception, I paused for a moment to investigate. Clearly I had never seen the show before, because neither of my predictions was even close to correct. This was an episode of Say Yes To The Dress that would profile the soon-to-be brides of NFL players as they searched for their perfect wedding dress. I’d been duped. But it was too late—I was hooked. So I threw on a blanket and got comfortable, prepared to watch a few minutes of some reality TV.
For those of you as unfamiliar as I, Say Yes To The Dress is a TV show about women in the process of planning their wedding who come into a bridal boutique to search for the perfect dress for their special day. Each bride is assigned a consultant who’s job it is to listen to the bride-to-be describe what she’s looking for and to help her find it.
In the two episodes I’ve now watched (they were back-to-back; don’t judge me), I’ve seen brides loosely describe their dream-dress in various categories: fit, fabric, silhouette, color, etc. Above all else, these women describe in detail how they’d like to feel in their dream dress. “Beautiful;” “sexy;” “like a princess.” It’s clear from the beginning that while finding the perfect dress is a complicated process, the feeling the bride gets when she puts it on is what matters most.
And so the process begins. The consultant brings dress after dress, the bride wearing it for a few minutes before deciding whether or not it is the right dress for her. She shows it to her friends, family and bridal party; hopeful they’ll feel the same way she does, either for better or worse. Sometimes there is dissention or disagreement about whether or not the dress is “the right fit” for this bride, and other times there is a unanimous agreement: “This is your dress! You belong in this dress!”
Now this is not a show I’ve ever seen, nor is my wedding day an event I’ve put a great deal of effort into planning at this point. I learned many, many things that afternoon about wedding dresses and the process I might one day undergo to find that perfect dress for my perfect day. But here’s what surprised me the most: how much this process reminded me of recruitment.
There is often a process we undergo to find our new members. We talk with our potential new members for a few minutes here and there, seek out the feedback of our sisters and collectively make a final decision about whether or not she is the “perfect fit.” Inevitably, even though we have some loose idea of what that person needs to be to belong with us (smart, fun, classy, cute, etc.), we make a decision about whether or not she should be a part of our sisterhood for life based on how she makes us feel. Did we like her? Did she make us feel funny? Bored? Connected to? And when we know, we just know: “She belongs here! I can just feel it!”
Shopping for the dress she’ll wear on her wedding day was, for most of these women, a truly emotional experience. There were ups, down, tears, laughter and ultimately (and hopefully) joy. I’ve never shopped for a wedding dress before, but I can imagine that the emotional assessment is an important part of the selection process. But I couldn’t help but wonder: wouldn’t a little objective analysis be helpful to these women? They rarely seemed to enter the boutique with a tangible list of must-haves (cut, color, designer, style, etc.), and it seemed to me that having that list might have taken some of the stress, uncertainty and even tears out of the process. Just like recruitment.
Taking the time to develop measurable selection criteria, a list of what we’re looking for in our future sisters and more importantly how we’ll know if she has it, is one way to ensure that we’re not simply making a decision based on pure emotion. What are we looking for? What do we value? What does a woman need to have to belong in our chapters? As you develop this list, think about what you and your chapter value: scholarship, sisterhood, leadership, service. Then, determine how to measure whether or not a potential member might possess those same values: How is her GPA? How many of our sisters can vouch for her? How many activities has she been involved in? Has she held any leadership positions? How often does she volunteer? Developing the list is like describing your dream member.
Finding your future sisters can and should be an emotional process, just like shopping for that special dress. But as I watched the women on Say Yes To The Dress ride the emotional rollercoaster, as I’ve watched countless sorority women ride that same rollercoaster through recruitment, it’s clear we’re missing something: the power of selection criteria—the power of knowing what we’re looking for and how to tell whether or not we’ve found it. Take the time with your chapter to develop your values-based selection criteria to avoid riding that rollercoaster and more importantly to avoid experiencing “buyer’s remorse” about your new sisters. Unlike a wedding dress that no longer feels just right, there are no return-policies when it comes to sisterhood.
Here’s a sample of a “Values-Based Selection Criteria” for sororities.
by Paul Manly
People join (and stay in) organizations because of relationships (research from Dr. CoCo taught us that). We live in a world where transparency and intentional discussion about expectations during and after recruitment significantly impacts retention. When I recruit, or when I coach chapters to recruit, I share a three part plan for keeping members involved and engaged throughout their membership.
Part 1. Recruitment
I believe that the most powerful tool recruiters can have is honesty. The most successful recruiters share with PNMs what their chapter is really like. They share what their chapter truly values. They share their chapter’s genuine vision for the future.
Transparency in recruitment leads to trust, which is the foundation to every relationship. New members should know 100% who they’re joining and what they’re getting themselves into before they commit.
When each new member joins because they all got excited about the same message and the same vision, the recruitment team has done it’s job. Research shows us that when every new member joins with the same expectations of membership – and it is what was promised to them during recruitment – they’re members for life. If it’s different, that’s when we see poor retention.
Part 2. Pre-close
The pre-close is another powerful tool any recruiter can have. If done correctly, you can virtually guarantee a PNM accepts a bid when he is extended one.
The pre-close is performed to decipher the interest level of a new member and gauge hesitations before a bid is extended. Transparently addressing all of a PNM’s concerns during and providing honest and factual information is a crucial part of the pre-close.
Simply ask, “if we were to offer you the chance to join, what would you say?”
If the answer is yes, that’s a good time to have a bid in your back pocket. If the answer is no or maybe, now is the time to learn what hesitations the PNM has to joining, and offer genuine, transparent information to help them make the best decision. I like to communicate to the PNM out loud, “I need to be as transparent as possible during this process.”
Part 3. Recruitment Again
Recruitment is never over. Just because someone has accepted a bid doesn’t mean that we can stop recruiting them. New members must continue to be “recruited” all the way through initiation (and throughout life as an alum). We can not take their membership for granted. Prevent drop off by thinking of them as prospects who you continue to recruit throughout the semester. New members need to feel welcome and important every day.
Have honest discussions with new members about their experience periodically. Ask things like, “How is your experience so far? Is it different from what you expected? How can we make your experience better here?” People stay because they’ve developed quality, genuine relationships.
It has been anecdotally reported that as many as 1 in 5 students QUIT fraternity and sorority each year. As a fraternity/sorority leader, you know from experience that far more than that become disengaged or completely disappear before they graduate. Retaining the best of the best of our fraternity/sorority members is a major challenge that requires thoughtful, intentional, and educated effort.
Phired Up provides research and training services to help fraternities and sororities KEEP more of the members they recruit. Watch the video and read the article below to discover what we’ve been learning!
My name is Dr. Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre and I am the Research Director and Retention Specialist at Phired Up Productions. I’ve been around for a while and wrote a cool book with our CEO back in the early days. I get to do a lot of stuff with some of the most brilliant minds in the inter/national fraternal world and am asked to speak about research and a host of other things to groups of people a lot. I am humbled everyday.
I’d like to tell you a little bit of my sorority story as a means of sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned from our research studying “Why do people leave fraternities and sororities?”
I prefer to be known as just Colleen or, as our staff affectionately refers to me, “Coco”. Coco is not a name that was given to me by our staff members, it was given to me by a very special and unexpected little girl in my world. In her second year of life she was trying to say “Colleen” to no avail and her mother taught her to say “Coco” instead and it stuck. Her mother is my favorite chapter sorority sister of all time and one of my best friends to this day even 14 long years after my initiation. Since I have made a living out of working with fraternities and sororities in some capacity in the last decade it may surprise you to know that one of my two very best and closest sorority sisters is, in fact, a left member. She chose to disaffiliate, de-sisterize, go in-active, turn in the pin, release, remove, self-suspend, pull a Murphy- whatever you call it- in her third year of college and there was nothing I could do alone to keep her in the chapter. She left because she chose to be a mother to that precious little girl and did not feel too terribly supported in that decision by our chapter of the sorority.
Something else that might surprise you to know about me is that I used to be a horrible recruiter. Like used car salesman kind of horrible. My sense was more is better, and if we could recruit more women faster that would be even better — and recruiting a lot of women faster and without a lot of questions was the best. I did a lot to grow the quantity of members in my organization as an undergraduate woman. I was great at selling the sorority experience because my experience was great. I sold the experience to a lot of people, some of whom I neglected to tell in addition to getting to be a part of the awesomest sisterhood in America there were pretty hefty dues and attendance requirements associated with membership. Some women I recruited during my collegiate years in this way are now, sadly, left members. They left because they did not really understand or buy in to what they were joining in the first place.
I was President of my chapter in college. It’s one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life, but getting there was full of awful drama. Drama that, to this day, makes me queasy. I ran against another person for the office and during the months leading up to our election day some pretty scary campaigns were waged against one another and it divided the chapter. Conflict was all around us by the time we got to the election. In the end I won (probably by 51% or something). In the end, we lost a lot of women. The aftermath of that conflict was that many folks chose to become left members. Women, who, today are business owners, tremendous mothers, teachers, coaches, executives, philanthropists, artists, and friends.
As a part of our retention research, I have had the opportunity to talk to over 200 men and over 1,000 women who have selected to leave the fraternity/ sorority experience. I have asked them, through surveys and conversations, what made them choose to leave their organizations. I have heard stories that made me laugh and some that made me cry – stories that haunt me as an advisor and researcher, stories that make me want to “fix it.” I know that for all those men and women who have left there are thousands more who disengage every year and just stop showing up – they stop caring – and I’d be willing to bet the reasons they stop caring are the same reasons some folks just leave. I can say with utmost confidence for women and with an informed hypothesis for men (note the disparity in participant gender identification) that people leave our organizations because of lack of connection, misaligned expectations, and discord.
Lack of Connection: A sense or feeling that one does not belong or matter to an organization
Mis-aligned Expectations: Not understanding or being encouraged to embrace the expectations of membership OR being sold and told one thing while being recruited and experiencing another
Discord: Conflict stemming from factions, cliques, bullying, or issues with leadership that upsets the harmony of an organization and/or an individuals place in an organization
But what about money…time… lack of parental support…competing priorities… the smelly food in our house… not wanting to live in our house… what about all those other things?! What about all those reasons people normally give to us as to why they are dropping out?!
I hate to break it to you, but for most people those are the surface reasons they give; I heard them often as chapter president. When we dig a little deeper as to what is really happening the truth is revealed and mostly it is about lack of connection, misaligned expectations, and discord.
This year, we will be launch a training initiative on retention and membership engagement. We are already piloting several educational pieces with one of our phavorite clients and early returns seem positive. In this initiative we will teach members and advisors how to hone in on six core elements within their organizations to retain members:
The core of this message is that deep authentic relationships are the best way to retain and engage our members.
People join people. People leave people. The heartbeat of our organizations is authentic relationships about belonging, connecting, understanding, and accountability. When good relationships are at play, entire chapters don’t divide over an election gone wrong. When authenticity and vulnerability are practiced, folks take time to explain to all members involved why they need to do what they are being asked to do; people know how to “sell” an experience in tandem with being open about expectations. When relationships are strong we are there for each other without judgment or condition. We understand that our core purpose is best conceptualized in the wake of personal crisis or unexpected blessing by saying “how can we help?” instead of “what did you do?” When relationships are important we put people first. When we put people first we retain them and keep them engaged in the membership experience.
Let’s keep more of the wonderful members we work so hard to recruit. The real reasons they’re leaving is becoming more and more clear through our research and conversations. The ways to keep them are simple and achievable. We’d love to have a conversation with you about how we can help the fraternities and sororities you care about keep more high quality people. Feel free to contact us about our training and research services related to retention and engagement.
Phired Up’s Recruitment Coaching Really Works. Learn about it here.
Woody Woodcock was Paul Manly’s Phired Up recruitment coach when Paul was recruiting for Sigma Tau Gamma.
Paul was really good.
So good, we ended up hiring him. But before we did, we captured this testimonial video about one of his Sigma Tau Gamma projects.
We’re lucky and grateful to have a great partner in Sigma Tau Gamma. We’re also lucky and grateful to have Paul on our team now.
Watch this video, then keep reading.
Phired Up’s Fraternity Recruitment Coaching Really Works. Learn about it here.
Want more proof? Here are a handful of other recent fraternity recruitment coaching success stories.
Read this success story from University of Illinois Phi Sigma Kappa (which Phired Up coached)
Read this success story from a chapter at Colorado State (which Phired Up coached)
Read this awesome success story from USC’s Phi Sigma Kappa Chapter (which Phired Up coached)
Read this success story that includes an alumnus saying, “I’ll be back”
For the past 2 and a half years KJ McNamara has been the resident Sorority Coaching Expert for Phired Up Productions. We have had a lot of success stories working with sorority chapters. We have had chapters make quota for the first time in 10 years through formal recruitment. We have had chapters climb in RFM ranking dramatically. We have helped chapters attain campus total and keep it.
[NOTE: Interested in getting a recruitment coach for your chapter? Go here.]
We’re really proud of the work we’ve done providing long-term coaching support to sororities. KJ has received some powerful reviews from the women she’s impacted.
One Undergraduate woman student shared her experience, “KJ not only taught us how to recruit, but I feel like I learned a lot about the power of Greek Life and the responsibility we have as leaders to take control of our organization.”
A National Consultant we worked with on a project wrote to us, “It was very clear the impact KJ had on the chapter was a lasting one. During breaks between rounds throughout formal recruitment, I heard the women encouraging each other to ‘channel their inner KJ’ and reminding one another of your words. The chapter had so much energy and it was just wonderful to see. KJ is doing amazing work.”
One VP of Recruitment said, “Our girls absolutely loved KJ’s work! During formal recruitment we saw some of our highest return rates ever and we ended up with an incredible pledge class! I believe that a lot of this improvement is thanks to her coaching. We were able to not only have meaningful conversations with PNMs, but also with sisters. This was by far one of our most successful recruitments! KJ really did make a huge difference in our chapter.”
So we asked KJ to share her secrets. How does she do it? When she works with a chapter as their coach, what does she do?
The answer, according to her, is pretty plain: “It takes a lot of hard work, hours of training, and most importantly a little faith!”
Here’s how KJ elaborated on the power of Phired Up’s coaching services for sororities.
“No one said a coaching partnership with Phired Up was going to be easy. Actually when we have our first conversation with a potential client we tell them that this is HARD work and we ask them if they’re ready? There is no magic sprinkle fairy dust we have to give a chapter that will automatically get them out of their recruitment funk. It takes years to turn around a chapter in a formalized recruitment structure. YEARS! That is a lot of work. Every single woman in that chapter better be on board to do something. And the officers who sign up… they better be ready to commit to the serious relationship of Phired Up, because we will talk with each other more than you would with your significant other.
“Anyone who is willing do the work necessary to turn a chapter around can tremendously improve the membership. But this is not a sprint, or a 5K it is a marathon… that lasts years.”
Hours of Training
“We know that the messages we teach in our Dynamic Recruitment workshop and Social Excellence training can get results, that is why we help our coaching partners not only understand it, but practice it, live it, and breathe it. Our process works, but sometimes a one-day training is not enough to truly restructure your system. We educate the chapters on the process, create the foundation for success through our distance coaching, then re-evaluate what went wrong and educate again. At the end of our coaching curriculum, our clients could teach us about Social Excellence and Dynamic Recruitment!
“Not only does it take training, but someone has to be there to work through the hiccups and speed bumps that rise up on the tricky road to success. That is what the coach is for.”
A Little Faith
“The biggest problem I have seen is women who stop believing in themselves. They are not motivated to do work because they have been told through numbers, grading, percentages, or whatever other way they receive feedback… that their sorority is not ‘good.’ But I beg to differ. I FIRMLY believe that even our sororities who might not be meeting reporting requirements, membership numbers or national standards are still providing a life changing experience for their members. They are still giving each member a group of friends who will support them, pick them up, push them and inspire them. This is the whole point of sorority, and any organization who does that is a ‘good’ sorority in my opinion. Sometimes we have to help the women see the amazing work they do everyday without trying.”
How do you know if your chapter is ready for coaching? Do you have a chapter full of hard workers who need a better system that helps you work smarter not harder? Are you a group of high quality women who need extra support to get you through a few speed bumps in the process? Is your chapter capable but you need someone dedicated to your success who will hold you accountable? Do you provide an amazing experience for your women but have a hard time finding the courage to talk about that?
Interested in getting a recruitment coach for your chapter? Go here.
by Taylor Deer
Have you ever told someone something that you were really proud of, only to have them completely not care about it in the way that you do?
This happens to us all the time within Greek Life. We win awards, we have record breaking community service hours, we win Greek Week and we just want to shout it to the world because we are so proud! Yet, when we do tell others about it, such as potential new members; they might not care about those things at all. Then our greatest triumphs begin to feel not so triumphant any more.
I believe this is not an issue with communication. In fact, I think we communicate exceptionally. We talk about our scholarships, our awards, our prestigious alumni, our national philanthropies all the time, especially when trying to impress potential new members.
I believe that we as Greeks have a problem connecting. Recently I have been reading a book called “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” by John C. Maxwell. In this book it discusses how even the most well intentioned message will go unheard if we don’t connect with our audience before communicating with them.
Connecting is all about creating common ground.
They won’t care about, what we care about; until we care about, what they are about.
Next time you are talking with someone about what you care about in Greek Life, think to yourself. “Do I know what they care about?” The moment we start creating common ground and relatable moments, is the time when we stop communicating and start connecting.
There’s this kid in your class that I want you to notice tomorrow. She’s in that class you love — the one that makes you think — the one where the professor engages the class in lively, intellectual, controversial dialogue. This kid I’m talking about is the one that sits back and listens, and then when the time is right, he chimes in with a thoughtful comment.
I want you to pay close attention to this student. You don’t know her very well. Your crowd is a different crowd. He knows how to have fun, knows how to live like a college student, and knows what’s important. You’d probably be surprised by what she’s interested in and how much she’s enjoying college.
Ask your classmates and friends if they’ve noticed her. The best people you ask will have noticed him, even if like you, they haven’t yet met him.
There are a few reasons I want you to notice this person.
First, because he wants the same things you want. To find a way to matter — to not just be another faceless student. And to surround herself with people she enjoys, cares about, and who care about her.
The second reason I want you to pay attention to this person is because I want you to imagine him as a leader in your organization. She has this untapped leadership potential that is just waiting to be nurtured and unleashed.
Finally, I want you to really become aware of this person because their life could be dramatically changed. And you have the power to change it. Forever.
If you shake this kid’s hand, you have a chance. You have a chance to become friends, to introduce them to your friends, to introduce them to your organization, and maybe… eventually… ask him to join. If you shake their hand you’ll have a chance. If you don’t shake their hand you won’t.
Now look around again. Notice all those other people?