by Jessica Gendron Williams
I have some bad news friends. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not 6 years old anymore. You’re probably in college – or worse yet – you might be a real grown up with a *gulp* real job. You’re not a kid anymore and unfortunately that means you’re likely experiencing up bunch of grown up realities – one in particular – that you might be unaware of. Let me paint a picture for you:
It’s a sunny and warm summer day. You wake up, with zero responsibility, eat some breakfast, watch a little TV and then head out to a local park enjoy the sunshine.
As the car pulls up to the park, you look out the window and you’re excited – excited to play, excited to breathe in the fresh air, excited to enjoy the day. You step out of the car and take off, in a full sprint toward the playground…why?
Because you’re 6 and that’s what 6-year-olds do.
When you arrive to the playground you take a scan for what or who looks fun and choose an activity or group of people to play with. You walk up to the other kids and say, “Hi. Can I play?” Without a second thought they welcome you in. You spend hours playing with these complete strangers that you just met.
Wait just a second…did you catch that? You…walked up to a stranger you’re age and said “Hi” and then hung out with them!?!!?
Before I told you, in the story above, that you were a six-year-old, you had painted a very different picture of what you might do at the park. Perhaps you’d read a book under at tree, take a nap in the sun, or sit there reading you’re twitter feed on you’re phone. Making friends when we were six was easy. You could walk up to just about anyone you’re age and say, “Hi.”
But the realities of adult life have set in. You’re not a kid anymore. You don’t spend you’re days on the playground. While you can totally walk up to a stranger and say, “Hi.” Most people aren’t really as willing to engage. The reality is, now that you’re a big kid (or adult)…
Making friends (now) is hard.
You have to break through all the walls you’ve built up between you and the rest of the world as you grew up – and not only that – you have break through the lifetime of walls someone else has built up, too. You have to break through people’s perception of what’s normal and appropriate and surprise them in a way that they want to engage, they want to connect with you. You have to be curious and generous. You have to look up from your cell phone. You have to choose to recapture some of your six-year-old self – to be that kid on the playground. To tell the truth, that’s hard and scary.
However, when you choose all those things, when you choose to engage and connect and do the hard work it takes – man it’s worth it. Friendship is worth it. Real human connection is worth that work. That stretch, that stress, that anxiety, that hard work – it’s worth it.
You know what’s even more worth it? Brotherhood and sisterhood in a fraternity or sorority. The only thing standing in between the opportunity for you to share the gift of fraternity/sorority with someone else is whether you’re willing to be as brave as you were when you were six. Say, “Hi.”
Making friends is hard, but it’s worth it…
Remember that moment when someone in your chapter gave you the gift of Greek Life?
Remember that moment when you accepted your invitation for membership, joined a group of people who pledged to love and support you, and started your journey toward becoming a better human being through the power of fraternity/sorority? That was an amazing moment in our life, and I am sure it turned out to be a pretty life-changing moment in your life too. We should create that moment more often for more people. What are we waiting for? Let’s Grow.
Seriously though, what are we waiting for? It is time to grow. It is time to offer the life-changing gift of membership to more deserving people. We owe it to them to unselfishly choose to actively push for major growth throughout the fraternal movement.
There are hundreds — maybe thousands — of students on your campus that what want what you have: a group of brothers or sisters who are committed to shepherding each other through college, challenging each other to be greater than they were yesterday, and working with each other to make the world a better place together. Give that life changing gift to more people. They deserve it.
The priority of any recruitment process must be shifted to the non-Greek students that deserve and desire the fraternal experience. They should be who we care most about. We should be pushing as hard as we can to find ways to give our gift of membership to more of the best students. It’s our responsibility to do so – for their sake.
Increased and open expansion/extension, aggressively pursuing culturally-based options for students who would value it, empowering prospective members with information and preparation prior to the recruitment experience to help them make informed decisions, inserting intentional growth into the strategies of culturally-based groups, and most importantly teaching and implementing a systematic process to actually practice year-round recruitment, selection, intake, and education of new members – as you think about your recruitment PROCESS, put the potential members at its core.
Change someone’s life today with a handshake that could lead to lifelong membership in your fraternity or sorority. LET’S GROW!
You’re a dedicated leader of the fraternal movement. Like most of us, you’ve found yourself asking on occasion: “Don’t we need to fix all of our other problems before we can grow as a movement?”
Honestly, that philosophy of “cleaning up our problems first” might be one of our BIGGEST obstacles. The market of potential members we’re currently “selling” our organizations to does not demand us to improve. They’re fine with us the way we are. There is no market pressure to change.
Meanwhile, as a fraternity/sorority industry, we seem currently fine with less than 10% of collegians wanting us. The same <10% keep showing up. They don’t care if we change. So we don’t.
It is time to change the equation. Put more better people into the process, and they’ll demand better organizations to join. Increased demand suggests improved organization. Demand (and subsequently growth) is our one measure of how high QUALITY we are as organizations.
There are a thousand problems to solve in Greek Life. We don’t need to name them here. But one thing impacts all of them without a doubt: the manner in which we attract new members to our organization. Commit to GROWTH as your primary objective as a leader of this fraternal movement. Decide to focus on one thing — giving the gift of brotherhood/sisterhood to more deserving young men and women. That decision will make your life easier and will impact all the other “problems” that we have in fraternity/sorority life. Everything we accomplish is because of who we recruit. Every time we fail it is because of who we recruit. Let’s commit together to growing in quantity and quality. Our organizations deserve it. Our founders deserve it. The young women and men who have yet to experience the gift of fraternity/sorority deserve it.
If you are a graduate student, a driven undergraduate, or a professional of any sort related to the fraternity/sorority movement, please consider conducting thoughtful research on issues that impact our movement’s potential to GROW (and share that research publicly).
For some reason, most research done about or for fraternities and sororities has nothing to do with a primary NEED of our organizations – growth.
Look at the most recent issue of Oracle, the “Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors” to find any research being done directly about how to grow fraternity/sorority membership. Heck, look back at the last 12 issues and see if you can spot the one (yes 1) article directly written about growing fraternity/sorority membership. That is one article in the last 78 published by Oracle.
We need academics, graduate students, and inter/national organizations to fund, engage in, and execute a LOT more data-gathering about how best to attract and retain the best students for our membership. Over the last 150+ years or so of the fraternal experience, it is amazing what we have not yet learned about the most basic need of our organizations — attracting more members.
We’re proud of the research work we’re doing at Phired Up. We’re really just getting started. We’re looking for help, too. Let’s all work together on growth focused research for fraternities and sororities.
This post is meant to bolster conversation about growth in our industry. Reach out to the best researchers you know. Connect with CSCF. Call Colleen on our team. Talk with fellow students, academics, advisors. We have important work to do and thousands (millions?) of college students that deserve and desire fraternity/sorority.
There are well over 10 million students expected to attend a 4-year institutions in the U.S. this year (probably more than 13 million). There are about 750,000 undergraduate fraternity/sorority members (based on the numbers publicly available it is safe to estimate the number at less than a million). Let us go ahead and round that to say that roughly 1 in 10 college students are Greek (yes, we are aware that is a rough estimate).
Another way to think of it is that around 10 million college students are being deprived of the fraternity/sorority experience. We do a math equation in our books and programs (refresh your memory here). Let’s do a little math with these national numbers to find out how many students your organization could actually recruit… accounting for gender-specific organizations and the research that tells us that 15% of every incoming class are “never joiners,” and then over-adjusting by even 50% more due to selectivity and prospect rejection, we get a number that tells us how many additional college students would join YOUR fraternity or sorority if recruited in the right way this year.
The math tells us: 2,125,000 are waiting to join YOUR fraternity or sorority this year (See our math work at the bottom). These are students that both deserve and desire our fraternal experience. They will make our groups better. They will make our groups bigger. They will make our movement more influential and powerful. We just have to go recruit them. Let’s Grow.
10,000,000 College Students
= 5,000,000 Male or Female College Students
-15% (“Never Joiners” – according to several studies, three types of students show up in their first year — Always Joiners *15% really want fraternity/sorority*, Never Joiners *15% philosophically opposed*, and Maybe Joiners *70% who have not made up their mind entirely*)
=4,250,000 “Maybe Joiners” and “Always Joiners”
-50% (Just about every group we’ve ever worked with has agreed that at least 1/2 of the people they’ve build a real friendship with since starting college AND that have become “friends of the fraternity/sorority” have either joined or shown very serious interest in joining — most groups say that number is closer to 80%)
=2,125,000 People waiting to join your group.