by Matt Mattson
Great news everybody. Your Fall 2014 Recruitment T-Shirt design is already done for you!
Pick a nice bright color, then print on the front: “Research Says You Should Join Our Group.”
On the back, put this inspiring quote: “The 16% of college graduates who were members of Greek organizations are more likely to report being emotionally supported and having experiential and deep learning activities while in college, all of which likely have contributed to their higher work engagement and well-being. In fact, fraternity and sorority members’ engagement advantage indicates that they are more likely to be intellectually and emotionally connected to their organizations and enthusiastic about their work. Overall, 43% of fraternity and sorority members who are employed full time for an employer are engaged in the workplace, compared with 38% of all other college graduates. Importantly, these differences are statistically significant after controlling for key demographic variables, including gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.”
Boom! You win recruitment!
Well not quite.
The truth is that it’s FANTASTIC news that the wildly credible folks over at Gallup partnered with some folks at Purdue to dig deep into some of their recent research. They unearthed what you and I already knew. Greeks are just more likely to be better prepared for a happy, successful, fulfilling life than their non-Greek counterparts. Fraternity and sorority is a powerful force for good in so many people’s lives.
Here’s the thing though. Don’t plan on skating through fall recruitment with a pocketful of hot stats to convince your classmates into joining you in a sacred lifelong bond. In fact, tossing out your cool new research-based facts will likely only annoy prospects (unless done correctly). The good news is that we now have something other than “18 U.S. Presidents since 1877 were Greek” to brag about. The bad news is that our new stats from Gallup are a little less easy to understand.
The T-shirt idea above is an excellent example of how NOT to use this research (or any research, really). Shouting, printing, posting, or blabbing positive supporting statistics is a good way to lose prospects. Understanding the data, however, and using it to shape the stories you tell and the relationships you build, might work.
The new research from Gallup essentially tells us that Greeks, after graduation…
That’s some cool stuff. Now, let’s make it more than data. Let’s make it personal. Let’s make it meaningful. Have you had conversations with any alumni about this stuff? (you should) Do you have a membership education program that helps develop this stuff? (you should) Do you know how to ask questions about a prospect’s definition of lifelong success, happiness, and fulfillment? (you probably should) Can you share a story, right now if asked, about how fraternity/sorority is helping to truly prepare you for real life? (not a list of events/tasks the organization offers, a real story).
Let me pause and offer a personal thought. My name is Matt Mattson. When I came to college I had no idea about fraternities or sororities. My RA looked after me and brought me to meet some guys in this group called Alpha Sigma Phi. Throughout my fraternal experience I led meetings, built agendas, ran for office, planned massive charitable ventures, tried a bunch of ideas that failed. I also went to countless university events, had late-night talks about religion, purpose, values, integrity, and what it means to truly be a man. I met a bunch of successful business people, educators, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and artists at conferences that I got to travel across the country to experience. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now, I’m an incredibly happy father and entrepreneur, with an exorbitant amount of pride in my institution (GVSU). I challenge myself everyday to live up to the oath I took as an undergraduate. I wasn’t hazed. I wasn’t a drunk. I volunteer. I contribute to society. I am a proud fraternity man.
This research is about me. It’s about all the people on our staff. It’s about so many fellow fraternity/sorority alumni I know.
This research can be about you, and I hope it can be about a lot MORE students than it’s ever been about. Let’s use this research to think of new ways to build relationships, share the benefits of being Greek, and to surprise people with what we already know. Fraternity/sorority, when done right, is a powerful force for good in our own lives and in the world.
by Josh Orendi
This week back in 1999 I graduated from Bethany College, got behind the wheel of my Plymouth Laser, and drove from West Virginia to Indianapolis, Indiana to begin my professional career as a fraternity consultant. That was 15 years ago this weekend (cue the emotional music).
Every morning when I wake up until the moment I fall asleep, I’m thinking about growing Greek Life. Some people would call that crazy. My friends would call that awesome. My mother would call that pathetic. LOL!
This is my personal and professional passion. My life’s work.
I’m reflecting as my fingers type.. . a lot of memories are flooding back. Nearly all of my most meaningful relationships and learning experiences are rooted in Greek Life. Fraternity has literally shaped me into the man I am today.
A decade and a half later, I’m struck by how beautifully simple and simultaneously complex recruitment can be. Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
What I have grown to understand is that there is a lot of “noise” around recruitment. Peel back the noise and there are prevailing Truths that are — and always has been — the secret to recruitment…
“people join people.”
“you can’t recruit who you don’t know”
“When friendships increase, membership increases.”
HOWEVER, the friendships I’ve cherished for these 15 years aren’t just about growing a base of members (or business partnerships) … for me they’re about building a meaningful life that is full of the people I care most about. I think that’s probably true for you, too. Recruitment done right is about filling our lives with great people who we want to grow old with; the people we want to make our little dent in the universe with. A Brotherhood. A Sisterhood.
Thanks to all my family, phamily, friends, and phriends who have supported me on this incredible journey. Those relationships mean the world to me. I’m as passionate today about fraternity as I was that first weekend I got lost in the Circle City. In many ways, I feel like my journey is just getting started. I’m so glad I have great people like you to join me on the ride.
by Tina VanSteenbergen
This time of year we talk a lot about preparing ourselves for summer recruitment. We’ve even got resources for those motivated summer recruiters here.
But what if you can’t recruit over the summer?
I hear this a lot. Many campuses I visit and many of the students I get to work with will tell me, “Tina, we’re not allowed to recruit over the summer.” “That’s dirty rushing.” “That’s not something we do on this campus.”
And that’s alright. I believe that you believe that you’re not allowed to recruit over the summer. To a certain extent, you might be right. You might not be allowed to recruit new members during the summer.
But you can recruit over the summer. You can, and you should.
We think about recruitment only within the context of growing our organization by bringing in new members. That is recruitment, so if that’s what you’re thinking, give yourself a self-five. You nailed it.
But recruitment is more than just bringing in new members. Part of the process is about maintaining the membership we already have.
“….You mean retention, Tina?”
No, I mean recruitment. Because retention IS recruitment. If we’re doing our jobs right, we are always, always, always, ALWAYS recruiting our members.
We have gotten ourselves in a pattern of only recruiting new members until they become members, and then preparing ourselves for next semester’s recruitment efforts, for the next batch of newest members. Which means, as soon as members are initiated, we stop recruiting them.
We make our new members feel special, important, wanted and connected. We spend so much time and energy on recruiting that group, right up until they become one of us. Then, well then, they get treated just like every other member.
What if we constantly focused on recruiting, not just our new members, but all of our members? What if we made sure each woman felt connected to this summer while she’s away from campus? What if we sent cards or gifts to all of our sisters with important summer internships to let them know we’re proud of them? What if we took fun trips to the beach or the amusement parks not just with our close friends, but with sisters we don’t know super well from another pledge class? What if we sent out monthly emails, Tweets, Facebook messages and text messages to every single woman on our roster, just to check in and see how summer is going? What if we worked this summer to ask and understand what each of our current members wants to get out of her next year of membership? What if this summer we focused on recruiting our members?
I don’t know if you have a retention issue in your chapter or not. But I do know that summer is a time when we can start to feel isolated, disconnected, separate from our communities on campus, our chapters included. I know that when we start to take our members for granted, when we simply assume they’ll be back for the fall regardless of that three-month separation, when we aren’t constantly recruiting them, we have the chance to lose them.
Recruitment is not just for new members, and it’s not a process that stops after initiation. It is a constant commitment to not only growing your organization with new members, but retaining the ones you already have. We are always, always, always, ALWAYS recruiting our members.
by Tina VanSteenbergen
Truly. I’m 100% sure about that. You matter.
You are important to this world. You are an integral part of people’s lives. Someone’s life is different, is better, because of you. You matter to your friends, your family, your sisters, your brothers, your boss, your co-workers, your classmates, your professors, to me, to us. You matter.
When was the last time someone told you that? When was the last time someone took the time to tell you that you are important, that they’re glad that you are here?
I hope the answer to that question is “Very recently.” I fear that more often than not, in reality that’s just not the case.
We don’t say it enough. We don’t hear it enough. We don’t feel it enough.
So let me say it one more time: You matter.
Getting involved with sorority was one of the first times I remember truly feeling like I mattered. Not that no one had ever said that to me before, not that I’d been walking around feeling like I didn’t matter. I just had never really felt connected to a cause before, connected to a group of people that loved and supported me while they were counting on me. I never really knew that I mattered. Sorority helped me understand that to someone in that room, to one of my sisters, to my Founders even, I mattered.
That’s the beauty and power of sorority—we get to connect with other women, find our worth together. Help one another understand that we all matter.
But we don’t say it enough. We don’t hear it enough. We don’t feel it enough.
Can you think of someone in your chapter that doesn’t know that she matters? That maybe feels disconnected, separate, isolated, or invisible? Is there a woman without a big or little, without a committee role, without much engagement in the chapter? Is there a woman in your chapter or community that might not understand why her butt in that chair each week at that meeting matters to you?
I bet that you can. I bet we all can. And I bet we can fix it.
People need to know how much they matter to us—especially in our voluntary membership organizations. If she doesn’t know why she matters to you, to the chapter, then why would she continue to invest time, money and effort into the chapter? Mattering, belonging, connection, these are the reasons we join sorority. Which means that a lack of them can be the reason someone leaves sorority.
So, let’s fix it. Take out your phone now, and find the contact information for the woman you thought of just a moment ago. Open up a blank text message to her, and let her know just how important she is. Here’s how:
“Sherri, I love how helpful you are at the end of chapter, cleaning up garbage and putting chairs away. You’re so helpful, and I’m really grateful for you. I’d love to grab coffee with you this week to catch up before summer starts. When are you free?”
Sure, you could just look at someone and say, “You matter to me.” But how much more powerful would it be to send (or receive) a text message like that?
Each one of you matters. She matters, and whether or not she knows it is up to you. Help be the person that reminds her today, reminds all of your sisters today, how much they matter to you.
by Taylor Deer
During recruitment we tend to be problem solvers.
Your mom doesn’t want you to join? Let me talk to her.
You’re worried about the time commitment? Let me show you a brother who works 3 jobs and has a 4.0 GPA.
Worried about grades? Let me show you all of the programs we have set up to help brothers get better grades.
Here’s the issue. When we are only temporarily curious about a potential new members concerns about joining, we don’t get the full story. We jump to solving the problem when we might not fully understand what the REAL problem is. Let’s put ourselves in a helper role and take our curiosity one step further.
The best recruiters are problem finders, not problem solvers.
To better understand this concept lets use the phrase “I’m worried about grades” as an example. Most of us when we hear that phrase come from a potential new member’s mouth, we pounce on it like a rabid dog and start firing off all the reasons why joining our chapter will help them boost their grades!
“Our chapter has been .002% higher than the average fraternity GPA for the last 6 months. We have an academic chair that has a 3.5 and can bench 340lbs with one arm. He makes sure we all go to the 2 hours of mandatory study hours where no real work ever gets done each week”
Well hang on. All of that is well and good. But what if when that potential new member says “I’m worried about grades” what they mean is: “I have a 4.0 GPA and I am worried about maintaining my habits of studying 5 hours a day in order to keep that average and scholarships that come with it.”
Now, we can see that the problem isn’t “How can you help me get better grades” it now turns to “I’m worried that the rest of the obligations that come with being a part of a fraternity will give me less opportunity to study 5 hours a night”. So your long well crafted pitch, isn’t relevant to the potentials concerns. You’re trying too hard to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
So, in order to forgo these pre-close woes, just ask more questions. Be more curious. Become a problem finder.
Your mom doesn’t want you to join? What is she concerned about? What would make her feel comfortable with you making the decision to join?
You’re worried about the time commitment? How much of a time commitment do you think it takes to be a part of our chapter? What about the time commitment worries you?
You’re worried about grades? What about grades are you worried about? How can we help you be successful?
The more we position ourselves as a helper, the more we can help prospects make the right decision for themselves. That’s what being a problem finder is all about.
by Tina VanSteenbergen
There’s a really special moment that can happen during sorority recruitment. It’s the third or seventh party of the day; you’re tired of smiling and making small talk, and if you have to complete your bump rotation ONE more time, you might cry. And then, like magic, the PNM sitting in front of you is special. She likes all the same fashion and food you do, has the same hobbies and even grew up in a town near to you! The conversation goes by too quickly because of all the fun you’re having. You’re sad to see her go, but as she walks away you know: you’ve found your rush crush, your new little—your future sister.
These moments are in fact magic. Meeting someone with whom we share interests, passions, and yes, even (especially?) food, is an amazing experience. Commonalities bring us together. They start friendships.
But friendship and sisterhood are different.
We often make decisions during sorority recruitment about who we want to extend bids to based on who we find commonalities with. If she’s passionate about watching “Gossip Girl” reruns like we are, we can talk to her for hours about our favorite characters and the latest plot twist. It can make us feel connected to, normal, and even like kindred spirits. The same can be said for any topic we cover during conversations with PNMs during recruitment—we feel connected to them when we find commonalities with them.
It’s not wrong to want to recruit women who you connect with, who you find commonalities with. Those things are important. They’re just not the only thing that matters.
We need to recruit her based not just on her commonalities, but her qualifications.
Loving mint chocolate chip ice cream, Ryan Reynolds or the New York Jets doesn’t make someone qualified to be my sorority sister. My friend? Without question. But sisterhood, sorority membership, requires more than interest in the same things.
How’s her GPA? Is she motivated and driven? Does she volunteer? Is she involved on campus? In what, and how frequently? Does she have a passion, or a dream? Does she believe in something? What kind of representation of your sorority would she be? Is she a leader?
These questions are about her qualifications for membership, and are just as important to our discussions about membership selection as her movie and food tastes. Honestly, they’re probably more important.
As you prepare your chapter members to search for their future sisters in this fall’s recruitment, be sure they’re all prepared to not only find women they share commonalities with, but ones they believe are qualified to be sorority members, to be your sisters. The moment when they find out their rush crush is also has all of the qualifications she needs to be a great member, a great sister, will be even more magical.