by Vince Fabra
I have recently been challenged by my own realizations about fraternities and sororities. It’s like when you’re dating someone that you think is great, but then you’re starting to see this other side and you don’t know which to believe. “Am I dating a terrible person?!”
It all started for me with that Alpha Chi Omega “Selfie Situation” at the Arizona Diamondbacks game. Surely, if you’re reading this blog, that story popped up on your news feed or was on your radar in some capacity. Members of Alpha Chi Omega were taking selfies at an Arizona Diamondbacks game, and the announcers made jokes at their expense for ignoring the baseball game and appearing to be obsessed with the picture-taking.
There were far worse things that happened in fraternity/sorority world this year, but there was something about the response to this weird “Selfie Situation” that has really gotten to me.
I feel like fraternities and sororities have become “box checkers.” It seems like our members are often found saying, “Let’s check off service and philanthropy so we can go back to self-serving.”
Here’s what I mean. Back to that Diamondbacks baseball game.
Following this bizarrely popularized incident of picture taking and announcer blabbing, there was a battle of “P.R. Moves” that got under my skin. What upset me was the insincere apology from the Diamondbacks and the just as insincere pivot from Alpha Chi Omega. The Diamondbacks, as a result of backlash from the viral video, issued a public apology to the sorority. They offered the sorority tickets to a future Diamondbacks game (Hey geniuses, this whole thing started because they were bored at your baseball game!).
What the sorority did next was nothing more than a counter-P.R. Move (and a prime example of box checking). Under the guise of sisterhood and service, they took the opportunity to pivot, forego the free tickets, and instead encourage the Diamondbacks to throw some free tickets to the local shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not a monster. I am not upset by sorority women raising awareness about domestic violence. Give the tickets away! That’s great! Thoughtful, even. What I AM upset about is this act being confused with generosity, service, or altruism. THIS WAS PUBLIC RELATIONS! THIS WAS DAMAGE CONTROL! Or at least it seemed that way to me. It seemed like battling P.R. machines trying to out “cool” the opposing side.
In a society where “Scandal,” “How To Get Away With Murder,” and “House of Cards” get great ratings by glorifying the “spin machine,” it’s no wonder we’re all so quick to celebrate a great P.R. pivot. Every person in my news feed that shared that article of Alpha Chi’s P.R. move, said something to the effect of “This is what sorority is really about.” Or “Proud of those girls” etc. People will fall for any story where fraternities and sororities look good, because they so badly want to believe the narrative that our organizations actually make a difference. AND it can be argued that our groups do make a difference, but I am starting to fear that the only reason our groups are inclined to make a difference is to “check the service box”.
Fraternities and sororities are full of these “moves”. We are box-checkers. “Let’s check off service and philanthropy so we can go back to self-serving.”
Lately as I’ve been in a “funk” about fraternity/sorority life, I have struggled to find real examples of genuine service in the fraternal movement. We perform service and focus on others so that we can “tip the scales” back to the argument that says we are good and relevant. OR our service is motivated by competition; the desire to be the “best” “first” “biggest” “raise the most money” “most community service hours”.
“Am I dating a terrible person?” I don’t know. I’m not ready to break up yet. I just want to make sure this thing I’ve spent so much of my career and life on is what it claims to be.
How can we – as professionals, as volunteers, as alumni, as the adults – inspire genuine generosity and authentic altruism in our organizations?
At Phired Up, we believe the key to improving the fraternal movement is recruitment and membership growth; finding the people that are coming to fraternities and sororities with a motivation to serve others. If we fill our rosters with more people who actually wanted to do something good, not just get the ribbon that shows they did something good…
Of course I still have some faith in our groups. But we can’t just check the box. We can’t just spin whatever lazy crap we do on an every day basis to look like something special. We have to actually do something special.
This isn’t about those Alpha Chi women. They were just watching a baseball game and taking some pictures. This also isn’t about you if you celebrated their response to the D-Backs – it was creative. This is about the box checking. This is about the people we NEED in our groups who do good naturally, and don’t need a P.R. agent to fluff their story.
Work makes it tough to get of out of bed;
you show up dragging your feet, hanging your head.
You fake an illness and practice your phony cough;
reluctantly you arrive, energetic as a sloth.
When you sit at a desk and count the seconds ticking on the clock;
feeling held back like a track star poised on the block.
Afraid to make a change because…. well there is no reason;
You make excuses and tell yourself its not the right season.
You stop listening to your heart for fear of what it tells you;
That you were meant for something greater and to do something that compels you.
One day the stress becomes too great,
you’re sick of being average and you decide the work can wait.
So you drop what’s holding you down, and you realize you are free;
you now have the courage to finally be.
You chase your dream, and tell yourself there is more to be done;
the work is just as hard, but now you’re having fun.
You’re standing under the clouds but you feel like you’re above;
that because you’ve taken hard work and turned it into love.
We don’t often post poetry on our blog. This might seem a little peculiar to some readers. But we think it’s pretty cool. Because in the thick of this late fall, when our staff was “feeling a little funky” (read this), Taylor Deer E-mailed our whole team this poem with the subject line, “I don’t know why but I wrote a poem for you.” Maybe it will serve as some inspiration to our fraternity/sorority professional friends like it has for our staff. We hope you enjoyed it, and we hope you’ll share it with other fraternity/sorority pros this week as we all prepare for the AFA Annual Meeting.
by Jessica Gendron Williams
Several weeks ago (and for a while now) I’ve felt pretty funky. Not in the “I’m coming down with some illness,” but in the “I’m having a hard time finding the joy in my work right now” kind of “FUNKY”. I was getting the sense that most of my team, most of my colleagues, many of the professionals – and even some of the students we were encountering on a daily basis were feeling pretty funky too.
We all know it’s been a hard year for everyone. This thing called fraternity and sorority that we all love and fight for everyday has been called into question so many times I’ve lost count. People look at us with cross-eyes when we tell them what our professional careers are; They don’t understand how we can commit our life’s work to something most people believe should be exploded like a nuclear bomb. Yet here we are – slogging away – amidst the chaos and questions. It’s easy to forget what we’re fighting for when all we see is the stuff we fight against everyday – slathered all over the front page of papers, new stations, and the internet.
It’s no wonder I feel funky – and if you’ve been feeling funky – I don’t blame you.
That funky feeling was this huge weight I was carrying around – something I needed to get off my chest. I needed to say – out loud – what was weighing me down. I needed to say out loud what was “pissing me off”. I figured, “Hey, my team probably needs to get it off their chest too. They probably has some stuff to get off their chest.” Honestly I wanted to hear it. I wanted to know what was eating at them – as much as I wanted to tell them what was eating at me.
The task was simple, “In 500 words, tell me what pisses you off – right now – about fraternity and sorority.”
The responses rolled in almost immediately. What I read in those responses was truly inspiring. I found in front of me – a team of people who were fired up about our failures (no pun intended), pissed off about our mistakes, but with a genuine belief that we can and should do much, much better – that it was our responsibility to do better. That we have to do better for the people before us – and that we most certainly MUST do better for the people that will hopefully come after us.
I’d love to share with you everything that our team wrote. It’s beautiful. There are passages filled with lofty idealism, and there are sections scorched with rage. Truthfully, some of it is colored with such emotional intensity that it is difficult to digest. For the sake of brevity, let me pull out five small excerpts that spoke to me, that inspired me, that moved me, and that made me nod my head ferociously in agreement. I do this because I am proud of these words that we collectively wrote, and that I want others to catch a glimpse at the level to which our team cares about fraternity and sorority – like you do…
These five excerpts might not make much sense out of context, but I’m guessing they’ll strike you like they’ve stuck me.
“I’m angry that people are dying and the industry is not responding with outrage.”
“Fraternities and sororities are full of sh*t. We are box-checkers. ‘Let’s check off service and philanthropy so we can be self-serving, raging-party monsters.’”
“What would it feel like to be another male student on that campus, looking at those guys, seeing their power and popularity, and wondering if I have to be like them in order to obtain any sort of success in college?”
“We have a duty, a responsibility, to turn our future world leaders into better people – our organizations are better than that.”
“It’s one of the reasons I got into this work in the first place. I genuinely believe that by working with the most privileged students on a campus I might be able to help make the world better.”
In these words are the feelings of frustration, desperation, and near defeat that I’m sure many of you have experienced this year. These excerpts come from pages upon pages of heartfelt, caring, vulnerable words that our staff wrote. Pages that all dripped with pain, but at the edges is a hopefulness and clarity about what we must do next.
I love that our staff is pissed off. I love it because that’s what pushes us into action.
Where’s the revolution? Why are we watching our life’s work, our passion, our cause swirl the drain – and responding with nothing more than throwing our hands in the air at a loss for words? Let’s stop making excuses. Let’s stop trying to justify the bad stuff that’s happened.
We’re failing the legacy of our founders. But more importantly, we’re failing the members who have yet to come. College students NEED fraternity and sorority. They NEED a place to belong. They NEED a place that allows them to figure out who they really are. They NEED US!
Let’s stop pointing and deferring the blame – and let’s start collective action. Let’s stop saying, “That’s not us, that’s them.” and “We’re not like that.” and “It was an isolated incident.” and start saying “I have a plan to fix this.” Let’s stop pretending we don’t know what to do – and start making the VERY HARD changes we know we HAVE to make. We know what we need to do. We know that what we need to do is VERY hard. We know that there are a lot of hard choices with significant financial consequences that we have to make to fix fraternity and sorority. Let’s stop pretending they’re impossible. Let’s stop asking how – and start asking when.
As we are all gearing up for the AFA Annual Meeting in a little over a week – let’s remember that we are about to gather together the people in the industry who should be outraged. We are also the people who have the most power to make change. Let’s not waste it. Let’s not rehash the year we’ve had. Let’s not waste any more time sharing war stories and comparing each other’s “bad year”. Let’s start having authentic, honest, and open conversations about how and when we start making the changes we need.
Agree with the words of our team or not – I’m proud of them. I’m proud of them for caring so much they are outraged. I’m inspired by their words – because it means they care. They care enough about fraternity and sorority to be dissatisfied with where we are. We know we can do better as Phired Up. We know we can do better as a profession. We know we can do better as fraternity and sorority. We’re committed to be a part of the solution – and solving the problems. We’re ready to talk about solutions at AFA and hope you are too.
by Taylor Deer
We at Phired Up spend so much time giving good advice that I think its time to take a break and give you some awful, terrible, advice that you should never ever use. With that being said, here are 11 different ways to be completely awful at recruitment:
1) Don’t talk to anyone who is not in your chapter…except when you’re asking the question “Have you ever thought about joining Greek Life?” When they say “no” and walk away, make sure you say “pffff GDI” and walk away…
2) Get your name out there! Make sure you spend all of your time, ALL of your time, designing and copy-writing major beer distributors’ logos and sticking them on T-Shirts and Flyers. Nothing says leadership like not being able to create your own brand. We know that people join fraternities because of their relationships with the members of that chapter. So, this will make sure you don’t have any time to do any of that.
3) Don’t keep track of your potential new members. You’re smart, you will absolutely be able to recall important information of about 50 potential new members when the time comes. If you forget five or 10 dudes no biggie, they probably weren’t going to make good brothers any way.
4) Don’t set any goals. When brothers ask how recruitment is going, you just respond, “Great! Real solid group of guys… real studs.” Be sure to remember that when you have a smaller than average pledge class to lean on the argument, “were about quality not quantity.”
5) Don’t seek any advice from anyone. Not the past recruitment chair, not professional recruitment education companies, no one. Its your first year in the position and your second year in college, you DEFINITELY have the experience it takes to establish a high performing recruitment system for your chapter. And definitely don’t click on this link.
6) During the bid meeting, make sure that every member gets to say “he’s a good guy” and “he’s super chill” multiple times per candidate. Nothing gives a more accurate picture of quality membership than subjective and nebulous labels that no one really understands.
7) NEVER join other clubs and organizations. The dudes who deserve to join your chapter will always find you one way or another.
8) Walk in big groups with matching Fraternity T-Shirts. This is the best way to never meet anyone and to get your name out there simultaneously. Its a twofer.
9) Instead of spending money on things that directly communicate your chapter’s values and attract people with those same values… Throw the biggest parties! The highest performing organizations with the highest quality members who make a daily impact on the world probably all attract those members because of how many kegs they can put in their basement.
10) Casually hand out as many bids as possible. Saw some kid wearing a “chill to pull ratio” T-shirt. Give him a bid. Tell him to take it and think about it for a few days, then bring it back to your house if he’s in. The best of the best only make rash decisions to join lifelong organizations when given a piece of paper by a stranger.
11) Make sure to never question your process. Say things like “that’s just the way it is” and “that’s just how our system works”. If you change something, even if its a small something, you might find out that it works better and you definitely don’t want that!
I hope you read every single one of these and do the exact opposite. If you want to figure out how EXACTLY to do that. Check out all of this free knowledge that will help you out: www.phiredup.com/free-stuff.
By Matt Mattson
We’ve been in this fraternity/sorority business a while, and I’m proud of the impact we’ve made. Many of our friends and colleagues in the industry often ask us, “So, what’s next?” I love that question.
Obviously, when Phired Up purchased a marketing company and created a technology company last year, that was a pretty major step forward. But we’re never satisfied. With Jessica Gendron Williams as your CEO, you can’t be satisfied. She won’t allow it. I love that about her. She’s pushing our team to create and innovate as always.
When “innovation” is a core value of your company, you have to ask, “What’s Next?” a lot.
I don’t really know for sure “What’s Next” for the fraternity/sorority world, but I’ll make some guesses.
I have some other thoughts, but I’ll stop at 6 wild predictions for the future of fraternity/sorority life. Some of my other ideas are a little cynical, admittedly — gluten free chapters, parents rooms in chapter houses, and republican vs. democratic umbrella groups. Mostly though, I’m hopeful for our industry. We are evolving. We are advancing. We are innovating.
I’m proud that Phired Up is working every day to play a small role in the continual innovation of our movement.
by Woody Woodcock
By now you know It is almost election season…no, not the Presidential one, but your new exec board is certainly right around the corner. Many people think the President is the most important position to elect in a fraternity chapter, and while that may be true I think potentially the most important role is who you elect to organize and attract people to your organization through recruitment
I often say, “Recruitment is not an event, or a time of year, it is a relationship we build through intentional and meaningful connection. The relationship you build with another human (also known as a friend) has no time limits and no restrictions on what you talk about, or how often you get to hang out. True recruitment is just you being you making more friends each day. Finding the right leader in the fraternity to be in charge of recruitment is key to how the rest of the chapter will see recruitment every day for the next year.”
If you have been around fraternity/sorority long you know what typically happens during election time. I bet you could share story after story of heartbreak as the wrong people get selected time and time again.
Here is what some of you have shared about past election time looks like:
At Phired Up we always want to help our advisors, alumni supporters, and student leaders stay ahead of the curve with important themes and trends. This month we think helping educate people on how to elect the best fraternity recruitment chairman is important. Better people in the right spots could equal better people being attracted to your fraternity or sorority.
What should we be listening for in their speech or campaign?
Who should you nominate/encourage to run this November?
What qualifies them to be nominated?
We want to make your role as an advisor, alumnus, or high caliber chapter leader simple not harder. We want to equip you with deeper questions on the right things to look for.
Top 15 Questions you may want to ask to go a bit deeper:
There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers, but these are some of the questions we’d ask when considering who to put in the role of recruitment chair — the person we’re trusting the future of our organization with for the next 12 months.
Let’s put the right people in the right roles to help them attract the right amount of the right new members to our organizations this year.