Here are two stories about how fraternities do recruitment. Which one is your chapter most like? Which one would you like your chapter to emulate this year?
Story #1: The Best Guys On Campus
After hours of heated debate, the color and design of this year’s rush T-shirts are determined. The T-shirts arrive just in time for the big week. At the last minute the chapter throws together several events for IFC (Interfraternity Council) rush week. A few members print up fliers and chalk the sidewalks of campus. One brother leverages his artistic ability to produce a large rush banner on a white bed sheet.
The chapter invests most of its available funds and hundreds of man hours into preparing for the arrival of freshmen prospects. The IFC events are OK, but the real recruiting happens at the chapter’s Big Event. They’re known for Big Event and have a lot of pride in this special occasion.Nobody is quite sure who will be coming to Big Event, but everyone is sure it will be Big. Prospective members will be asking for bids by the dozens when they see how the chapter can make Big Event come together. Special care has been given to cleaning the house (sort of), the women have been invited, beverages are provided, and free food is available. The chapter is now prepared for the best rush ever.
Big Event goes relatively well since everyone had a good time. However, the brothers ate most of the free food, the girls in attendance were mostly the brothers’ current girlfriends, and nobody seems to remember but a handful of the prospects by name – except for the 2-3 guys everyone sort of knew were going to pledge regardless.
With the lessons of Big Event learned, the chapter realizes it needs to “step it up” since the rush period is half over. So they regroup and have… another Big Event.
As rush week comes to a close, the brothers huddle in a room together to begin the infamous voting process. A few guys slide through with a unanimous “yes.” Then, a brother slouched on a couch at the back of the room questions a prospect’s credibility and someone else yells out, “Yeah, I don’t even know the kid.” Another says, “That’s what the pledge period is for.” Finally, a brother calmly says, “Trust me, he’s a good guy.” A few others chime in, “Yeah, give him a chance. He seems like a good guy to me.”
With that, the criteria has been set and the chapter is now several hours deep in a hot room to determine who is “good guy” enough to receive a bid. Most of the small percentage of freshmen they’ve met are given bids, but only half of those bids are accepted. The chapter is shocked! However, the brothers set things at ease by reminding themselves that – just like last semester – they got “the best guys on campus.”
“Besides,” they say, “we’re about quality, not quantity.”
Story #2: The Chapter Had a Problem
After hours of helping out the orientation staff during move in day. The chapter could rest easy knowing that they set the incoming new students up for success (and that no parents broke their backs lifting another mini fridge). No money was spent, no planning was required, no sidewalk chalk was harmed, no crappy frozen hamburgers were forced to be consumed. While helping the university was the main objective, the chapter also walked away with the contact information from a ton of new friends they made.
The brothers invited their new friends to come with them to some low key social functions happening over the next few days… a couple games of pick-up football, a few guys playing video games, and some service and leadership club meetings. Even “Smitty” a.k.a. “6th year Dip-Cup Senior Guy” was able to make a few friends… unanimously the brothers were astounded.
The next few weeks were busy. The chapter had a lot to do. They had to go around signing people up for their open study sessions, they had to give away tickets to ride the bus to the first away football game, they had to offer scholarships applications for their annual “gentlemen awards,” and they had to visit with all the new members of 5 different sororities. But that stuff always ended up being pretty fun, so most of the guys were looking forward to it.
Throughout those first few weeks of the semester, the brothers had one job and they all knew it: Do normal stuff with all the non-Greek men they knew. The leaders didn’t really think everyone would participate fully though; they were realists. They knew about 1/3 of the chapter would actively work to individually take prospects to lunch, to the gym, to study, and to hang out; another 1/3 of the chapter would be helpful with the events; and then there was another 1/3 of the chapter that would sort of show up here and there. That was O.K. Everyone in the chapter knew the plan: collectively meet as many non-Greek men as possible, keep track of them, build real relationships with them, and gather enough information about them to find out if they’re qualified for membership.
It was working. Each potential new member began to find out that the men they were hanging out with were in a fraternity. Floored, they often commented that the members didn’t seem like the typical “frat guy” they had heard about. They also didn’t feel like they were being “rushed.” In fact the opposite seemed true. Real friendships were being established with real friends. In one moment the prospects expectations and stereotypes about fraternity were shattered.
Intrigued by this new discovery, more and more of the prospects friends began to inquire about the fraternity. They would ask “When does pledging start?” “How can I join?” and “Can I invite my roommate out next time?” It seemed the chapter’s worst enemy, “the fraternity image” had become their best friend. All by just being their normal, friendly, and happy selves.
More questions asked, turned into more questions answered. It seemed that the more the friends learned about the fraternity, the more they wanted to join. The Chapter had a problem. But it was a good problem. Having so many of their friends interested in joining, they had to decide who exactly was ready for brotherhood. The bid meeting turned from being the worst night/morning of the year, to the most exciting (and they got out early). Instead of arguing the semantics of which prospects were “Good Guys,” the chapter set a measurable bar that was high… very high. They could because they knew so many prospects. Because of this, their new member class was the best the chapter had in recent memory.
Yes, the chapter had to work hard, they had to keep track of conversations and relationships, they had made a lot of phone calls and text messages, and they had eaten a lot of lunches with new friends. But what they received was so worth it. A new member class that was destined to lead the chapter for years to come.