by Matt Mattson
This academic year more than 100,000 men will join one of the 6,100+ fraternity chapters that thrive on more than 800 campuses across North America. At Phired Up, TechniPhi, and Innova, we are passionate about helping more responsible, thoughtful, high-performing gentlemen experience the positive life-changing gift of college fraternities.
We know that only about 10% of students that attend colleges and universities in the U.S. where Greek Life exists end up joining. We can do better than that. There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of men on college campuses who deserve and desire the benefits of fraternity in their life, but our recruitment processes and our marketing work isn’t reaching them.
The great news, though, is that non-Greek students are as interested in joining fraternities as they’ve ever been. Data from Innova Marketing shows that less than 1/4 of non-Greeks surveyed held a negative view of Greek Life, while over 75% of non-Greeks are positive or neutral in their opinions of fraternities and sororities. In fact, when asked directly about their interest level in joining Greek Life, about 40% said they had a neutral to very high interest in joining.
So why don’t more people join? And more importantly, what do the numbers tell us about how we can get more high QUALITY men to join our fraternity chapters?
Our team recently looked at fraternity recruitment data from ChapterBuilder (the primary names list tool used by over 6000 chapters on 690 different campuses — currently managing 1.7 million PNM profiles!). We also looked at recent raw data from our Phired Up Dynamic Recruitment Assessment (take it for free here). We combined those findings with past findings by Phired Up, Innova, The NIC, and more (see our references at the bottom of this page). Here’s what we found.
A names list is vital to fraternity recruitment. 80% of men’s chapters have a names list (yikes! this means that 20% still don’t). The average size names list of a chapter is 402. Ten percent of chapters have names lists over 1000. At Phired Up we teach fraternity leaders that “Quantity Drives Quality” and that “You can’t recruit who you don’t know.” We want chapters to be more selective and thoughtful about the quality of men they’re recruiting, and we know that one of the best ways to do that is to increase the size of the pool of men from which you’re recruiting so that you can choose only the best of the best.
Here’s an important little nugget of information: 6.9% of prospects on a chapter’s names list end up joining the chapter. That’s about 7 out of every 100 on the names list. In other words, if you want a new member class of 30, you should aim for a names list of around 430 (or a 14:1 ratio). We’ve seen from past ChapterBuilder data that over 1/2 of the names that are added to a fraternity’s names list are never contacted again, so here’s an important tip — don’t just put the names on the list… follow up! How many times do you need to follow up? Well, of course that varies depending on the needs and relationship of the potential member, but past ChapterBuilder data has shown that potential members who end up joining a fraternity experience about 8 “points of contact” (times they hang out with or connect with a member) on average before they join.
Fraternities have a major opportunity to grow and improve their reputation simply by being more… SOCIAL. The recent Dynamic Recruitment Assessment data suggests that 58% of fraternity members can’t name more than 20 non-Greek men they might encounter walking around campus. 31% can’t name more than 10. When our marketing researchers asked non-Greeks, the responses were similar — 50% of non-Greeks can’t name more than 5 Greek members. We know that most people don’t hate fraternities. We also know that most people don’t ever actually reject becoming a member of a fraternity (over 70% of non-Greeks report never being recruited). The facts say that non-Greeks don’t hate us, they just don’t know us. We don’t have a recruitment problem — we have a friendship problem.
We know that many fraternity chapter leaders care deeply about recruiting higher QUALITY men into their chapters. We already mentioned the importance of having a big names list, but chapters should also have a written official criteria for membership, and not just a “He’s a Good Guy” approach. Unfortunately, the data shows that 65.7% of men’s chapters select members using phrases like “they’re cool” or “they seem like they’ll benefit the organization” to choose their new members. While less than 1/4 use a written official membership criteria. Phired Up teaches the importance of a Values-Based Selection Process. Here’s an example of what we teach.
Another tactic employed by high performing fraternity chapters to ensure the men who join are the right men for the chapter is the “Pre-Close.” This is the gentleman-to-gentleman conversation that happens before offering a “bid” that allows potential members to discuss concerns, and that allows the chapter members to clarify the responsibilities and expectations of membership. We have work to do because the numbers tell us that only 54.3% of men’s chapters have a conversation to address concerns with potential candidates prior to inviting them to join. Asking someone to join an organization for the rest of their life (and making sure we want them to join for the rest of our lives) deserves a serious thoughtful conversation.
Here are two other important and disturbing numbers that we discovered from the Dynamic Recruitment Assessment submissions: 75% of chapters admit that at least 25% of their members don’t regularly exhibit their organization’s values. 70% of chapters admit that at least 25% of their recruitment process does not reflect their organization’s values. Your recruitment events, marketing, conversations, and activities will determine the quality of men you attract. High quality people are attracted to high quality stuff.
One final number that is important to the quality of members we’re recruiting: Alcohol is a factor in recruitment. As recently as a few years ago, a Phired Up research study showed that 53% of campus-based fraternity/sorority professionals were aware that alcohol is being used to some degree during the recruitment processes on their campus. Mostly in IFC recruitment.
The entire college world is changing. It has been well-documented that while overall enrollment numbers in four-year colleges and universities has been on a steady increase over the past couple of decades (corresponding with similar growth in fraternities), those enrollment numbers are flattening. In fall 2016, overall postsecondary enrollments decreased 1.4 percent from the previous fall. Spring 2017 shows another 1 percent decrease compared to the previous spring in public sector institutions. Four-year public institution enrollment hit a plateau two and a half years ago and has decreased year over year since then. Now consider that there are almost 3 million more women enrolled in college than men. Making sure our fraternity chapters know how to recruit a high quantity of high quality gentlemen is more important now than it has ever been.
These numbers can be overwhelming and confusing. But unsurprisingly they reinforce the truths that great recruiting chapters have known for a long time. These are the same truths we’ve been teaching for a long time too…
And one more note. Of all the numbers that matter, remember that Dynamic Recruitment (the style of recruitment the best recruiting chapters in the country use) is all about the 1 PNM — each INDIVIDUAL potential member. Build a recruitment system that is about his experience (not the chapter’s experience).
By Matt Mattson
Allow me to clarify. I’m writing to the fraternity men who care. To the ones who are trying. To the ones who raised their hand and volunteered to be a leader despite the negative reputation and history of institutional debauchery that exists in fraternities.
To you, gentlemen, I write this letter of support and gratitude. To you, gentlemen, I sincerely say, “Thank you.”
From the outside, fraternities can sometimes look like a clown car full of drunken evil-doers. But those of us who can see the inside of today’s college fraternity know differently. We know the heavy weight of organizational history and individual futures rests directly on the shoulders of 18 to 22-year-old men. Not the guys in the back acting like children, but the young men in the front who have chosen to carry on the promise of fraternity out of duty, honor, and integrity.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably YOU I’m writing to. You’re probably a chapter or council leader, and that’s not easy. In fact, leading a fraternity is really hard. You feel pressure from above, below, and all around you. Everyone wants your chapter to be something different. The loud guys in back want it to be more fun (nothing wrong with that). Your headquarters wants it to be more responsible (nothing wrong with that either). Sororities on campus want this, Greek advisors want that, and the internet seems to want something from you too (cool pics, killer videos, sick party shots).
Here’s the thing. You’re in charge. You’re leading. You’re on the ground fighting the everyday battle of fraternity. And I just want you to know you’re appreciated. And I also want you to know that you have to choose what you’ll be. You can’t please everyone. You can’t even really please all the different ideas you probably have in your head. You have to lead your chapter in such a way that IT IS ABOUT SOMETHING.
If you want the best people on campus to join your chapter, it can’t be about: leadership, scholarship, service, fun, philanthropy, sorority relations, cool parties, networking, and the tightest brotherhood. If that’s what you attempt to be — all things to all people — you’ll fail. You’ll be mediocre. You’ll be a perfect landing place for the most average potential members on campus.
Don’t be average. Don’t be mediocre. Choose to be great at something.
If you want recruitment success, retention success, and reputational success… and maybe even some personal fulfillment along the way… make your chapter about something. Be the chapter that cares, the chapter that participates in activism, the chapter that wins sports, the chapter that has real human conversations with people on campus, the chapter that professors appreciate, the chapter that moms send thank you notes to, the chapter that changes the way people see fraternity, the chapter that sings, the chapter that affirms and celebrates differences, the chapter that dominates philanthropy, the chapter that shapes guys into humble modern gentlemen. Whatever. Just pick something. Be about it. And don’t be about anything else. Make everything you do about your cause, your “why,” your purpose, your… something. Be about something.
Mostly I wanted you to know that you’re appreciated and you have permission to choose what your chapter will be about. Own your leadership opportunity. It is short and fleeting. Most chapter and council officers are half way through their time as a leader. Don’t waste another moment.
Oh, and remember one other thing. We’re on your side. The people at Phired Up, Innova, and TechniPhi… we really do believe in you. You are why we do this work. You are the future of fraternity, and we couldn’t be more grateful for your efforts.
by Matt Mattson
This is important. Like, really, really important for all fraternity leaders to read and understand. It gets at the core of our problems and our opportunities. It is about our very reason for being. And it might shock you.
Brotherhood. This word is tossed around by fraternities more than ping pong balls and corn hole bags. And its meaning has become almost as pointless. It has become a filler word that substitutes for a full understanding of what our organizations are actually about. Why should someone join? Brotherhood! What do you love most about your organization? Brotherhood! What makes your organization better than the others? We have the most Brotherhood!
But what does that word (brotherhood) actually mean? I’ll tell you one thing I know 100% for sure… BROTHERHOOD IS NOT FRIENDSHIP. When I ask fraternity members to explain that word to me, often they’ll say, “Like, really close friendship that is like an unbroken bond.” Forever friends who share values.” “Something beyond friendship.”
I’ll be honest, I don’t think that’s even close.
If brotherhood was just “like friendship, but better,” why would anyone ever join? If the primary offering of our organizations is really tight friendship, we would have no reason to exist — plenty of people outside of Greek Life have better friendships than you share with your members. And, if friendship (a.k.a. brotherhood) is the primary offering of your organization, by definition aren’t you actually and quite literally “buying your friends”?
I believe that fraternities have always existed for one reason, and that one reason is more important today than it has ever been. It isn’t friendship. It isn’t even service/philanthropy. It isn’t leadership either. Fraternities exist to guide college guys who have chosen to transform from childhood into adulthood — from boys into men.
Becoming an initiated member of a fraternity is a life choice — not to join a fun buddy club — but to join adulthood, to move from boy to man, to cross over from an age of irresponsibility and selfish desires into an age of responsibility and impact. Brotherhood is the bond that is built through the shared struggle of becoming men.
Broth-er-hood: (noun) The shared struggle of becoming a man.
A lot of guys do not choose to become adults for many years. Some choose to stay in this prolonged adolescence where acting childish is a way to avoid both the responsibilities and opportunities of adulthood. But fraternity, when it’s done right, is a formal CHOICE to become a man instead of a child. That choice is a powerful one. It is quite literally celebrated in your initiation ceremonies. You take an oath to live as the men who’ve come before you have determined is fitting of men who wear your letters.
And here’s the problem. The very purpose of our organization is to proclaim adulthood — to say, “I am now a man,” yet we’ve watered down the idea of brotherhood so much that it now seems to exclaim childishness. When we sell “friendship” as the primary offering, we get buddies who like each other and like to have fun together. Then we call liking each other and having fun together brotherhood. We take all the air out of our very purpose — the one thing that makes us beautiful organizations. And this reduced meaning that we’ve attached to the word brotherhood becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of irresponsibility and childishness.
It is time for real fraternity leaders to reclaim this word. Brotherhood is not about choosing buddies, it’s about choosing manhood.
Fraternity is not about leadership, service, and philanthropy — these are wonderful ways that we demonstrate the choice we make to be productive, responsible, values-driven adults. Fraternity is not about friendship — though you’ll certainly make some of the best friends of your life (you’ll have brothers that you’re not actually friends with too, that’s o.k.) Fraternity, I believe, is about that choice each of us makes at some point to be a man, to be an adult, and to no longer be a child.
Here’s another way to think about it. Fraternity recruitment = men recruiting men to become better men. That literally might be the most succinct explanation of our bizarre and ancient organizations. Yet we rarely talk productively (without accusation or blame) about what it even means to be a man anymore. So, it should be no surprise that our fraternities are struggling with expressions of manhood, and that we’ve chosen to think of brotherhood not as something important and powerful as we come of age, but as buddy-time.
The elements that define manhood in 2017 are necessarily different than they were in decades past. That rapidly moving target, however, creates uncertainty, a low likelihood of success, and in turn, a reversion to the lowest common denominator of what “be a man” means. What’s worse, is that after a 19-year-old guy feeling pressured to recruit for a “top tier fraternity” gives in to the trashy side of man-ness in exchange for the recruitment numbers he feels pressured to get, we blame him for reinforcing the “fratty” corner we put him in.
We (undergraduate leaders, educators, and professionals) have to talk about and demonstrate humble, confident, inclusive, modern manhood in fraternity. The fact that this isn’t currently our default might be the fraternity industry’s biggest threat. Fraternities were founded to help guys transform into men, but it almost seems like we’re afraid of naming that purpose because we know some of our alumni think “be a man” means some terrible things.
Fraternities must reclaim the word “brotherhood.” And fraternities must reclaim the word “manhood.”
I’m proud that our recruitment educators at Phired Up Productions are considering the necessary intersection of modern manhood and fraternity growth. (Here, here, and here are some past blog posts that connect the two). These are two sides of the same conversation. The last thing our chapter leaders need (the guys who are trying their damnedest to do this fraternity thing right) is to be told that they’re too manly or not manly enough.
by Matt Mattson
I’ll just start this post with a direct recommendation: BUY THIS BOOK TODAY . Generation Z Goes To College by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace.
Here’s a quote from the Amazon.com description to start your learning…
“Generation Z is rapidly replacing Millennials on college campuses. Those born from 1995 through 2010 have different motivations, learning styles, characteristics, skill sets, and social concerns than previous generations. Unlike Millennials, Generation Z students grew up in a recession and are under no illusions about their prospects for employment after college. While skeptical about the cost and value of higher education, they are also entrepreneurial, innovative, and independent learners concerned with effecting social change. Understanding Generation Z’s mindset and goals is paramount to supporting, developing, and educating them through higher education.”
Understanding the motivators of this new generation is of utmost importance if you are at all involved with marketing the fraternity/sorority experience to them. This book is the most directly related text I’ve seen for our fraternal industry — one of the authors (Grace), in fact, works for a fraternity international headquarters!
We’ve been focused on Generation Z for a while now. We’re building marketing plans and strategies directly influenced by the emerging data on this newest collegiate generation.
There’s a lot still to uncover about this new generation, but here are some things that seem to be coming to light.
Marketing to this generation will take thoughtfulness and education. We’re working hard to know everything we can so that our marketing services and recruitment education are aimed directly at the needs and priorities of this generation — not those of the past.