-by Nathan Laudan, Guest Blogger & Membership Growth Consultant- Alpha Gamma Rho
“You can’t recruit who you don’t know.”
I first heard this phrase as an undergraduate attending my National Fraternity’s Recruitment School, listening to a Phired Up facilitator give their “3 Secrets To Recruitment.” This was like a huge truth bomb getting dropped down on me in the middle of that conference room. My goals and how I had planned to execute the recruitment plan for my chapter changed on a dime. We started being intentional about how we were going to get in front of more potential new members on campus, and our chapter’s recruitment strategy changed forever. At least, that’s what I hoped would happen when I came back to campus.
Turns out, the idea of getting to “know” more people on campus was really hard. The idea of “getting ourselves out there” and “go talk to some new guys” was something easily said, but a lot more difficult to execute (not to mention getting the men in my organization to execute). If I was struggling to meet new people and getting to know them, how could I expect my brothers to do the same? Recruitment turned out fine that year. We had a good group of men join our organization and things continued on as normal. It has taken me my five years of an undergraduate experience (victory lap) and three years as a traveling consultant for my National Fraternity to realize what we were missing was the how. I think this secret, “You can’t recruit who you don’t know,” is still relevant on how to recruit more and higher quality fraternity men. However, I want to take it one step further using a word we don’t often say in “fraternity-land.”
You can’t love who you don’t know.
Sounds a little familiar right? Love is not a word I have heard used often in my seven plus years of fraternity experience thus far. However, I would argue it is foundational to our experience and without it we reduce our brotherhood to simply casual friends who sometimes live and hang out together. If we can’t demonstrate to a potential new member that our brotherhood is more than friends who live together, then why do they have motivation to join us over any other organization on campus? Love is the differentiator in our experience.
Earlier I mentioned my chapter was missing the “how” of getting to know new men for recruitment. Showing someone you are genuinely interested in them, giving men the space to be vulnerable with one another, and demonstrating our organization’s capacity to create a community that will support them are the steps we can take to “get to know” potential new members in a different and powerful way. And if we are being honest with ourselves, we are one of the few last places on a college campus where this kind of environment for men is even still possible.
I was able to see this first-hand when working with a chapter’s VP of Recruitment, and hearing his frustration at the lack of engagement his chapter brothers had with potential new members at events. He shared how many brothers would simply ignore these potential members, and talk solely with brothers at almost every event they had the past fall semester. While on a chapter visit at the beginning of the semester, I was able to help coach brothers on conversations that show genuine interest. These were simple tips on how you can change a question to make it open ended, learning more about the men we were recruiting by dialing in on topics that normally mean a lot to an individual.
There is immense power in changing the question from “What’s your hometown?” to “Tell me about your hometown?” and focusing on subjects like family and career ideas. Some other phrases we talked about to open up a question, “Tell me about… Explain to me… Help me understand… Why… and How?”
Later that night this chapter hosted a recruitment event. As potential new members walked in the door I proudly watched as chapter members pulled up a seat and had conversations showing genuine interest, that we cared and wanted to know more about the individual. I was watching the chapter show they were a place where these potential young men could see themselves being surrounded by and cared for by brothers. Asking questions that show we genuinely care to get to know an individual is a simple, small act of love… but love nonetheless. Showing that to potential new members shows them our brotherhood and differentiates us from other organizations on campus.
Over the last few years traveling for my fraternity, it has become very evident to me that there is a hunger among college students today for the connection and love a fraternity experience can give them. Check out this blog post to see some data about who is coming. To me these descriptions tell us about a group of men who are looking for the love, connection, and the genuine care a chapter experience can offer. There is a huge gap at college and universities everywhere for who can offer this to a college-aged man, and fraternities are uniquely poised to do so.
We can’t recruit who we don’t know. How can we get to know them? Love them.