“Get off the stage!” That might be our team’s new mantra. Nobody’s heckling us. Quite the opposite. We’re yelling it at ourselves. Let me explain.
This semester our fraternity educators have been engaged in critical discussions with fraternity men around the country. We’re learning a TON from them. These guys are begging for legitimate help, but are rightfully wary of shiny, polished, canned speakers.
And these guys understand the complexity of their situation. They get the interplay of policy, member education, risk management, recruitment, marketing, and leadership. Fraternity men are smart.
There was a time when fraternity/sorority pros would bemoan fraternity men. If you’re doing that right now, you’re not listening. These guys are bright, driven, and suspicious of bullsh*t.
Here’s what we’ve been doing that is proving very effective.
1.Remove the blame: What we ask of our fraternity leaders really is unfair. “Here’s 150+ years worth of problems we’ve created, and here’s literally the worst reputation problem in our history. Fix it and don’t screw up.” We are finding ways to demonstrate that we are an adult you can trust, and we are focused on your actual priorities (which by the way, are actually more similar to the university and HQ than many may think).
2. Connect the dots: We’re blending messages about recruitment, new member education, marketing, health & safety, and risk management together because these guys are smart enough to understand the connections. And they’re loving it. Telling them to manage risk or not to haze sounds so cliche to them. Even telling them to recruit with values sounds kind of stupid and irrelevant.
3. Provide long-term support: We’re not trying to solve giant problems in a day. We are building trust-filled relationships and offering long-term access and support. These guys are really interested in long-term conversations as a way to leave a legacy of smart leadership, as long as we’re addressing their immediate real-life needs and priorities too.
4. Get off the stage: We’re bringing our education down to ground level with personalized chapter consultations that allow each chapter to build their own curriculum. Our conversations are far more inclusive and discussion-oriented than they’ve ever been. We’re respecting the savvy of these men and learning along with them. They are contributing valuable ideas so long as we don’t put the onus entirely on their shoulders. We’re still really good “on the stage” too (in our humble opinion), but we can’t stay there. We have to sit down next to these fraternity men and work with them in practical ways.
Matt Farrell, Phired Up’s educator who has his focus locked into the new member on-boarding process has found success working directly with individual chapter leaders. “These men are responding well when we remove the ‘H Word,’ when we honor this generation’s natural inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit, and when we facilitate instead of lecture. I honestly feel like our biggest battle is just showing these guys that adult educators can actually care about them.”
The University of Illinois is one of largest IFC communities in the country. Earlier this week Andy Bremer and Matt Mattson spent a combined 14 hours on campus meeting with individual chapters (an intense day!), providing customized chapter coaching sessions, and bringing the education to the immediate needs of each individual chapter.
Here’s what the IFC VP of Recruitment, Luke Wolff had to say, “Our Greek Life is a very dynamic and large community that has no ‘one size fits all’ for recruitment. Through the private consultations, each chapter came to realize that in order to succeed on campus they must figure out what their own brand is that they are trying to market. After the consultations, each chapter now values their own characteristics more than ever which is a great step forward towards a better recruitment.”
On the exact same day, Austin Netherton from the Phired Up team was delivering on-site support to the entire University of Iowa IFC community. His work facilitated a complex discussion that included masculinity, university policy, recruitment tactics, and simply demonstrating an understanding and care for the emotional rollercoaster of being a fraternity leader and a collegiate man.
Here’s what Thomson Coffey, Iowa’s IFC VP of Recruitment thought of the approach, “Phired up takes the time to understand the issues and dynamics of each school they go to and each chapter they talk with to help create a personalized plan that works for everyone. By working with chapters and leaders of all different shapes, sizes, and experience; they help each chapter understand what they can do to be the chapter they want to be no matter what their goals are. Phired up takes the time to give out their contact info and follow up with the people they work with to see how changes are being made and give advice to leaders even when they aren’t on campus.”
Texas State is another campus that recently requested an intense day full of individual chapter consultations for each fraternity there. Phired Up worked with the biggest and “coolest” groups, as well as the smaller, newer, and more specialized groups. The goal was to respect the individual identity and goals of each chapter, and honor who they wanted to become — which by the way was always a fraternity of excellence.
Bob Dudolski, the Assistant Dean of Students at Texas State, and a long-time fraternity/sorority professional said, “We have found that the greatest success in our individual chapter recruitment trainings is that it allows interactions with the Phired Up trainer to be more personalized on the needs of the chapter; which allows them to focus on what goals they have determined and what needs they have to reach those goals. By having individual chapter focused workshops, we allow the chapter to help drive the conversation to where it needs to be focused whether it be on determining the type of member they are seeking, where to find that member, how to help chapter members engage to make new friends across campus or just to become better organized in their recruitment programming and efforts. By doing so it allows the facilitator and the chapter members to drill down to determine much deeper success strategies for the individual fraternity members so that they can walk away from the training with more practical and ‘real life’ solutions to their chapter recruitment questions.”
- Remove the blame.
- Connect the dots.
- Provide long-term support.
- Get off the stage.
These rules are transforming the way we’ve been able to help fraternities this semester. We believe the “pre-member” experience is the area with most potential for long-term impact on the overall health and safety of fraternity & sorority chapters. Most interventions related to risk management, alcohol/drugs, sexual assault, and hazing (the biggest fraternal problems) are aimed at current members, when so much of the idea of “fraternity” is established well before a member is initiated. We are pre-membership experts, and we want to make sure that all the men that are initiated into fraternities are the right men, with the right expectations, and the right preparation. We want to create a healthier buyer-pool to create healthier fraternities.
Everything that happens from the very first moment a high school student learns about the idea of a fraternity all the way through recruitment and then through their new member experience… “From First Impression to Initiation” is when we can…
- SET HEALTHIER EXPECTATIONS
- EDUCATE PROSPECTS ON HEALTHY MEMBERSHIP
- SELECT LOWER-RISK MEMBERS
- PREPARE NEW MEMBERS FOR INITIATION IN HEALTHIER WAYS
But in order to do this, we need to be on the side of the IFC men we’re working with. Our team has been working hard to critically re-imagine our approach to fraternity education, and it’s working. It’s been a long-time since we’ve had this much demand for fraternity education.
Hopefully those four rules will be helpful for you: Remove the blame. Connect the dots. Provide long-term support. Get off the stage.
Contact us to book our Phired Up education team to work with your fraternities. We are available to solve big problems, help fraternity grow in the right way, and care about the men leading your fraternity chapters.