by Jessica Gendron
What would two chapters that are well over 200 members each want recruitment help for? I asked myself the same question last month when I was approached by the Delta Gamma chapters from Mississippi State and Ole Miss. I was taking a little break during their two-day Membership Academy when the chapter recruitment directors and recruitment advisors from these two chapters approached me and asked, "We would love for you to come do this training for our chapters. Are you available in two weeks?"
Lucky for me and for them, I was. However, when they asked me, I had to pause for a double-take. Recruitment help? These chapters make quota. These chapters are at total. These chapters have great return rates. Was I dreaming or were these chapter women really that smart?
Let me clarify what I mean by "smart". These women are smart because they recognized that size does not always equal success. They realized that regardless of their current success, there was always room for improvement and further development. They realized that recruitment help didn't always mean help "growing in size". They recognized that recruitment could be better.
So on a wonderful Sunday afternoon in March in Oxford, Mississippi, the Delta Gamma chapters from Mississippi State and Ole Miss got "recruitment help". Here's a little insight into what they found beneficial to them.
We scare people. We should be more normal.
Let's just say that Ole Miss and Mississippi State haven't exactly gone "no frills". Helping their members recognize how scary and intimidating recruitment can be for potential members was the first step to helping them understand how they can make their events better. We focused on making the environment comfortable for their potential members AND their members by removing some of the scary stuff they do.
People join people, not sororities.
All of the "stuff" they do during recruitment (chanting, singing, outfits, drinks, skits) isn't why the women join their organization. Women join because of a friendship or a relationship that they build with one or two of their members. Every single one of their members had a person who was the reason they were a Delta Gamma. The key to successful recruitment is focusing on the people and the relationship we can build with them. That is why they join ‐ because of a person.
How to be a horse.
With chapters of 200+ women, it's impossible for every woman to have a leadership role or "positional authority" in the chapter. The great thing about recruitment is that you don't have to have "positional authority" to be a horse (someone who does the work). We focused on how each member could have an impact on the recruitment success of their chapter by using their ability to have good and meaningful dialogue with potential members. They could be the person who is responsible for a woman joining.
Talking about sorority in a good and meaningful way.
Every sorority says the same things about their organization to potential members. Everyone has the best sisterhood, raises the most money for their philanthropy, has the highest grades, and blah blah blah. There is nothing that allows their organization stand out by saying the same things everyone else does. We focused on using the features of membership in their chapter (sisterhood, philanthropy, service, fun, events, leadership, etc.) to open the door to talk about the benefits of those things ‐ what they will gain as a person from those experiences. Then we took it to the next level by teaching them to share their personal experiences with the features of membership and what they have gained from those things. These are much more meaningful conversations than just talking about the stuff that you do like everyone else does.
Having better conversations during recruitment.
Good skills are the core of good conversations. Since we know that the relationship is the most important thing in recruitment, their ability to have good, genuine conversations is paramount. Too many times we think that controlling the conversation means doing all the talking ‐ usually talking about the sorority. The truth is the way you control the conversation is by doing the listening and question-asking. The conversation is then centered around the person, not the sorority. We taught them how to start the conversation with questions centered around broad common areas of interest until they found something they had in common. From there the conversation is natural, normal, and allows for good relationship to be formed.
Sharing their personal stories.
When I asked, "Has your sorority changed your life?" I got a resounding, "Yes!" Sharing those personal stories about how the sorority has changed your life has the biggest impact. You can say you have the best sisterhood and that you love your sisters, but when you share a personal story about something that demonstrates how great your sisterhood really is, I believe you. Sharing your personal stories allows you to be genuine and talk about your experience in a good way. The whole time the potential member is thinking""I want that." It's relatable and real in a process that typically feels pretty fake.
Bottom-line, these Delta Gamma women were smart. They saw room for growth and improvement with their chapters even though they typically pretty high performing in recruitment. Regardless of whether you are 2 members or 200, there are always opportunities to make your recruitment better, not just by increasing your size, but by increasing you members' ability make your process better, more genuine, and less scary.