Fraternity Gets Creative; Recruits 70 Men in 25 Days

This spring, something extraordinary happened at Georgia College!

The average size of a college fraternity in the United States is approximately 45 members.  On average, those members use 52 weeks to recruit and initiate fewer than 20 new members into their chapter.

In March 2016, two men — Bo Hunter and Zach Vasseur — were sent to GC by Alpha Tau Omega’s national fraternity on a mission: to recruit the school’s highest quality non-Greek men and start a new chapter of ATO.  They were given one month!

Approximately 2500 undergraduate men represent 45% of the Georgia College student body. There were already six fraternities on campus (average size of 65 members).  ATO wanted to become the 7th.  ATO partnered with the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Fraternity & Sorority Life to determine that there may be interest on campus from non-Greek men to start a new fraternity.  On March 11th, just 25 days after arriving on campus, Bo & Zach announced that Alpha Tau Omega had 70 accepted bids!

I had an opportunity to interview Zach and his supervisor, RJ Taylor.  (Transcript below)  The recruitment results are exceptional, but I am most impressed with how they did it.

The professionalism of ATO’s team and deep partnership with the school provide a shining example of a new era of fraternity recruitment; an overhauled business model; a system and philosophy that may become the new normal.  Stacey Milner, Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life, told me ATO executed the textbook example of how a fraternity should partner with a host institution.  And, they were rewarded with 70 new members who she verified “are amazing guys, having an amazing experience.”

Warning:  if you’re looking for “event ideas” or techniques to “get your name out there” then you’ll be wildly disappointed.  You also won’t read about Rush Week calendars, off-campus parties, cool t-shirts, yard signs, frat castles, over-produced rush videos, giveaway swag, or booze.  Just the opposite!  ATO’s success is another example of the evolving professionalization of fraternity recruitment.

There is a fraternity-done-right story happening around the country that has gotten almost no press coverage even though it is happening on hundreds of college campuses every year.  Select fraternity expansion teams and undergraduate chapters are choosing a relationship-focused, values-based, Dynamic Recruitment system that counters frat-star culture and public expectations of “going Greek.”  The results are often exceptional in both quantity and quality – just like ATO at GC.  Results that exceed what anyone thought might be possible.  These groups represent the future of fraternity.  They are the business model to replicate.

Here’s what Zach & RJ had to say about Alpha Tau Omega’s success at Georgia College.

Phired Up: Two men recruited 70 new members in less than 1 month.  That’s impressive.
ATO:  Thanks.  We’re proud of Bo and Zach.  They did a great job of executing ATO’s recruitment system.

Phired Up:  Some people may read those numbers and question the quality of your new members or the selectivity of ATO.
ATO: We gave bids to 70 men and initiated all 70 of them.  We interviewed and turned down 82 men who we didn’t think were ready for ATO.  The new ATO group has a 3.29 GPA compared to the 3.05 all-fraternity GPA.  We are proud of every single man in our group.  They each exceeded our values-based selection criteria.

Phired Up: Good answer.
ATO:  Thanks.

ATO:  We got close to these guys.  They’re friends – brothers.  They really are some of the best men on campus.  Our men represent leaders across all parts of campus.  Student org officers, student government Chief of Staff, President of business fraternity, guys from Campus Outreach, Bible Study leaders, Intramural Reps….

Phired Up:  People reading this will want to know how you did it.  The details. Tactics.  ATO has a strong expansion recruitment system, but what made this project so explosive in such a short amount of time?
ATO:  (smiling) There was definitely some luck involved.  The school was uncommonly supportive.  We did lots of prep work and worked long days while we were on campus.

Phired Up:  What does “uncommonly supportive” mean?
ATO:  From the very first conversation we were in a real partnership with the school.  We shared the same goal.  Campus officials and even the IFC went out of their way to support us.  The communication between our staff and the school was constant.  Everyone was transparent.  There was so much trust and mutual respect.  I think we all [school, ATO, IFC, new members, alumni] worked together so well that we felt like we succeeded together as a team.

Phired Up:  Will you share some of those tactics … the stuff you did different at GC that really worked?
ATO:  Sure.

Below are 10 recruitment tactics ATO did at GC that few recruitment teams are doing well – or not at all.  They credit each of these with making a significant impact toward the results achieved:

1.    INSTAGRAM – We planned on using Facebook and Twitter.  At the last minute Zach threw together an Instagram account just to see what would happen.  It blew up!

2.    UNIVERSITY EMAIL – The campus administration was so supportive!  Especially Stacey Hurt-Milner.  The school emailed every incoming freshman with information about ATO.  34 guys showed up to our first interest meeting during the pre-site visit.

3.    CHAPTERBUILDER – ATO uses recruitment technology called ChapterBuilder. However, this time we didn’t wait until the end of recruitment to invite all the new members into the system and train them.  Instead, we invited about 15 of the guys who expressed early interest to use the technology with us.  They went crazy with it and recruited 20+ of their friends using the tool.

4.    SHAMROCK WEEK – The guys we recruited during the 1st week got involved right away and met a lot of sorority women.  They won Kappa Delta sorority’s Shamrock Week before they were even a recognized group.  That got people’s attention and built their confidence.

5.    PRE-SITE VISIT – Our mantra is that ‘day one on campus is never day one of recruitment.’  We visited GC a few months before we started recruiting.  That’s when we met the 34 guys from the campus generated email.  We also built relationships with campus administrators, faculty, student leaders, sorority presidents, etc.

6.    INTRAMURALS – We learned during the pre-site visit that up to 85% of GC students participate in IM’s.  So we did, too.  It paid off.

7.    TAYLOR DEER – A recruitment specialist from Phired Up visited the project to coach the ATO team for a few days and help us refine our process.  Taylor is the real deal.

8.    CHUNKING – We never talked to a student without asking for referrals of quality Non-Greek men.  Chunking is an art form.  It takes practice.  Our team got really good at it.

9.    DEVOTIONAL – ATO is unique in that our top 3 officer positions are President, Vice-President, then Chaplain.  ATO is the first fraternity founded on Christian values.  The “ATO Devotional” is a book written by ATO’s for ATO’s talking about the bigger issues of life.  We carried that book everywhere we went.  Literally.  It was a constant conversation piece.

10.    SERVICE/OUTREACH – ATO is not a “frat.” One way we demonstrate that is putting service at the heart of our recruitment.  We partnered with the GC Give Center to establish a partnership of giving between ATO and school to do community outreach.

Phired Up:  You didn’t mention any rush events or a rush calendar.
ATO:  Nah.  If you mean traditional “big events,” we didn’t do that.  We’ve found that large rush events send the wrong message, often attract the wrong guys, take too much time and money, and deliver too little return of quality members.

Phired Up:  Alcohol?
ATO:  If you’re asking us to have a beer with you after this interview, sure.  If you’re asking if we used alcohol during recruitment, absolutely not!  That would have undermined everything we were trying to build.

Phired Up:  What did a typical day of recruitment look like?
ATO:  There was no “typical” day.  Hang on a sec.  Here’s an example from Zach & Bo’s calendar.

7:30am wake up
9:00am arrive on campus (Einstein Bagel in Student Union)
9:30am – 4:30pm coffee meetings (typically 20+ meetings, 15-30 minutes each)
5:00pm dinner on campus
5:30pm be present on campus (slack line, IM sports, campus events, chill, etc)
7:00pm ATO information session
8:30pm arrive home, follow up calls, texts, & emails
10:00pm administrative work. Plan next day together.
11:00pm talk to friends/family, read news, etc
12:00am sleep

Phired Up:  That’s intense.
ATO:  It’s worth it.

Phired Up:  Congratulations on your success at Georgia College & State University.
ATO:  Thanks!

Bravo to Alpha Tau Omega for doing recruitment right.  Thank you for sharing the Georgia College story.

While nearly every national fraternity in the country is enjoying unprecedented membership growth, some – like ATO – are using this moment in time to elevate the caliber of men they are recruiting and putting new, sustainable business systems in place that may make success stories like this the new normal.  Now, that would be extraordinary.

Interview Date:  May 12, 2016
Interviewer:  Josh Orendi, Josh@PhiredUp.com / Josh@TechniPhi.com
Zach Vasseur, Senior Leadership Consultant, zvasseur@ato.org
RJ Taylor, Director of Growth, rtaylor@ato.org

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