Fraternity Recruitment By The Numbers

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…

  • You can’t recruit who you don’t know.
  • People join people.
  • Quantity drives quality.
  • “He’s a Good Guy” shouldn’t qualify him for membership.
  • Asking someone to be your brother deserves a man-to-man conversation.
  • Recruitment is a relationship business.
  • A names list is the most important tool for recruitment.
  • There are thousands of men who deserve and desire the life-changing gift of fraternity. It’s our responsibility to be generous enough to give them that gift.

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).