Lying About Our Organizations

By Paul Manly

Last Fall I had the pleasure of hosting individual recruitment consultations with a handful of recruitment chairmen at a large university. I’ve gotten to do hundreds of these – but this one I’ll never forget. Let’s call him Jimmy.

I asked, “Jimmy, why are you here? Why did you come on campus on a Saturday morning to talk recruitment with us?”

Jimmy replied, “Paul, I was lied to. I was recruited to join my fraternity last semester, and everything they told me about my fraternity was a lie. Now I’m stuck in it, and I’m committed to making it better.”

We need to stop lying about our organizations.

So often men and women join fraternal organizations and the experience they’re promised is not the reality. We tell potential new members exactly what they want to hear to get them to join.

You’ll hear come Sororities claim:

  • That they’re all best friends all the time.
  • That living in is like having 60 closets – you can borrow anything you like from anyone.
  • That membership is only an hour per week.
  • That the organization keeps a bank of exams and projects for every major.
  • That membership costs will always be low, and payment plans are available for any budget.
  • That the organization has scholarships to help you pay your dues.
  • That everyone is as pretty or cool as the 10 you met today.

You’ll hear some Fraternities claim:

  • They’re every Sorority’s favorite group of guys.
  • That no matter what, you’ll feel welcome here – we will always support you and have your back.
  • That their brotherhood is absolutely the closest and most tight-knit on campus.
  • That every party will be like the rush party last night – for four glorious years.
  • That they have the top GPA among Fraternities – and if you join, you will too.
  • That we only haze a little bit – except for Hell Week.
  • That we have the best alumni that can get you a job after college.

We’re the best, greatest, closest… with the highest, sharpest, smartest… But we can’t show quantifiable reasoning.

It’s no wonder we experience awful retention rates.

Recently, I moved to a new city and joined a new gym. I wanted to make sure I had the ability to bring guests to my new gym, and I would have access to the other locations in the gym’s network. When given a tour, the manager told me I’d have virtually unlimited guest passes and I could use any gym in their network with membership.

Last week, I tried to use a different location in my gym’s network. It turns out you have to pay extra for that. This morning, I tried to bring a friend to the gym. It turns out guest passes ate $5 per day. WHAT?!

These misrepresentations have caused me to not enjoy my gym as much as I thought. If those facts were shared with me during the joining process, I may have still joined.  This gym is the closest in proximity to where I live, so I probably would have joined anyway. But now I’m having second thoughts about maintaining my membership… and that’s a problem.

As many as 1 in 5 students quit a Fraternity or Sorority each year. Dynamic Recruitment teaches us that people join people. Well, people also leave people. The core of this message is that authentic relationships are the best way to recruit and retain our members.

As a guideline for better engagement, pay attention to these 6 powerful lessons:

1. Expectations – Many former members report leaving because of unmet or misunderstood expectations of membership.

2. People – Almost all membership attrition is due to a lack in emotionally solid relationships.

3. Purpose – Connecting an individual’s values to the true purpose of the organization is paramount for member retention and engagement.

4. You Matter – Chapters just made of new member classes, officers, and sub-groups — they’re made of individuals who require love and care.

5. Learning & Growing – Members must constantly have ways to learn and grow from the fraternal experience.

6. Repeat – A repeatable, optimized system for retention and engagement should be a top priority for fraternities and sororities.

Learn more about retention in Fraternity and Sorority here. And most importantly, don’t lie to prospects. People join (and stay with) people — especially people they know they can trust.