by Matt Mattson
Today’s fraternity and sorority leaders, that I talk to… they’re inventors, they’re originators. They’re some of the most driven, brilliant, and thoughtful people I know. They’re trying to build modern organizations for modern students. They’re not stuck in “history” or “tradition.” On the contrary…
They’re ready to create the future of fraternity and sorority.
Here’s the thing. I’m 100% convinced that the way to create that future is to TRANSFORM THE WAY PEOPLE JOIN.
Let me explain.
Great organizations are made of great members, right? Healthy, safe, thriving fraternities and sororities are made up of healthy, safe, smart members who understand the expectations of what it means to live as a sorority woman… to live as a fraternity man.
But to be honest, right now… too many of the wrong people are joining with the wrong expectations about what it means to be a member.
Listen, before I say any more, let me say that none of this is your fault… I think we ask way too much from our undergraduate fraternity and sorority leaders. We’ve given you 150 years of problems and the worst reputation in our industry’s history, and we’ve asked you to fix all that in your “spare time” between classes. I’m sorry. You didn’t ask for this burden of creating the future of fraternities and sororities, but because I’ve talked with a lot of you… I know you’re ready for it… and we’re ready too.
It will require a full transformation of how people join. It will require strategies that are smarter, more relationship-oriented, more data-driven, and more focused on putting the RIGHT people in your chapters. It will require informing and empowering potential members in ways that we’ve never done before. It will require a shakeup of systems and a great big overhaul of processes…
But we can’t just keep doing things like we’ve always done and expect our problems to go away.
We have to transform. And it absolutely starts with revolutionizing who we invite into our organizations and how we go about doing that. Changing the way we market to, recruit, select, and on-board our newest members is the one way I know for sure that we can make a major impact on the overall health and well-being of our organizations.
Let’s start a conversation. We know that there are SEVEN INDICATORS of a high-performing fraternity/sorority growth system. If you want to be “on system,” we want help you fulfill all seven indicators listed below.
Fraternities everywhere are starting to adopt a “PNM Orientation” session or a “Recruitment Kickoff” event (read more about “structured IFC recruitment”). These events are often well-intentioned (IFC’s want to set high expectations, educate prospective members, and give every chapter an opportunity to share their story), but too often these events result in a lackluster experience for the potential members. They can be full of boring presentations from ill-prepared chapter members with broken audio/visuals, they can be well-meaning professionals who end up lecturing students on stuff they haven’t even done wrong yet, or maybe even worse, they can set a tone of “fun buddy-club” that makes Potential New Members confused about what a fraternity is.
Phired Up offers a PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER who can provide an unforgettable program for PNMs and members. Our fraternity trainers will work with you to build a custom experience that sets the perfect tone for your recruitment process. We will deliver funny, engaging, powerful education about “What it means to be a fraternity man,” “How to have meaningful conversations during recruitment,” “How to be an educated potential member,” and more. We can also incorporate our Social Excellence message and facilitate real conversations between PNMs and members — conversations that go beyond “What’s your major?” “Where you from?” and “Did you play sports in high school?”
There are three keys to a great RECRUITMENT KICKOFF: 1) Expectations, 2) Education, and 3) Engagement. The KICK-OFF isn’t a time to dump information on the PNMs. It’s a time to help them experience the EXPECTATIONS of what it means to be a fraternity man, to EDUCATE them on how to find a healthy chapter that’s a perfect fit for them, and to ENGAGE them in real conversation with one another and with members of the fraternity community.
A great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can create healthier and safer chapters. A great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can increase retention of your best members. And a great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can make the recruitment process significantly better all around for everyone involved.
To book your Phired Up Recruitment Kick-Off, contact Austin Netherton (Austin@PhiredUp.com) or Matt Farrell (Farrell@PhiredUp.com).
by Erin Chatten
The Beatles had it right… all you need is love. But in this time where campuses come to life with the start of a new academic year, I think when we say, “all you need is love”, what were really thinking and saying is: “all you need is a friend”.
Think about it. This is some of the scariest few weeks that most college students experience. Especially freshmen. You walk into a new campus, new classrooms, and a new social scene –surrounded by new people – and all you are looking for are a few close friends.
I think we have forgotten that everyone is looking for the same thing as we are… a little love, a little friendship.
In some preliminary research that is currently being conducted with potential fraternity/sorority members across the country, the same message is being told time and time again. People join organizations, especially fraternity and sorority, because they want somewhere to belong on their campus. They aren’t wooed by the amazing t-shirts and banners your fraternity or sorority has on your house or around campus. They are won over already that your organization’s function is to help them find friendship and belonging.
We know from our retention studies that men and women leave their organization due to misaligned expectations and lack of connection. “Misaligned expectations” means simply “what you sold me in recruitment and what I received are not the same thing”.
Lack of connection is exactly as it sounds, if they don’t find at least one person they connect with, they will leave. In fact, men are more likely to leave their fraternity in the first semester of membership while women are more likely to leave after two years.
All they need is a friend.
Notice I didn’t say all they want is a friend, all they desire is a friend, or all they ask is for a friend. That’s because finding that friendship and finding that belonging is a necessity to retaining members.
We think that our organizations are designed in a way that everyone will naturally find their best friends and feel that belonging immediately, but it is easy for individuals to get lost in the crowd. Here are some ways we can improve our friendship making skills in our organizations with new and existing members:
If our chapters can be filled with fewer strangers and more friends, we can improve our retention and satisfaction within our organizations. It just takes a little bit of love, and some friendship.
By Matt Mattson
Allow me to clarify. I’m writing to the fraternity men who care. To the ones who are trying. To the ones who raised their hand and volunteered to be a leader despite the negative reputation and history of institutional debauchery that exists in fraternities.
To you, gentlemen, I write this letter of support and gratitude. To you, gentlemen, I sincerely say, “Thank you.”
From the outside, fraternities can sometimes look like a clown car full of drunken evil-doers. But those of us who can see the inside of today’s college fraternity know differently. We know the heavy weight of organizational history and individual futures rests directly on the shoulders of 18 to 22-year-old men. Not the guys in the back acting like children, but the young men in the front who have chosen to carry on the promise of fraternity out of duty, honor, and integrity.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably YOU I’m writing to. You’re probably a chapter or council leader, and that’s not easy. In fact, leading a fraternity is really hard. You feel pressure from above, below, and all around you. Everyone wants your chapter to be something different. The loud guys in back want it to be more fun (nothing wrong with that). Your headquarters wants it to be more responsible (nothing wrong with that either). Sororities on campus want this, Greek advisors want that, and the internet seems to want something from you too (cool pics, killer videos, sick party shots).
Here’s the thing. You’re in charge. You’re leading. You’re on the ground fighting the everyday battle of fraternity. And I just want you to know you’re appreciated. And I also want you to know that you have to choose what you’ll be. You can’t please everyone. You can’t even really please all the different ideas you probably have in your head. You have to lead your chapter in such a way that IT IS ABOUT SOMETHING.
If you want the best people on campus to join your chapter, it can’t be about: leadership, scholarship, service, fun, philanthropy, sorority relations, cool parties, networking, and the tightest brotherhood. If that’s what you attempt to be — all things to all people — you’ll fail. You’ll be mediocre. You’ll be a perfect landing place for the most average potential members on campus.
Don’t be average. Don’t be mediocre. Choose to be great at something.
If you want recruitment success, retention success, and reputational success… and maybe even some personal fulfillment along the way… make your chapter about something. Be the chapter that cares, the chapter that participates in activism, the chapter that wins sports, the chapter that has real human conversations with people on campus, the chapter that professors appreciate, the chapter that moms send thank you notes to, the chapter that changes the way people see fraternity, the chapter that sings, the chapter that affirms and celebrates differences, the chapter that dominates philanthropy, the chapter that shapes guys into humble modern gentlemen. Whatever. Just pick something. Be about it. And don’t be about anything else. Make everything you do about your cause, your “why,” your purpose, your… something. Be about something.
Mostly I wanted you to know that you’re appreciated and you have permission to choose what your chapter will be about. Own your leadership opportunity. It is short and fleeting. Most chapter and council officers are half way through their time as a leader. Don’t waste another moment.
Oh, and remember one other thing. We’re on your side. The people at Phired Up, Innova, and TechniPhi… we really do believe in you. You are why we do this work. You are the future of fraternity, and we couldn’t be more grateful for your efforts.
by Dr. Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre
It’s April now and for many of you Spring is in the air, and graduation is on the horizon. April is a season of Greek weeks and finals preparation, saying goodbye and getting ready to do the “summer thing”. April is also a perfect month for chapter evaluations to take place. This is a really good time to ask your members what they liked about last year, and what they did not like. This gives you time and space as a leader to look at and analyze results, and actually think about how you are going to apply those results.
Our curriculum on membership retention highlights the importance of evaluation by sharing some simple sample questions with chapter leaders. Use these as you wish to evaluate the pulse of your membership. Once you are done, scan the results for common themes and consider how you will act on those themes. Don’t take answers too personally, and if you can keep them confidential, just use constructive feedback to make your chapter better.
Try these questions:
What is your favorite part of being in the fraternity/sorority?
What is your least favorite part?
What can we do to help you learn and grow next semester?
Ask these in an online form, do a focus group with a small section of your chapter, or ask people to talk about this openly in your next chapter meeting. HOW you ask isn’t as important as it is THAT you are asking, and WHAT you do about it.
The question about learning and growing is particularly important. Lots of people (who are way smarter than me) have studied work and organizational cultures for a long time. Learning and growth are two fundamental pieces of engaging people. Why? Because folks are anxious to learn new things, and they need to be challenged to feel like they are really making a difference. People need to sense forward progress in themselves and in their organization to feel like it’s worth it.
Often leaders in fraternal organizations are well engaged, in-part because they must be, but also because they are challenged and praised. In other words, leaders have a job to do, and in that job they are learning and growing. The rest of the membership can get complacent, not because they are lazy letter-wearers, but because sometimes stuff just gets old. Consider the senior who is engaged to be married: does he really want to keep going to mixers? What about the 4.0 students who are asked to sit through yet another study skills workshop, or the non-drinker who is reprimanded as part of a larger group for poor behavior? These things are not relevant to these individuals. It’s not what they need, and it doesn’t push them or challenge them.
I think about my own sorority experience. I love to dance, but was never quite good enough for a college level dance team or cheerleading squad. In sorority, however, I got to be a part of the dance competition during Greek weeks. It was challenging and fun, and probably a bit of a headache for my sisters who were really amazing dancers to have to teach me a little more. But, it helped me engage in the organization in ways that made my membership meaningful to ME. That’s what you should be striving to do for each of your members.
The question about learning and growing is most simply: what do you want out of fraternity/sorority? How can we help you stretch and become better? What do you want to do? Paying attention to answers, and acting on requests within reason, yields a more active and engaged membership. We don’t know if we don’t ask, so use this time to ask and listen, take the summer to plan, and use the fall to implement.
by Erin Chatten
Walk over to a window or a mirror in your house, your car, or your dorm room right now and do me a favor. Fog it up a little. Take a deep breath in, open your mouth wide, and exhale a blast of hot air from your belly toward the surface in front of you. Now, look at that fogged spot. How well can you see? That all depends on how big of a breath you just took. Maybe you fogged the glass for just a moment in a small spot and it disappeared after two seconds. Perhaps you gave it everything you had and you added a little smiley face into the mix. Either way, you fogged your perception for a moment. Your vision was not clear. It was not transparent.
Often times, this “fog” is what potential members see during recruitment. We fog their perception of our organizations by blowing out a bit of hot air.
We tell them about the cool parties we attend with a breath of hot air. We tell them about how we became magical best friends with the other 120 members of our organization overnight with another breath. We smile and nod and act as if their interests are the same as ours, yet another big blast of hot air. We tell potential members about all the partial truths about our organizations that fog their perception of what membership in our organizations actually looks like.
It’s time to get real. It’s time to wipe the window clear of fog and to start getting transparent with our potential brothers and sisters.
Over the past two years, I have worked on two projects that revealed these fogged perceptions. In our retention research, I called up members that had left their organizations to ask what led them to leave fraternity/sorority life. In another study, current and new members were asked to explain what they wish they knew about fraternity/sorority membership before they joined. These studies revealed two major themes:
1. If we are not transparent about our organizations, people will LEAVE them.
2. We are not covering the information in recruitment that potential members really want to hear.
The conversations with members who have left our organizations show that one of the leading reasons members are leaving is due to misaligned expectations. To put it simply, what we say while recruiting members and what they experience as a member are two entirely different realities. We present them with the fogged version of membership, but once the fog clears, they can see through all the fake stories and misconstrued realities. When reality does not match the fogged perception, these members are at risk for leaving.
Let’s stop blowing out hot air and start telling potential members what they want to hear. Through our research on potential new members, we uncovered five questions that are being hidden or left unanswered in the recruitment process:
When we answer these questions transparently, we show the true and unfogged version of our chapters. Real does not need to be negative, but it does need to be honest. Are you best friends with all 120 members of your chapter? My guess is no. However, I can bet that you treat them all as family. Sometimes family disagrees, sometimes family unites over a common cause to accomplish great things, and sometimes you are closest to just one or two members of your larger family group. This is what we call reality, not hot air fallacies.
Start unfogging your recruitment by being transparent instead of blowing the hot air that prevents potential members from seeing what your organization will actually offer them. In return, your members will know what to expect and are more likely to stay engaged when they can see the whole picture clearly.
By Dr. Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre
We talk a lot about recruitment of new members, but what about sustaining that membership for a lifetime? Too often members enthusiastically join an organization only to lose their passion a few short months later. At Phired Up, our team is particularly curious about why these members withdraw from their organization. Why do people swear their lives to a fraternity or sorority and then leave? What makes people exit organizations they once pledged to love forever?
We have heard from hundreds of “left members” (people who resigned membership of their own accord). What we’ve learned about their top reasons of resignation are surprising. Here are two of the most common reasons:
1. Mis-aligned expectations. – “I thought I was getting into one thing, and it was totally different after a while.”
2. Lack of Connection. – “I did not matter to the organization in the way I thought I would.” At Phired Up, we call this reason: “people join people and people leave people.”
As leaders of fraternities and sororities, your primary job is to conceptualize the core purpose of your organization through example and action. This means understanding what your group is all about, communicating that purpose, and acting on it.
To help make this happen, start by examining current practices. How does your organization communicate who they are? Are we lying (to ourselves and others) or telling half-truths? Are we sugar coating the nature of membership? Why?
How often are we considering our people first? Are we focusing on listening to our members? Do we teach inclusion? Are we intentional about making sure everyone has a place? How often do we ask members what they think and how they are feeling?
It’s likely your group is somewhere between having no retention focus and being rock stars at retaining members. The truth is, retention is work because it’s about building and maintaining meaningful relationships, knowing your people, and communicating your actual experience to the outside world.
Ready to start building better retention practices? Start by doing these four things:
1. Evaluate your roster. Who is disengaged? Why? Can someone intentionally and deliberately build a relationship with that person to include and understand them more?
2. Evaluate your recruitment strategies. Be more real. Let’s be honest, you don’t have football throwing barbecue parties on the lawn everyday of the year. You don’t always dress in matching lily prints and love everyone all the time. How can you showcase the beautiful, and sometimes broken, reality of your group? Be honest about time, money, values, and day-to-day experience.
3. Put your people first. Work to make each person in your group know their specific purpose. Share it with them and appreciate them.
4. Ask questions. Evaluate your membership’s current feelings by asking them what they like and don’t like about their membership and what they need more of.
What sustains people in relationships, religions, on diets, and in brand loyalty? Getting what they thought they would get, and feeling like they are an important piece of the whole. By promoting the truth about what it’s like to be part of your organization during recruitment, and through taking active measures to help each member feel important, you can instill a similar sense of loyalty in your members and boost your chapter’s retention results.
by Matt Mattson
Our friend Dr. Gentry McCreary posted a blog recently which he shared on social media with the tagline, “That day I declared the death of values-based recruitment.” Needless to say, this grabbed my attention.
Let me say up front that I agree with Gentry. The way we’ve been doing recruitment for a long time is not resulting in the organizations that many of us desire. He’s right that we (educators and fraternal professionals especially) have been talking about values-based recruitment for well over a decade. There’s a bunch of other stuff in the post that I agree with. I’m fine with killing the term “values-based recruitment” too, actually. The only people who say it are the people who are frustrated with the way recruitment is actually being done. We can call our preferred recruitment method whatever we want, as long as we remember that it’s how we DO recruitment that matters. I’m sure Gentry would agree.
The idea of putting values into recruitment is actually a pretty difficult thing to do. Recruitment is hard enough — students are busy, focused elsewhere, and don’t see recruitment as part of doing fraternity/sorority, but instead as the task that must be done so that fraternity/sorority can start. Because of those reasons and more, making the values of a values-centered organization central to the actual execution of recruitment strategies is difficult. Since it’s easier to focus on far more accessible concepts for 17/18-year-olds, our organizations do just that.
Similarly, “365 Recruitment” sounds terribly hard. But that’s another post for another day.
I’m thinking Gentry’s overall point in the blog is that instead of trying to force the “Values-Based Recruitment” education down our members’ throats, perhaps we should be more practical in what we’re trying to get fraternity/sorority members to actually do. I can dig that. (If that’s not what he meant, my apologies… but it’s what I mean.)
So, practically… what do we want?
I think we want our members to attract new members in ways to reflect the things we’re proud of about fraternity/sorority, and that set clear expectations of what it should mean to be in a fraternity/sorority.
How do we do that? Well, that’s what we’ve been working on since 2002. We’re getting closer every year. Turns out it’s kind of a complex and nuanced system with lots of levers. But here are a few recommendations, in practical terms.
I love this line from Gentry, “Stop trying to convince your students to sell their values, and start convincing them to sell the more altruistic forms of brotherhood and sisterhood. Convince them to sell how membership in their organization will provide prospective members with a sense of belonging and connection, with a group of people who will support them and have their back.”
YAAASS GURL! (Did I do that right?)
I love the research Gentry has done on brotherhood/sisterhood. To me it boils down to “how will this make my life better in ways that actually matter to me?” Does the way we do recruitment demonstrate that fraternity/sorority will make a PNM’s life better in ways that actually matter to them in their current life stage? Can we express that to PNMs in a way that inspires them to want to commit to it and share it with others? That’s probably not done by listing or “trashing” our values, but values will always remain at the center of that process.
As social animals, our primary instinct that drives so much of our behavior is the instinct to connect. For safety, security, opportunity, influence, and power. We want to connect to our tribe, our group, our family, our brotherhood/sisterhood. That’s instinctual. We want to connect with people who have shared values or values that will enhance our own current reality. That is brotherhood/sisterhood. Separating values from brotherood/sisterhood isn’t possible, but that’s also not what I think Gentry is suggesting.
I guess what I want to say most is… THANKS GENTRY! I appreciate when people poke and prod some of the outdated or bedraggled philosophies of our industry. I think talking about “values-based recruitment” and actually teaching people to recruit in a way that makes us all proud aren’t mutually exclusive, but deserve to be re-thought. One of our core values at Phired Up is Innovation. We don’t do the same old schtick for decades. We keep pushing constantly to look for new ways to teach that will get better and better results. Your recent blog post will help us do just that. Keep it up.
By Matt Mattson
We’ve been in this fraternity/sorority business a while, and I’m proud of the impact we’ve made. Many of our friends and colleagues in the industry often ask us, “So, what’s next?” I love that question.
Obviously, when Phired Up purchased a marketing company and created a technology company last year, that was a pretty major step forward. But we’re never satisfied. With Jessica Gendron Williams as your CEO, you can’t be satisfied. She won’t allow it. I love that about her. She’s pushing our team to create and innovate as always.
When “innovation” is a core value of your company, you have to ask, “What’s Next?” a lot.
I don’t really know for sure “What’s Next” for the fraternity/sorority world, but I’ll make some guesses.
I have some other thoughts, but I’ll stop at 6 wild predictions for the future of fraternity/sorority life. Some of my other ideas are a little cynical, admittedly — gluten free chapters, parents rooms in chapter houses, and republican vs. democratic umbrella groups. Mostly though, I’m hopeful for our industry. We are evolving. We are advancing. We are innovating.
I’m proud that Phired Up is working every day to play a small role in the continual innovation of our movement.
by Matt Mattson
Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile. He just figured out how to efficiently give the gift of motorized transit to the masses. He made it easier to build a complex machine. He simplified a previously complicated process.
This is what we (attempt to) do at Phired Up.
Joining a fraternity or sorority is a complex, complicated process that is done by hand, one-by-one, face-to-face. Getting a fantastic human being to join your organization requires the attention of a handcrafted masterpiece. Recruitment is emotional, is entirely about trust and caring and attention and relationships.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it easier. That doesn’t mean we can’t help you focus your energy on the stuff that matters (and not be distracted by the stuff that doesn’t). We can help you build a CONNECTION MACHINE — a system for efficiently (but still humanly, and beautifully) crafting relationships with the best men and women on campus so that they are inspired by the possibility of membership in your esteemed brotherhood or sisterhood.
When we teach Dynamic Recruitment. When we teach Social Excellence. When we prepare chapters for formal recruitment. When we teach Retention. When we prepare recruitment counselors. When we help new members prepare for recruitment with iValU. All of these things are parts to the same CONNECTION MACHINE. They all are fueled by real human relationships. They all can be measured by the quantity and quality of conversations our members have.
The trick is to stay focused on the parts of the machine that actually work. The trick is to continue to tweak the machine so that it makes your lives easier and more fun while producing better and better recruitment results.
Doing what we do (and you doing what you do as recruiters) requires equal parts engineer and artist. Both sides of the brain must be engaged. We must systemize human connection. This can be done. The best chapters are doing it. It’s what we’ve been teaching for well over a dozen years now, and it is what is raising the bar for the entire fraternity/sorority world.