Retention Is Recruitment Is Retention…

by Tina VanSteenbergen

This time of year we talk a lot about preparing ourselves for summer recruitment. We’ve even got resources for those motivated summer recruiters here.

But what if you can’t recruit over the summer?

I hear this a lot. Many campuses I visit and many of the students I get to work with will tell me, “Tina, we’re not allowed to recruit over the summer.” “That’s dirty rushing.” “That’s not something we do on this campus.”

And that’s alright. I believe that you believe that you’re not allowed to recruit over the summer. To a certain extent, you might be right. You might not be allowed to recruit new members during the summer.

But you can recruit over the summer. You can, and you should.

We think about recruitment only within the context of growing our organization by bringing in new members. That is recruitment, so if that’s what you’re thinking, give yourself a self-five. You nailed it.

But recruitment is more than just bringing in new members. Part of the process is about maintaining the membership we already have.

“….You mean retention, Tina?”

No, I mean recruitment. Because retention IS recruitment. If we’re doing our jobs right, we are always, always, always, ALWAYS recruiting our members.

We have gotten ourselves in a pattern of only recruiting new members until they become members, and then preparing ourselves for next semester’s recruitment efforts, for the next batch of newest members. Which means, as soon as members are initiated, we stop recruiting them.

We make our new members feel special, important, wanted and connected. We spend so much time and energy on recruiting that group, right up until they become one of us. Then, well then, they get treated just like every other member.

What if we constantly focused on recruiting, not just our new members, but all of our members? What if we made sure each woman felt connected to this summer while she’s away from campus? What if we sent cards or gifts to all of our sisters with important summer internships to let them know we’re proud of them? What if we took fun trips to the beach or the amusement parks not just with our close friends, but with sisters we don’t know super well from another pledge class? What if we sent out monthly emails, Tweets, Facebook messages and text messages to every single woman on our roster, just to check in and see how summer is going? What if we worked this summer to ask and understand what each of our current members wants to get out of her next year of membership? What if this summer we focused on recruiting our members?

I don’t know if you have a retention issue in your chapter or not. But I do know that summer is a time when we can start to feel isolated, disconnected, separate from our communities on campus, our chapters included. I know that when we start to take our members for granted, when we simply assume they’ll be back for the fall regardless of that three-month separation, when we aren’t constantly recruiting them, we have the chance to lose them.

Recruitment is not just for new members, and it’s not a process that stops after initiation. It is a constant commitment to not only growing your organization with new members, but retaining the ones you already have. We are always, always, always, ALWAYS recruiting our members.