by Josh Orendi
This fall, Alex Taylor and Sigma Nu fraternity recruited one of the largest new member classes of any fraternity in recent years. The number alone should catch people’s attention. After 45 minutes on the phone with Alex, I became even more impressed with the way they did it – new technology, creative staffing, unique messaging.
In full disclosure, Alex and I have also been working together on new recruitment technology from TechniPhi called ChapterBuilder that was piloted by Sigma Nu for the first time at TCU. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Josh: 112 new members! Is that correct?
Alex: Yeah. (I could hear the smile in his voice)
Josh: What was the recruitment goal for this TCU expansion project?
Alex: 85 was the goal by September 12th. Average fraternity membership in the spring was 106 members. We felt good about managing a group the size of the campus average. We capped our recruitment and began holding additional guys over to the spring 2016 semester.
Josh: “Capped” … “Hold over” … you mean you stopped and have a wait list!?
Alex: We never stop recruiting. We are consistently recruiting, but that doesn’t mean we have to bid or invite them right that moment. We’re okay telling a guy we are interested in him and having him wait until the next semester to join. Often the guys who are waiting until the next semester become some of our best recruiters because they are motivated to help build their future new member class.
Josh: How long did it take to recruit 112 guys? How many Sigma Nu brothers were doing the recruitment?
Alex: We were physically on campus for about 3 weeks, but the whole month of July was spent calling people. We had 10 brothers making phone calls specifically for the TCU project. By August 10th we shifted to only the TCU ground team which ranged between 1 – 5 brothers.
Josh: How does that compare to recent Sigma Nu expansions?
Alex: Sigma Nu had some amazing successes in the last 5 years, but this is the largest group that Sigma Nu has recruited in recent history.
Josh: What did Sigma Nu do different this time?
Alex: A lot of our success should be credited to TCU being ready for and supporting our efforts. Aligning ourselves with formal recruitment helped. Several visits to campus and interviews with key leaders at TCU helped us communicate Sigma Nu in a way that filled needs in the TCU campus community. Also, there is a desire amongst today’s college students to want to leave a lasting legacy and impression. Every fraternity, when operating within their values and vision, has an experience that people will want to own as well. Sigma Nu headquarters sponsoring 5 staff members to be on campus was critical. The other big thing that was different was using new recruitment technology.
Josh: New technology…
Alex: ChapterBuilder was a game changer! Prior to this fall, Sigma Nu had a VERY elaborate spreadsheet system that we used for keeping track of PNM names. It was developed internally, and we were very proud of it. However, this summer we decided that times are changing and ChapterBuilder looked like the future of fraternity recruitment. So we piloted it at TCU. 112 men can speak to what a great decision that was. ChapterBuilder worked better than we could have ever expected!
Josh: Tell me more about how you used ChapterBuilder.
Alex: We had 670 interested PNMs in our ChapterBuilder system. Multiple team members communicating and managing relationships with hundreds of PNMs called for professional recruitment technology. It made our team more intentional, more directed, more efficient than we’ve ever been.
Josh: I’m a numbers guy. Help me understand.
Alex: The technology allowed me to track everything we did. We have data on this project all the way down to the number of phone calls and average call time to generate a first meeting. We track our lead sources, interactions, PNM values, down time between interactions, text vs. call vs. email efficiency… We track everything. Every data point makes our process and our team members better for the next campus where we build a Sigma Nu chapter.
Josh: Was ChapterBuilder worth it?
Alex: Yes! 100% yes. The return on investment is off the charts. We estimate that our staff saved upwards of 100 man-hours with ChapterBuilder. That’s like having an additional human being on the ground with us for the full project.
Josh: Favorite features?
Alex: I’ll name a few:
- Communication Tools. Ability to mass contact via text and email inside ChapterBuilder in a personal way. So much better than old mail merge system or individual texts late at night. We estimated that this feature alone saved our team nearly 100 man hours. That’s like having an additional staff member on the ground with us. The ROI is off the charts.
- Mobile App. By mid-project this became a heavier weapon. Super helpful. I had real time analytics and PNM contact info at my fingertips at all times.
- Coaching. I could seamlessly jump between multiple expansion projects (we were also doing another expansion at High Point University at the same time) to stay informed and better coach our teams.
- Personal Profile Pages. Multiple staff members might have 2-3 interactions with the same PNM in one day. We just looked at the PNM Profile to keep our team notes organized. I never went into a conversation with a PNM blind. We could be more genuine in our conversations.
Josh: Did you say you were doing another expansion project at the same time!?
Alex: Yes. We set a goal of 25 to 30 new members at High Point University. We walked away with 43 founding members. I was fortunate because we had our senior Leadership Consultants assisting our Expansion Consultant. The High Point recruitment effort was proportionally more successful than TCU!
Josh: You are full of surprises. Tell me something about the TCU project that might surprise people.
Alex: We didn’t put up a single flier or banner at TCU or High Point. I’ve never met anyone who joined from a marketing brochure. People join people. So, we chose personal phone calls and meetings where we could have real conversations with high performing students. Also, people might be surprised that we only held 2 “events”. Event based recruiting limits your pool to a subcategory within a subcategory: People who are interested in fraternities, and those people who are interested that will attend an event. That doesn’t mean we didn’t do fun things like playing sports, hanging out, and doing what interests PNMs, it just mean that those two events were more fun because we knew exactly who was coming.
Josh: You recruited 100+ guys. People will say you gave everyone a bid, that you sacrificed quality for quantity, or that 112 is too many guys….
Alex: Sigma Nu is very deliberate about recruiting only high caliber men who meet our values, standards, and requirements for membership. I’m proud of every one of the 112 men who joined. Here’s some additional data that might help people understand:
- Turned down: 250+ interested men
- Recruited freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors to create balance in the group.
- Nearly every upperclassman has a 3.0+ GPA
- Nearly 100% of the new members belong to another student leadership organization, including RA’s, student mentors, Ambassadors, athletes, and varied majors.
- Diversity is a word that people keep using to describe the men. Multiple religious backgrounds, 24 different states, 3 nationalities. Strong because of our differences. We don’t have 112 versions of the same guy here. This is a group that will proudly represent Sigma Nu and proudly service TCU and the Fort Worth community. Diversity is scary because it is different, but we are building a culture of inclusivity. It certainly does not mean we will not have differences, but with a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect you learn about what really motivates someone.
Josh: What is your philosophy on quality vs quantity?
Alex: Sigma Nu never sacrifices quality. From my experience, quantity drives quality. If you get the quantity number right, the quality seems to take care of itself. We demand quality. That’s a no brainer. High volume makes quality possible and even a little easier. The technology allowed us to have a lot PNM leads … a lot more personal relationships … the ability to be more selective than ever before.
Josh: Alex, you and Sigma Nu did something incredible. You changed 112 men’s lives with the gift of fraternity. Those 112 men have a legacy to leave at TCU and a way to make a deep, meaningful impact on their campus, community, and world. How proud are you?
Alex: Sigma Nu men everywhere believe in Love, Honor, and Truth. We have 112 new men of character who are lifelong committed to Sigma Nu. I’m proud, yes. But, more than that, I’m excited to see what these men do together with this new opportunity.
Interview Date: September 17, 2015
Interviewer: Josh Orendi, Josh@PhiredUp.com / Josh@TechniPhi.com
Interviewing: Alex Taylor, Alex.Taylor@SigmaNu.org, Sigma Nu Fraternity
Do you have a great story about growing your sorority or fraternity? Contact us at Info@PhiredUp.com.
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- How ChapterBuilder is Changing Chapter Recruitment (Sigma Pi Fraternity).