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:
- What are members REALLY like outside recruitment?
- How does a fraternity/sorority operate?
- What is going to be expected of me as a member?
- What should I talk about during recruitment?
- How do they (the chapters) choose me?
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.