Three Steps To Actually Retain Members

by Elena Pastore

We know that people join people – meaning, it’s the people in the organizations that give them life! It’s the people that give our Greek-letter organizations meaning – not the letters themselves! I’m sure that prior to joining your organization, the letters meant nothing to you. It’s the people you met that mean something – and it’s the people that made you want to join.

Just like people compelled you to join, people will compel you to stay (or compel you to leave). So… how do we get people to stay? How do we retain the people that we worked so hard to recruit?

First we need to understand WHY people choose to leave our organizations. If you’ve been following Phired Up, you know that our research shows there are 3 main reasons why people leave:

  • Misaligned expectations

  • Lack of connection

  • Discord (aka Drama)

So, now that we know why people leave… what can we do to make them stay?

  1. Align expectations

We can align expectations by actually delivering what we promise, OR by changing our promise to match what the reality of membership is really like. Oftentimes, the recruitment/intake process is different from what life is really like in our organizations. It can become easy for PNMs/new members to create a perception of what the expectation of membership might be as opposed to what it actually is. This is because we, as existing members, create a false sense of reality. This ties into the idea of a “no frills” recruitment, an experience in which we focus more on relationships and people than the decor, aesthetics, and the superficial presentation of things. Sometimes, it’s hard for organizations to pinpoint which exact expectations are misaligned.

Ask your new members what they did expect that didn’t happen and what they didn’t expect that did happen. This will give you a glimpse into what you can change.

  1. Build connection

Sometimes it can be difficult to build connection when your expectations of reality don’t line up. In any large group, smaller friend groups will inevitably form. As social animals, we naturally gravitate towards people who are similar to us that we share things in common with. We can easily build connection with them and therefore form long lasting connections with them. Every organization should foster an environment where it’s easy for members to mingle, find their “people” within their chapter, and build a deep connection and friendship in order to feel a strong sense of belonging.

Ask your members what the greatest opportunities to build these strong connections are, and ask what other ideas they have to create more opportunities to connect with members they don’t typically interact with.

  1. Eliminate drama / create supportive environments

Drama is one of those things that is almost bound to happen. It’s somewhat out of your control… although creating a system to mitigate drama is certainly in your control! Discord can occur as a result of the two items above. When expectations are misaligned and no one is connected, trust and morale are likely to decrease, which would create a greater recipe for drama, disagreement, and dispute. Drama can also occur from rumors and other myths that are going around. Are there certain events, topics of discussion, or other things that people are buzzing about? We can eliminate drama by closing the communication loop and being transparent about what’s going on. Building connection and aligning expectations alone can also help mitigate these challenges. Strengthening chapter culture (aka “brotherhood” or sisterhood”) will create stronger bonds and therefore will discourage members from starting drama and rumors.

Ask your members where they think most of the drama stems from, and aim to tackle that to create a drama-free environment.

When we address the reasons people leave, we are much more apt to retain the members we recruited. We must remember that once members are initiated, they are not “in” for good. There is always a chance they might leave. And while some of these things are not within our control, we must do the best we can to align expectations, build connection, and create environments free of drama in order to retain the largest number of members we can.