Be Nice to People (at least for a week)

by Matt Mattson

be_nice_to_people_bumper_sticker-p128996074143006898trl0_400There it is.  That’s my super double secret, world changing, record setting, mind blowing recruitment strategy for 2010.

Be Nice to People.  At least for a week.

Now, we think you should be nice to people all the time.  In fact, that’s a major part of being socially excellent.  But I wanted to write a practical blog with a specific recommendation that I think will drive dramatic recruitment results for your organization.  I wanted to provide a clear, actionable, cost-effective recruitment strategy for your organization to execute right now.  And that’s it.  Be Nice to People.  At least for a week.

In a few of our recent Dynamic Recruitment Workshops we’ve been teaching that “You have to give to get.”  That statement has a double meaning in our workshops, and one of those meanings is that if you want to gain access to new non-members of your organization, the best way to do it is to approach them with something of value to them.  So, in other words, instead of approaching non-members this semester with something of value to you (like “come to our recruitment event” – that’s something you would gain from), approach them with something of value to them (like “would you like a ride to the away basketball game this weekend, we’re putting together a carpool.”)

What if during your “recruitment week” this semester you kept it really simple.  No recruitment events.  No recruitment brochures.  No recruitment fliers or advertising.  You just found a way for your organization and its members to be nice to people each day of the week.  Here’s what it might look like (fraternity example).  I’M DEFINITELY GUESSING YOU CAN COME UP WITH BETTER IDEAS FOR YOUR CAMPUS… DO SO.

MONDAY:  The chapter takes the leaders of the top 10 organizations on campus out to lunch, asks them how your organization can support their efforts this semester (be authentic and willing to help).  During the conversation mention you’re trying to meet the best of the best on campus, and ask for their referrals.  Help them.  That afternoon and evening the chapter goes on a high-five campaign around campus… making as many people’s days as possible through the power of a high five.  Meet those people and talk to them. All day the chapter has been adding new names to the list and bringing their potential members with them.

TUESDAY:  The chapter is helping a campus service organization with their major project today.  Just to help and be nice.  If you happen to meet some people along the process, good for you (if you’re socially excellent, you’ll meet everyone).  That evening the chapter brings gifts to all the sorority houses, and invites them all to dinner at their place the next night.  The chapter invites everyone they see to join them at a local restaurant to watch the big game that night.  All day the chapter has been adding new names to the list and bringing their potential members with them.

WEDNESDAY:  Free hot cocoa day.  The chapter is standing out on the quad all day long (starting at 7 a.m.) handing out hot cocoa to people who pass by and meeting them.  Perhaps they also do the Greek Life Survey while they’re there.  That afternoon, a select group of members take small gifts to faculty and staff members that have helped them over the semester, just to say thanks.  At 4 p.m. the chapter starts up 5 spontaneous touch football games by going into the dorms/food courts and telling everyone that “in 10 minutes there is a massive football tournament happening in the quad, everybody change your shoes and get out there.” Wednesday evening the chapter is cooking dinner for sorority women.  While the ladies are there the guys ask for referrals.  All day the chapter has been adding new names to the list and bringing their potential members with them.

THURSDAY:  The chapter does a variation of the Free Compliments idea on the quad all day long.  Thursday’s campus newspaper runs a full page advertisement in which the fraternity recognizes, by name, the men on campus who have been referred to them over the course of the previous semester as being “the best examples of high performing gentlemen on campus.”  Just to be nice.  That evening the chapter is co-hosting (along with the residence life office, to help them fulfill their programming requirements) a communications professor who is teaching a fun, interactive seminar for freshmen guys to teach them how to improve their interpersonal communication skills and better communicate with potential love interests.  Or this. This is a free seminar and is NOT a rush event.  In fact, the fraternity’s letters aren’t anywhere on the promotional materials. This is just a cool program for freshmen. All day the chapter has been adding new names to the list and bringing their potential members with them.

FRIDAY:  The chapter spends the entire day with clipboards on campus getting people to sign up for free study tables before mid-term exams.  The study tables are free, held at co-sponsoring sorority houses, and there will be free coffee provided.  They are open to everyone.  They also hand out small sheets of paper that list the cool places to hang out this weekend to listen to local bands (especially “Friday Fun Bash”).  The chapter calls everyone on its list that afternoon to invite them to the big Pancake Breakfast planned for Sunday morning, which is raising money for charity.  That evening, the chapter goes to support a large non-alcoholic social being put on by the student government called, “Friday Fun Bash.”  They bring 25 additional people and free party hats for everyone (that they bought at the dollar store).  All day the chapter has been adding new names to the list and bringing their potential members with them.

SATURDAY:  Lunch interview day.  The chapter has been setting up 2-on-1 interviews all week that take place all day Saturday.  The entire chapter spends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in small 2-on-1 meetings with potential members… These meetings are meant to give the potential members an opportunity to interview the members about lifelong membership in the organization.  That evening is the big home basketball game starting at 7 p.m.  Starting at 5:30 p.m., the chapter goes to the dorms and hands out noisemakers and signs that were co-created by the athletics department to get more school spirit (they bring a ton of potential members with them).  The chapter leads a train of a thousand fans from the dorms over to the arena.  That night after the game, the chapter hosts a special invite-only cigar night at a secret location.

SUNDAY: Bid day.  The chapter wakes up early and co-hosts the Pancake Breakfast with the Office of Multicultural Affairs.  During the morning, a handful of members have, by 9 a.m., made a phone call to everyone who has shown interest in the fraternity this week to thank them.  The chapter spends the middle part of the day visiting sororities that gave them referrals, and thanking them (and inviting them to join them for dinner that evening with their new members).  Early afternoon, the chapter quietly offers bids to their chosen new members.  Later in the afternoon the chapter brothers pair up with new members and go around campus exemplifying their values and doing good deeds for strangers to set a positive example for their new members.  That evening the chapter serves as excellent hosts to the sorority women they’ve invited to dinner, and they make their new members feel like kings.

Repeat something similar next week.

Repeat the next week too.