There are no finite answers as it relates to the future of recruitment. I don’t have any answers, and I do this for a living. However if there’s anything we’ve realized over the last couple of months it is the resiliency of the human spirit and need for human connections.
Enter fraternities and sororities. The fraternity and sorority experience is one of the few that provides a sense of security and a home away from home. We know that potential new members come to our organizations because they want to fulfill a sense of belonging. But there are some things we do know: that once this is all over things will look and feel a little different. So let’s look at this as an opportunity for a starting point.
I’m breaking this up into three sections: The COVID Conundrum, The Target Market, and QTNA (Questions That Need Answers). As always, if you’d like to touch base to talk through ideas, concepts, or just figure out what in the world you should do next, feel free to reach out and we’ll find a time to chat.
The COVID Conundrum
Unprecedented ≠ Unknown. Our organizations have survived world wars, famines, depressions, recessions and everything in between. Believe it or not, this entire pandemic could be one of the best things to happen with our organizations (I’m trying to look on the bright side here, so just go with me for a minute). Someone recently said that this could be the virus that killed frats. And if you think about it – it’s true. Groups that used to rely only on their social capital can’t focus on that anymore. This also could be an interesting time for our chapters to do a mini-membership review. If we have members that really only show up for the social and are late on dues, maybe this is the opportunity to give them an out. It’s time to channel our inner Elsa’s and just let them go (gimmie a break, I’m a dad).
I was recently listening a podcast about the effects of COVID-19 on Gen Z (it had some really good interviews with students both currently in college and those about to enter college). So let’s take a quick snapshot of where our potential new members will be coming from this fall:
From a few conversations with on-campus fraternity/sorority advisors, we’re seeing potential new members sign up for the formal recruitment process before even telling the admissions office they’re coming to campus. And in higher numbers too. PNMs are looking for the experiences we can offer them to fill in what they’ve missed. The connections and sense of belonging that our organizations can provide. The pomp and circumstance of our events to make up for missing prom and graduation, which can be replaced by our own initiations and socials engagements. This is our time to truly shine and show our relevance.
I think the overall message of social distance was incorrect. We need to be physically distant in order to be safe, for others and ourselves. But we need to be socially connected, more engaged with each other than ever before. At the moment of writing this I have been in some form of lock down or stay at home orders for almost seven weeks. Yet I’ve had more phone and Zoom calls with friends, family and colleagues than I have in a year. The power of our sister/brotherhood should be seen and felt during this time. If you find your chapter always saying “our sister/brotherhood is so great, we’re all really good friends” – then now is the time to show it for others to see. Now is the time to be more socially connected on a deeper level – As brothers and sisters.
The Target Market
Waiting for formal recruitment to roll around will set us up for failure. There’s a 20/60/20 concept of people who join our organizations:
Do you ever notice that the members who were Always Joiners only tend to show up for the fun things and always have an excuse when it’s time to pay dues or come to the service event? And, do you notice the people who said they would never join turn out to be some of the most responsible and dependable members? Those, the ones who say they are Never Joiners but actually join (they’re the Maybe Joiners), need to be our target market.
“But Dan, how are we supposed to recruit anyone given the current state of things?...”
I’m so glad you’re asking that, and I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There is one fundamental truth in our organizations that directly relates to recruitment: People join people. Honestly not many people care about the formalized recruitment process (including our own members); no one truly remembers what food was served or what kind of centerpiece you had or how it took them forever to locate the informational. Sure they might remember an event or party, but what people remember are the interactions they have with your members while at those events.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Maya Angelou -
There are things we know for certain: the formal recruitment and registration process will continue (it might look a little different or be held at a different time, but overall it will continue). This means the Always Joiners will still have a way to join. However we need to stop relying on the formal process for our members. That basically means you’re just picking from the people who simply show up.
Then what exactly are you looking for? Whelp, that’s on y’all to figure out. But you need to know what you’re looking for in a person. I’ve heard too many times that “oh yeah they’re cool / they’re chill / really nice” and we don’t have a clue how to actually give characteristics of someone. If we’re debating on giving lifelong membership to someone, shouldn’t you try a little harder to describe them.
You are what you recruit. So start thinking about the qualities of the potential member. After all, the quality of a person will drive the quantity of your organization size.
QTNA (Questions That Need Answers)
There are a plethora of questions out there, and it seems like we find more to ask every day. Here are a few questions and helpful hints that I’ve heard over the last few weeks.
• How many members are coming back to campus in the fall? Will they stay active members? (hint: it’s ok to start asking now, because this will 100% impact your budget for the foreseeable future)
• What will the timeframe of recruitment be? (hint: work backwards from when Bid Day is scheduled) Also, be sure to make any room reservations you might need, just in case everything opens up by start of the academic year
• If you’re a member of a Panhellenic chapter: What will Panhellenic primary recruitment look like in big groups? (hint: it might look different, but with a similar concept – large events online where you get to know the PNMs; we also know that the National Panhellenic Conference will be releasing a set of recommendations in summer 2020)
• Why should a PNM invest in your organization? (hint: you’re going to need to really be able to articulate who you are as a chapter, and what sets you apart from everyone else) (double hint: you can’t just say sister/brotherhood because everyone says that)
• How can you generate an interest (wish) list of potential members? (hint: start by looking at who you took classes with this spring and was a part of group projects, preferably active in the group project process too) (double hint: talk to the Maybe Joiners that you already know and interact with; you will be more successful when it comes to creating the wish list because you already have a relationship with them as opposed to Always Joiners that just sign up for recruitment that you spend too much time debating)
I don’t have all the right answers. But I’m willing to ask the questions that can get us somewhere. And it seems as though we’ve all got lots of questions right now. As always, if you’d like to touch base to talk through ideas, concepts, or just figure out what in the world you should do next, feel free to reach out and we’ll find a time to chat.