Fraternity Expansion: the process by which a fraternity establishes a chapter (new or as a comeback).
Fraternity Expansion Professional: The young men plucked out of college, paid sparingly, avoided by most other Greek Life professionals, and who are some of the few in the Fraternity/Sorority World required to provide objective results.
I recall being invited to interview for my Fraternity just before my senior year of college. The prospect of going to a college other than my own and establishing a new chapter of Delta Sigma Phi was one of the few things to have genuinely excited me in life.
The experience was no let down, and I ended up working in the world of fraternity expansion for almost six years! In that time I served as a recruiter, as a team manager, and to pitch our fraternity to colleges and universities across the country.
Today, we’re talking about that first gig: The Recruiter.
Recruiting staff, if they are distinct from traveling consultants but even in that case, are typically considered to be the bottom of the totem poll in the ever more ego-driven world of Greek Life. They don’t make much money and work in a highly specialized field. They are often young and few maintain careers in the profession. Worst of all, they are essentially salesmen, and everybody hates [a terrible] salesman.
- J.C Penney
They; however, are some of my favorite people to work with, because their job requires results.
When you establish a chapter, it is either the right size or not. In time, the men you recruit will prove to be up to the challenge of building a chapter worthy of a charter/award or not.
It is a high risk / high reward venture, and few fraternities allow more than 8 weeks to complete the recruitment phase of an expansion. Imagine: Your job is to set up a fully sized chapter with quality men within 4-8 weeks.
Outside of risk management there is unlikely to be as high-pressure a job in Greek Life, and so that’s why we delve into it here.
Now there are differences to how expansions come about and how different fraternities do expansion, but a growing number use a style and tactics that have been around for ages, but were standardized and popularized by Phired Up. (Yes I like them).
Here’s a typical day in the world of dynamic recruitment-driven fraternity expansion:
7:00 am – 8:30 am – Wake up, dress to the nines, eat breakfast and get to campus. If you are actually working hard (like a colleague of mine and I at Drexel University in 2011) you’ll have meetings at 8am and need to wake up at 6, but we’ll pretend most meetings start by 9 am.
9:00 am – Arrive to campus and begin the terrible journey of finding a place to sit for the day. You’ll need to be in a high traffic area, which means giving up your seat at any point may result in you not having a place to invite your potential members to.
9:30 am – 12:00 pm – Back-to-back 15-30 minute one-on-one meetings with potential founding fathers. You get to know them, their passions and their interests, then float the idea of starting a brand new organization on their campus. Those who have ambition and aren’t timid will rush in, some need excessive convincing, and some are either too cool for you or just uninterested. No biggie. . .
12:00 – 12:30 pm – Lunch, assuming you haven’t planned a meeting during this time under the pressure of students being available at lunch time.
12:30 – 4:00 pm – More meetings and perhaps some tabling, during which (if you’re good) you stand in front of the table challenging men and women alike to a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament or something else that’s fun and totally not expected of machismo hetero-normative fraternity men. It’s a trap! (“If you win, you get a high five and candy, if I win, you hear my 30-second pitch.”).
4:00 – 5:30 pm – More one on one meetings or a meeting with a Fraternity/Sorority Advisor, which can go one of several ways:
- A casual meet and greet
- Terrible news, the other fraternities are upset you’re actually recruiting people OR someone you’ve recruited was once arrested for tax fraud
- An exceptionally helpful moment
- Empty office, perhaps a note and hopefully a text message
Most tend to be the first or third, fraternity/sorority advisors are typically on top of expansion stuff.
5:30 – 6:30 pm – Maybe dinner? The entire day is becoming a blur.
6:30 – 8:30 pm – Within this time frame you’ll likely have an interest presentation where men you’ve met with gather, watch a presentation by you and your teammate (if you’re lucky enough to have one, or two!), and then discuss the possibilities of a new fraternity without any baggage, hazing or stereotypical bros.
9:00 – 10:30/11:00pm – You’ve spent countless hours building a list of referrals from sorority women, student leaders, campus professionals and through tabling. Now you get to call them all. Uh Oh! Another list of scenarios:
- You have to reveal you are a fraternity, not a men’s leadership club, and get hung up on. . . or just flat out hung up on (seriously, at least say “I’m sorry I’m really not interested, thanks”)
- You spend far too much time with someone trying to figure out a time to fit them into a calendar because they don’t seem to recall when they start or finish their classes
- “I’m really busy.” You have 12 credit hours and a part time job. . . and you’re telling that to someone who’s spending 12 hours a day trying to meet you!
- “SHE referred ME!” – some guys get super excited that they were referred, these are the best calls.
- Yeah that sounds great!
- No answer & No Voicemail (NVM is how we coded that).
There are probably more scenarios. Sometimes a guy will have his friend or girlfriend answer because. . . I have no idea why. Who does that?
Once that is all done, you go to bed and do the same thing the next day, and for five days each week. You typically are free from calling people on Friday evenings and put that time in on Sunday evenings instead. Hopefully you’re given a nice little vacation afterward for putting so much work in. . . like actual work, not sending emails like me.
This isn’t the process for every fraternity, or even most of them. Even within this structure there are a myriad of possibilities for how an expansion is conducted.
In my time at Delta Sig we built expansions into these grand opportunities to establish movements. Our team had mini rituals and traditions, we spent time talking about our feelings to build trust, we had regular coaching calls within staff and with external consultants, and we did a phenomenal job for several years.
Those are the best case scenarios, and you have to vet your potential staff appropriately (another post on that another day).
Overall though, if no one else will, I’d like to give a hearty thank you to those men past and present who have worked for a fraternity as an expansion professional. Even if you are thanked, given presents and the like, you’ll likely never be thanked to the extent that you deserve.
You should know, if you don’t already, that you have changed the lives of dozens, perhaps hundreds, maybe even thousands of young men and the people they influence.
Good for you; you’re doing your fraternity a great service. Also, don’t complain about the pay: you likely get to go to some great places, enjoy that.
. . . K bye. I’ll leave you with this: