Instead of telling you to “stick to your values,” I’m going to tell you how to recruit people who will suck less as members of your chapter. Neat!
First some background:
We don’t need this stupid trash that the news media is playing up on the TV. Right? Fraternities have been recruiting some slackers, and we alumni and fraternity/sorority professionals are increasingly to blame. Not only has managed recruitment failed to eliminate hazing, substance abuse or do-nothing members, but we have placed so many requirements on fraternity and sorority chapters that it is almost impossible to succeed without several dozen members.
On top of all that, we keep throwing out this utopian concept that we “build better men and women.” We don’t. People still haze and all that other stuff and, frankly, telling students that their duty is to make men/women one or two years younger than them “better” probably contributes to our issues.
Never recruit someone you hope to make “better.” It’s not your place to determine someone else’s need for improvement. It’s your job to decide who will be a good member of your chapter.
That’s tough, because it means you must either expand your selection pool (Hashtag Quantity Drives Quality) OR stick with the people who go through managed recruitment (like yours truly <3) and hope that some don’t suck after you’ve initiated them.
The former certainly works, but fraternity men and women are notoriously anti-social for being members of social clubs and most stop recruiting once freshmen are no longer paraded to their front door. The latter is our current predicament.
We often suggest that chapters create values-based criteria. We may have been loose in our use of the word “criteria,” because not many chapters seem to follow a list of anything other than subjective discussion topics. Let’s stop tip toeing around what questions must be asked of potential members and give it straight to our student brothers and sisters.
Students. . . Do you want motivated members? Probably. Do you want people who pay dues in full and on time? Probably. Do you want people who won’t get your chapter closed for [possibly] forever? Probably.
If you answered “yes,” “probably,” or “idk,” to any of the above: Read on
If you answered “no” to those questions: Have fun at your membership review. I’m just kidding; those things suck for everyone involved and you will hate it and the rest of your college career.
Here are 5 questions to answer when choosing your new lifelong friends. These are prerequisites – which means that if someone fails to meet your criteria, they are out. No more Mr. Nice Advisor. PNM = Potential New Member.
Will the PNM Succeed At #College?
Don’t recruit people who are going to fail out of college. If your school requires that you recruit people before you know their grades, require that they provide letters from their professors prior to initiation to prove that they can hold their own. If you must initiate them before that then your school or organization are hurting your chances of success and should stop micromanaging your recruitment.
Do Not set your standard GPA requirement for new members or initiation higher than that of your active membership. Honestly, that is dumb, dumb, dumb! Why on Earth should it be easier for your dead-beat brothers to maintain their membership after they’ve been initiated? Have one, standard GPA requirement, and make it something better than a D-average.
If you don’t care about grades as a chapter then be honest about it. Say – “We don’t care about academics in our friend club and might be shut down in 3 years” to anyone who asks about academic requirements.
Can The PNM Afford Membership?
I remember walking down the stairs of my chapter house while I was Chapter President and seeing a potential member and a brother talking on the steps. The brother turned to me and said something like, “Hey Nik, he’s asking about dues, it’s only $200 a year, right?” He followed that with a wink and excessive nodding.
“No, dues are $425 per semester,” I said, and walked away. The brother followed me into the next room in a panic and asked, “Why did you say that? He was going to join!” We were already $18,000 in debt, that’s why.
You do yourself no justice by refusing to be upfront about the costs of membership. If you expect members to live in a house for a period of time, work that into your cost of membership. Many people can’t afford fraternity or sorority membership. Many of them are great people. Here’s a fun fact though: More than half of the chapters I saw close during my time at my fraternity headquarters closed due to overwhelming debt.
If you don’t care about your chapter’s financial situation then be honest about it. Say – “We don’t care about whether or not you can afford this and might be shut down in 3 years” to anyone who asks about the cost of membership.
Can The PNM Dedicate 3-5 Hours Per Week To The Cause?
No. Your membership is not just an hour-long meeting a week. You know it and I know it and your new members will certainly know it.
If someone is indicating that they may not have enough time for a fraternity or sorority, you must do one of two things: Convince them of the value of dedicating a significant amount of time to a fraternity or sorority when compared to other college ventures or leave them alone. If not, he or she will:
A) Quit because they don’t and never cared enough to do all of the ridiculous publicity stunts we make fraternities and sororities participate in.
B) Do nothing for you or your fraternity despite their promise as a rising student leader (always ones to be wary of)
If you don’t care about the requirements placed on you then be honest about it. Say – “We don’t care about the time actually required; show up for one hour a week until we maybe shut down in 3 years” to anyone who asks about the time commitment.
Is The PNM Interested In Your People or Your Reputation?
This one is kind of tricky so follow me closely.
When I joined my fraternity, the men of my chapter had just won some major awards and were very proud of it. I joined a Pyramid of Excellence chapter and a Fraternity of the Year at Stetson. It was a big deal. More than 30 men joined with me and only 18 were initially initiated. Why?
We new members liked the brothers, but what was sold to some of us was the chapter’s legacy, not its future. As a result, men joined for the legacy, they didn’t join for the work that goes into creating one.
Celebrate your achievements when they happen. Pay attention to how a new member talks about your brothers or sisters and how they talk about other fraternities or sororities. If they are talking smack about other fraternities/sororities before they’ve joined one then they are likely less interested in the people of your chapter and more interested in whether or not you’ll help them look cool. That’s a big issue when offering a lifelong friendship.
If you disagree, or are only concerned with your social status, be honest about it. Say – “We don’t want genuine friends; we want to look cool until we possibly get shut down in 3 years for recruiting jerks who don’t care about anything but their vanity” to anyone who asks about your brotherhood or sisterhood.
What is The PNM’s Chill-to-Pull Ratio?
This was a joke in a TFM video called “West Coast Rush” or something (see the story about managed recruitment, I posted it there), but it can be re-interpreted.
A chill person is not abrasive, he has a sense of personal integrity and is easy to get along with. That’s how we’ll define chill, and chill people are great to have in your company. Fraternities have long idealized showmanship – the people who will look best on a magazine, who lead the most on campus clubs and who people enjoy most at a party, but sometimes we confuse recklessness with showmanship.
So you want members who have their wits about them and who have likable personalities. If someone can hold a conversation without being intoxicated and is genuine enough to be appreciated by others (#GetReferrals) then we can assume he or she will be fun to be around, but less likely to put himself at risk.*
If you don’t care about that, be honest about it. Say – “We don’t really care whether we find you overbearing or scary; push everyone’s boundaries until we maybe get shut down in 3 years” to anyone who asks about your chapter’s values.
There you have it! Please keep in mind that the above are directives. You follow them or you don’t; there is no gray area.
The simplest way to change a chapter is through recruitment. Chapters typically close due to finances, issues of risk management, shrinkage, or a combination of the three. The five prerequisites mentioned in this post largely address those reasons for closure before someone joins your chapter.
You may end up with a smaller organization, but you’ll improve your chapter’s chances of avoiding a shutdown.
*Update: You may identify men or women during recruitment who may need professional help. Whether they are invited to join your organization or not, be a person and try to explore how to help them. There are likely professional sources on your campus. If anyone has a great online resource to share email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.