If you were to pick up a guide for recruitment from decades ago, the advice of our forefathers would sound very familiar. It goes something like this. Establish a friendship with a prospective member who possesses the qualities we seek. Introduce him to your friends. Then introduce him to Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Although the process sounds simple, our brothers know that recruitment is no easy task. Yet if we don’t find our replacements, the Fraternity would never grow, and we would not be able to pass along the gift we’ve been given.
Why is befriending a prospect so important? Men join the Fraternity for any number of reasons. But if you were to ask brothers of all ages, you’d find one common response in an overwhelming majority of answers: “Because I liked the guys.” Men are more likely to sign a bid with Sigma Alpha Epsilon when they meet a brother and then, later, meet his friends — who happen to be brothers. As the prospect interacts and socializes with more and more members, your ability to seal the deal, or offer him a bid, becomes exponentially easier. You’ve made him a friend; now make him a brother.
Men are more likely to sign a bid with Sigma Alpha Epsilon when they meet a brother and then, later, meet his friends — who happen to be brothers. As the prospect interacts and socializes with more and more members, your ability to seal the deal, or offer him a bid, becomes exponentially easier.
In 2004 — and periodically throughout our past — The Record dedicated its main feature to recruitment. Through a series of articles, information and advice, brothers read about the best practices and effective techniques that helped us grow our membership. So this fall, we once again dedicate our cover story to everything recruitment. This time, we asked some recruitment experts to serve as contributing writers. In fact, we’ve partnered with CAMPUSPEAK to bring Recruitment Boot Camp and customized tools and training to our membership. How can we maintain our spot as the largest social fraternity? Read on.
1Step 1: Recruitment Process
Recruitment is the lifeblood of an organization and your effectiveness at the process will determine the future of your chapter. Below we have outlined five specific activities that high-performing SAE chapters continually use. They yield men who contribute to the success of the fraternity and make your proud to call brother.
Our authors have summarized their recruitment advice with five overarching concepts. And throughout this feature, you’ll find some additional tidbits of sage advice and wisdom that round out some of the best recruitment practices for 2014.
Align Individual and Chapter Actions with the TGE
Trust is essential in any successful relationship, be it personal or business. Trust is built through credibility. Does someone consistently do what he says? Is your brother there for you in times of need? Does your business’ supplier deliver on time and budget? Nobody trusts a hypocrite. And nobody wants to do business with a hypocrite. If your chapter doesn’t live the values espoused in our creed, “The True Gentleman,” your shortcomings will be obvious to anyone considering membership. But, if he learns what a true gentleman looks like by watching your fraternity operate, you have the credibility to be worth his time, effort and money. You are worth the investment of these valuable resources.
Utilize a Powerful Brand
The “Be True” brand, first envisioned by the communications department nearly a decade ago, is one of the most successful and effective campaigns for non-members. And it has earned the attention, not to mention numerous awards, from our interfraternal peers. The brand genuinely communicates the notion of a modern gentleman for the college age group and should be used for all external communications. By using our brand, we have the opportunity to “select with branding.” Our brand, and the ideal of “The True Gentleman,” will be appealing to the right guys and should deter the wrong guys.
Regardless of which specific image or variation of the “Be True” brand you decide to utilize, you’ll want to make sure you are displaying it consistently to create brand awareness among your target market, which includes potential members. You should use the same brand across your social-media accounts, website, t-shirts, flyers, banners and anywhere else that you display your brand. Have a member of your chapter review all of your marketing efforts to make sure you are communicating one consistent message everywhere. Any brand-management executive will tell you that consistency and repetition are cornerstones to successful branding.
Manage Recruitment Effectively & Efficiently
A major reason why chapters fail to meet their recruitment goal is because they simply lack strong organization throughout the recruitment process of turning a potential member into a brother. The most effective way for chapters to manage all of their potential leads is to establish a wish list on a Google Doc spreadsheet that can be shared with their brothers.
Track the potential members’ first name, last name and phone number and the brother and team to which he is assigned. As appropriate, add information, such as an e-mail address, notes, the events he has attended, application status, GPA or any other relevant information in your chapter’s recruitment process.
Assigning each potential new member to a brother and team allows for accountability. That way, you can ensure he is inviting the prospect to upcoming events, and someone —either the brother or his team — evaluates if he is the right fit. Chapters that outsource recruitment to just one or two guys, namely the Recruitment Chairman, to do all the work are flawed in that they aren’t screening everyone as best they could. There is no way one person can get to know every potential member well enough to bid, and then quickly initiate, a stranger. You will be more effective significantly if each brother is responsible for a few potential members than if the Recruitment Chairman singlehandedly tries to evaluate every potential new member. Plus, the chapter will establish a guide so that each brother is using a consistent measure against which a potential member is judged.
The wish list must be two or three times the size of your chapter in order to maintain a healthy pipeline of potential members. There are always guys who will join other chapters and some guys who won’t meet your standards for membership. By maintaining a strong list, you can be selective instead of handing out bids to everyone who is interested in joining.
Develop Eligibility Standards for Membership
One of the key changes with introduction of the True Gentleman Experience is the added importance of evaluating a potential member priorto offering him a bid. The best way to overcome this challenge is to establish clear eligibility standards he must exceed. To ensure he has met your standards, you need a specific and effective evaluation process in place. No more guessing based on a brother’s comment that “He’s a good guy!”
Eligibility standards must be agreed upon as a chapter and are required to be met by a potential member to extend him a bid. Some chapters use three to five mandatory standards, while other chapters measure six characteristics and require a potential new member to meet a minimum of four or five of them. Some examples include GPA, leadership roles, extracurricular activities, athletics or the like. In either scenario, the chapter uses these standards to evaluate men to learn which ones are more likely to align with “The True Gentleman” and are likely make great brothers.
Once you have established your standards, your chapter must determine how you will evaluate men against those standards. There are three basic ways in which you can achieve this goal:
Your chapter members know exactly what they are seeking in a potential member and uses recruitment events and conversations with them to determine if those prospects meet your standards for membership.
Your chapter requires potential members to complete a brief application, either written or online, that collects the information needed to determine if your standards for membership have been met.
Members of your chapter sit down with each potential member and ask him a series of questions to determine if he meets your standards. The technique should replicate a job interview, not an interrogation. Your standards and evaluation process will send a clear message to potential members that Sigma Alpha Epsilon cares about the type of men they recruit in addition to extending bids only to men who have a high probability of making a positive contribution to your chapter. There’s something to be said for exclusivity.
Here are examples of eligibility standards used by chapters as they evaluate whether a potential new member is the right fit:
- Must meet a predetermined grade-point average
- Has completed leadership experience
- Has completed community-service experience
- Excels or participates in athletics
- Possesses strong communication skills
- Possesses an ambition or goals following college
- Has the desire to join the Fraternity for the right reasons
- Strongly interprets “The True Gentleman” when he reads it
- Produces a letter of recommendation from a non-relative
Utilize a Team-Based Model
The most common question we get is, “How can I motivate my members to recruit?” So here’s the reality. One person can’t do all the recruiting for the chapter and, too often, one person who tries to do so gets frustrated and burnt out. A simple team-based recruitment model allows the Recruitment Chairman to manage the efforts of the chapter instead of doing everything by himself. Select 20 percent of the chapter, and make those members team captains. They should be current and future leaders who are dependable and who can manage a team of four chapter members.
Have the team captains run a draft to place each member on a team. Chapters commonly complete this process in a fantasy-football format — taking turns selecting one man off a roster until none are left. This process distributes better recruiters while breaking up the cliques that exist in chapters.
Assign each person on the wish list to a team and a particular brother on that team. That way, the process helps to add a layer of accountability so that nobody on the wish list gets lost.
Instead of telling every brother to rearrange his busy schedule for the mandatory two-hour recruitment event next week, smart chapter members tell each team to find two hours next week to do something fun as a team with their guys on the wish list. Since the technique accommodates brothers’ schedules, you’re more likely to get them to participate. In small groups, you’re able to get to know the potential member better and, therefore, make a better evaluation as to his qualification for membership. Team activities allow for a more effective evaluation process of potential members so that you can ensure you are bringing only the right men into your chapter. Potential members can be cycled through a few different teams’ activities in order for more brothers to get to know them.
2Step 2: Recruitment Tips
Great Questions for Potential Members
One of the major mistakes chapters make when interacting with potential members is their ambition to oversell their product. The most effective way to sell a potential member on his willingness to accept a bid is by getting to know him, understanding what he is looking to get out of college and then sharing with him how Sigma Alpha Epsilon can help him accomplish his goals. The more he talks, the most favorably he’ll look at the conversation. Here are great questions you can ask a potential new member:
- What are you looking to accomplish in college?
- What are you looking to accomplish after college?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What words would your best friends use to describe you?
- What concerns you about joining a fraternity?
- In which organizations have you been involved in the past?
- What leadership experience makes you the most proud and why?
5 Myths about Recruitment
Myth: It’s about the parties.
Truth: You may believe it is necessary to throw big parties and get potential members drunk. But the truth is that such a practice does more harm than good and is a violation of our standards. The reality is that getting guys to join because of parties results in a brotherhood filled with members who only show up when there are parties. And they aren’t learning anything new about your organization.
Myth: Success depends on the recruitment period at the college or university.
Truth: We want you to be good interfraternal brothers and friends. But the majority of high-performing chapters across the country recruit most, if not all, of their members aside from potential members who register with the school for fraternity recruitment. (And we realize that some schools have strict mandates on when bids can be offered, which we always urge you to follow.)
Myth: It’s a one-man job.
Truth:In order for your chapter to be successful, you truly need to rally behind a team effort in which one member is in charge but in which many other brothers contribute toward your recruitment goal.
Myth: It costs a lot of money to recruit.
Truth:If you are effective at leveraging your personal networks and hosting creative events, your recruitment actually costs little money. There are plenty of things you can do around campus that are free and that will allow you to evaluate these potential members and teach them about your chapter.
Myth: Recruitment is a short period of time.
Truth: Formal recruitment, or the former concept of rush, may last only a week, but recruitment lasts 52 weeks out of the year. Top chapters recruit continuously and look for high-quality men who have not joined a fraternity. Then, they invite those men to events that the chapter is already hosting.
Selling the True Gentleman Experience
During this year’s John O. Moseley Leadership School, many brothers asked how they could sell the True Gentleman Experience to potential members. But we’ve also found that the TGE sells itself when a few points are conveyed:
Initiation takes place within 96 hours of accepting a bid. Our process does not include anything dangerous, degrading or detrimental to one’s self-esteem, outside interests or academic pursuits.
Our brothers receive education that matches their needs as they progress through college one year to the next. We challenge our members at each stage of their academic career to teach them to be better men.
Handling Common Objections
Sometimes potential new members want to join a fraternity but have concerns. Here are the most common objections potential members have and tips on how your members can effectively address them:
“I don’t have the time.”
“The great thing about a fraternity is that membership will teach you exceptional time-management skills and that you should have plenty of time for school work, other organizations or activities and a social life.”
“I don’t have the money”
“Money is a huge concern in college. I know joining a fraternity is probably an unexpected expense, but our treasurer can work out a payment plan with you.”
WARNING: If someone truly cannot afford your chapter’s dues, be careful what you promise. The surest way to jeopardize the bank account is to give false promise to members whose financial situations are challenging.”
“My parents won’t let me.”
“Many parents are concerned about fraternities because of what they hear in the news and in pop culture. Would it help if our chapter president gave your parents a call and answered their concerns?”
“I’m concerned with hazing.”
“Our member-education program, the True Gentleman Experience, specifically calls for zero tolerance for hazing. All men who accept a bid become initiated members within 96 hours and do not have to go through a pledge program or other ordeal that puts their health and safety in jeopardy.”
Your social-media activity as a chapter alone won’t deliver great new members. However, it does help create awareness for your product and brand and highlight all of the great things you are doing. Here are a few quick tips to make sure your social-media accounts are impressing potential new members:
Maintain regular content.
Strike a great balance between posting too infrequently and posting too much. For example, three times a week is perfectly fine. And consider using a tool like HootSuite that allows you to schedule your posts in advance.
Demonstrate the value you provide.
Many chapters make men even better men, host great events and have a positive impact on the community. However, quite a few don’t do a good enough job sharing those attributes with the public.
In addition to sharing everything you have going on, make sure to promote the events and activities of other student organizations and chapters on campus. This small gesture goes a long way to show you care about your community and don’t need to stoop to the level of badmouthing any potential competition.
Focus on your target market.
Remember that the most important target for your social-media efforts are potential members, so publish content that they would find interesting or engaging and highlight the great things you do.
Top 5 Reasons Why Chapters Fail at Recruitment
It’s tough to get the results if you don’t put in the work.
Relying on One Person
It’s difficult, if not impossible, for one member to recruit the ideal quantity and quality of men on his own.
Lack of Product Value
Top potential new members don’t like what you are selling.
Lack of Organization
By not tracking who you are recruiting and who is cultivating the relationship with them, you’re making it more difficult to get them to join.
Lack of Product Knowledge
Your members don’t have clarity on what you are selling or how your product can help them personally.