pledges quitting

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Question:

My fraternity consistently has struggled the past two years to initiate a high percentage of the men we recruit. Typically, we recruit around 20 men, but initiate somewhere around 12-14.

The chapter is solid on all other fronts and in line to win our fraternity’s highest award, but the retention rate seems to be the Achilles heel of the chapter keeping us from initiating more great men and getting the recognition we deserve.

We’ve worked with our nationals, consultants and other chapters to develop a great Pledge Education program, but can’t seem to fix this nagging problem. Any suggestions?


Answer:

The retention rate during pledgeship is a universal problem shared by many fraternities across the globe. Most of the time it is a pledge education issue, but based on your question, it seems as though you have done your due diligence in creating the best program possible.

I have two suggestions that may help. The first deals with your fraternity values. Does your pledge education program stress the values of your fraternity? I’ve seen many pledge programs that go through the motions of learning about the history of their fraternity, but they don’t encompass the true cornerstones why the Founders started the organization. Each event during pledgeship must have a purpose that relates to learning about values.

Secondly, maybe your pledge education program isn’t the problem. I would suggest you take a step back and look at your recruitment process. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

What type of events are you planning?

What type of men are you attracting to those events?

How are you selecting the men that you offer bids?

In my experience, the retention rate during pledgeship is either due to a risk management or fraternity recruitment issue. Recruitment is the lifeblood of the fraternity and it’s the first step to learning about potential new members and whether their values match up with those of the fraternity.

If you were able to ensure that you have a comprehensive recruitment process which results in the best men for your organization, I would expect your retention rate to rise.

This answer was written by Steven Kaplan, an alumni brother from Alpha Epsilon Pi and contributor for the thefraternityadvisor.com. If you are interested in writing for thefraternityadvisor.com – let us know (CLICK HERE)!






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4 thoughts on “How Come our Fraternity Pledges Keep Quitting?

  1. Mostly echoing, but…

    Start with Rush. If you’re selling something you are not delivering, then it’s natural that some buyers will back out. Are you being forthright about the real costs?

    All pledge programs need work. Get it organized and teach what you’re really supposed to be about. If that’s the foundation of your brotherhood, then as they begin to see the light they’ll also be bonding with your actives.

    Bad retention in pledge classes is a red flag of hazing. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, but people (nationals, school, etc) will think it is. Clean that up.

    What keeps your actives in the chapter? What’s social look like? What do your sorority relations look like? If you have 30 guys sitting around drinking with half a dozen less than attractive girls then most anyone would be gone.

  2. You know the girls that come around to the house and support you guys the most? I’d ask them. I’d also ask the pledges who dropped. If they are dropping and not talking to you (honestly), then you’re likely doing something wrong. But if they drop just because it wasn’t for them and they still enjoy your friendships, then they’ll likely be honest and forthcoming. (And if they’re still enjoying the friendships, it’s likely money, grades, time requirement, or missed expectations)

    • Brandon’s comment made me think of something that could really help. If you have a guy quit, but still hangs out with the brothers after he quits, that will tell you a lot. It tells you that the brothers weren’t the reason he quit and that the fraternity was the reason. This means he either didn’t want to continue the new member program for whatever reason (hazing, not fun, too time consuming) OR that he didn’t think the fraternity provided a good value for his dues once he got in. Like Brandon said, these guys will provide the real answers for you and can help your fraternity a great deal. Be sure to ask them the hard questions…

  3. Steve is spot on with his advice here. One last thing I’d add is to make sure the new member program is both educational, but also a lot of fun. If the new members are having the time of their life and are learning how to become good brothers, then they won’t quit.

    On the flip side, if you are doing that already and they are still quitting consider yourself fortunate. The last thing you want is guys who are not committed to your fraternity getting initiated.

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