fraternity pledge process

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Question:

My fraternity has done the same thing year after year during our pledge period.  The brothers have stopped attending pledge nights because the entire pledge program is stagnant.  Can you give advice on some good events we can have that will get the brothers interested?


Answer:

There are probably a whole host of reasons why brothers stopped coming to your events and participating. I think it can be boiled down to a couple pieces.

First, brothers often don’t feel like they have a role in the pledge process, which is false. Brothers should be active parts of the pledge process, showing pledges what is expected from brothers.

Second, the pledge program needs to be more than “a hike in the woods” or hearing alumni speak or watching a power point. Don’t get me wrong, those are sometimes important pieces of the program, but it can’t be a trust event or lecture/PowerPoint every night of the pledge period.

If it does, then it essentially becomes another part of school. Pledges are joining to become better men – that is the goal of all of our organizations, not to sit for another two hours listening to a lecture.

Your pledges want to feel like part of the organization- they wouldn’t be pledging otherwise, hence the reason for a successful pledge program.

A successful pledge program is active and engaging.  It’s also the best time to do brotherhood-bonding events, where brothers and pledges are engaged in activities together.

Events can range from a pledges-actives dinner, a trust event such as the “Web of Brotherhood”, a lesson in rush, to a joint community service event with a sorority. In reality, it doesn’t actually matter the type of event, provided that there is a level of bonding between pledges and actives (which is why movie nights are not generally a good idea). The chapter’s ultimate goal is to have pledges who will become quality brothers because of the example set for them by the current active membership.

The current membership, in regards to the pledge program, needs to know up front what is expected of them during the pledge period.  For example, they need to know how many events they should attend, who is going to get little brothers, who will be study partners, if there are sanctions for not attending events, and any other relevant information that they should know about the pledge process.

At the end of the day, revamping a pledge process can be done with chapter investment in the course of two semesters. But, realistically, as with most changes, it won’t be overnight.

Brothers will likely not adjust right away to a new pledge process, because it won’t feel “authentic” to them. This discussion with the actives has to take place at the beginning of the year if you’re serious. I’ve seen it done in a couple chapters, which have been completely turned around for the better.

Changing something like the pledge or rush process usually brings on other ideas for changing the fraternity status quo, so don’t be scared if new ideas start popping up within the next semester or two.

– This was written by Ben Ring, 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 Do We Improve a Stagnant Fraternity Pledge Program?

  1. Don’t forget to do some follow up after the New Member Education Process. You should have an honest discussion with both your Actives and New Members about what worked, what didn’t, etc. This will be helpful as you transition to the next class of new members.

  2. Jace – can’t tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts on my book. That is a collection of pretty much everything I know about fraternity. It means a lot to me that it has been able to help your chapter improve.

  3. If you want ideas for a solid new member program, I would honestly consider purchasing the book “The Fraternity Leader.” (You can purchase it by clicking on the tab at the top of this page) This past summer I made the decision to purchase the book. It has been an incredible tool for me and my fraternity. We increased our attendance at parties from 200-300 people to over 1200 people, by following the steps laid out in his book.

    Also, for the last 3 years our new member program has been basically non-existent. We would generally get a class of 15-25 guys, and by the end of the semester we’d be lucky if 10 of them were still around. “The Fraternity Leader” lays out an entire program, all you have to do is make it happen. We got 22 guys this fall semester, and not only have none of them dropped, we haven’t had a single new member miss a meeting yet.

    Making the decision to invest in your new members is one of the best decisions that you can make for your fraternity. Stop talking about what you’d like to see done, and start making the changes now. Like was said in the post, it’s not going to happen over night, but it is something that can happen in one semester.

  4. I think one of the biggest things here is not to be afraid to become better by trying something new. You can’t improve by doing the same thing over and over.

    Now your chapter is going to have to be prepared for some of the things you do to flop. Not everything you try is going to work.

    However, that is one of the awesome things about fraternity. You have the opportunity to improve your organization in tremendous ways by implementing new ideas.

    Also, don’t forget that not all the ideas have to be originally yours. Learn from other chapters both in your fraternity and on your campus. Read all you can about fraternity leadership on this site. Talk to your advisors. There are a ton of resources out there.

    Pick the best ideas out and copy them. If the ideas are good, your brothers will be eager to get behind you and try them out.

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