recruiting a student government leader

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Question: My fraternity is actively recruiting a sophomore who is heavily involved in our universities undergraduate student board, serving as president of his class. Our struggle is in showing him why the leadership opportunities presented in a fraternity are different and more beneficial than leadership in USG.


We’ve come up with a few vague reasons (leader in multiple facets of your collegiate experience, more individualized and self-motivated), but are struggling on how to really convey this message. Any thoughts?

Answer: So, you want me to sell ice to an Eskimo? I’ll try, but before I do, is that the right approach?

It’s hard to explain to outsiders what fraternity really means to us. It’s a deeply personal transformative experience you can only truly understand by living it. While you & I understand how much more effective the leadership opportunities a fraternity has to offer can be, this guy might well believe his student government involvement is the top of that game.

You’re like a car salesman talking to someone that already has a new car. Your product may be better than what he has, but he doesn’t necessarily need what you’re selling.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your case on the leadership opportunities Greek life offers, but that’s probably not what will best draw his interest. If those needs are already being fulfilled, what needs or wants of his are NOT being fulfilled? Those are the things you can focus on that will much more efficiently and effectively attract him to your organization.

That’s going to take getting to know him better, and that’s a good thing because the other thing that sells people is friendship. Remember, people join people more than ideas. You sell an idea, but you do it on a personal level so that while they do want to be part of the idea, they equally want to experience it with you and your brothers.

Maybe you’ll find his other needs are social and he’s not proud of prioritizing that. If that’s the case, you can continue to sell the leadership aspects as top cover for your real pitch directed at the things he’s more interested in. You can say stuff like: We don’t have social chairs in a fraternity because we’re incapable of running our own social lives. We do it because we’re all busy with classes, fraternity business, and our other involvement on campus. By delegating that task of planning big social events, we’re free to accomplish great things on campus in our community and still not miss out on one bit of the college experience that we want to share with our brothers and friends.

My advice is don’t try to sell a highly involved student leader that you have better leadership opportunities. I don’t know if that’s actually true of your chapter, but even if it is, that’s not what he’s searching for. Find out where he feels unfulfilled and some of your strengths answer that need. That’ll sell the guy better than what you’re doing.

Now for this leadership pitch…

I’ve seen student governments that had a lot of power/influence and ones that listened to themselves talk a lot but were really just a human suggestion box that was largely ignored by the administration. I don’t know which one you have or what sort of leadership development opportunities this guy is experiencing through that organization.

I also don’t know anything about your chapter. Do you offer great leadership development just because you exist, have officers, and conduct events? So do the girl scouts. What makes you better? I have no way of knowing those answers about your chapter.

You need to take a step back and assess yourself. You know better than I do what the leadership opportunities in your organization are. The best I can do is try to jog your memory.

A fraternity is a small business operating with a safety net. Your chapter may well have six figure annual revenue. You elect 19-22 year olds to officer positions from philanthropy to social. You give them large budgets that they need to make the most of in order to accomplish big things. They have to build leadership teams, do planning and project management, meet deadlines, and be personally accountable. This guy is probably already good at interpersonal communications, small group management, and peer leadership.

What is your relationship with your alumni & advisors?

I don’t view my organization as undergraduate chapters. I view each location as a larger organization made up of the chapter, alumni association, and housing corporation all under the strategic management of a board of directors (governing board/advisors). I do monthly conference calls with chapters that have their officers on the line with advisors & alumni who happen to be prominent lawyers, accountants, fortune 500 executives, and business owners.

They say it’s not the grades you make but the hands you shake. That’s not entirely true. You need to graduate and qualify for opportunities. But, your resume isn’t going to mean all that much. What matters are relationships. You network your way to opportunities. You build mentor-mentee relationships with lots of people that you can learn from or share your knowledge with. That’s where opportunities come from. You create them for yourself.

The kind of alumni/advisor interaction we’ve built and are still working on in the chapters I work with starts building those personal and professional relationships right now. It’s not like another college club where you practice how that would work by interacting with other students or the administration. You’re immediately engaged with business leaders right now. You share a common passion with them for your organization. You work together on stuff like alumni events or housing issues. You start building your path to future opportunities right now.

I don’t know if your chapter is doing anything like that, but it might appeal to a prospective member like this.

You’re going to have to figure out for yourself what your own strengths and weaknesses are and how to best sell those to this particular individual. But, the key more than the strengths is to find out what his unfulfilled needs/wants are and sell the aspects he’s interested in buying rather than trying to beat what he’s already doing. Good luck! And, good job targeting the right kind of rushees. Let us know how it works out.

– This answer was written by Dennis Nall, an alumni brother from Alpha Tau Omega and frequent contributor for the thefraternityadvisor.com. If you are interested in writing for thefraternityadvisor.com – let us know (CLICK HERE)!






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