The 5 Recruitment Mistakes Chapters Make

fraternity recruitment mistakes

This article is Day 20 of the series: 31 Days to Better Fraternity Recruitment.

First, values-based recruitment doesn’t mean talking about your organization’s
values during recruitment events. Anyone can learn how to say hollow phrases.
It means LIVING our values as an organization and using that lifestyle to recruit
people who want to live them with us. Lots of people can teach you how to ‘talk
the talk’, but we all know that smart potential members see through that quickly.
Chapters that ‘walk the walk’ don’t have to practice talking the talk.

Second, recruitment is about people we know. “Rush” is about people we don’t.
Real recruiting is about expanding our networks naturally and exploring other
members’ networks of friends. Our founders met men and women through their
friends, classes and other activities. They didn’t wander around campus reaching
out their hand and saying, “Hi stranger! Want to join my organization for the rest
of your life?” We could stand to recruit a little more like our founders. Heck, we
could stand to actually RECRUIT a little. Most chapters don’t actually recruit.
They just select. There is a difference between selecting among people that
show up, and actually recruiting people to be there. Putting up flyers or planning
the events isn’t recruiting.

Over the past decade through our Recruitment Boot Camp program we’ve helped
thousands of chapters on hundreds of campuses install the year-round,
networking based, recruitment system. Chapters have tripled their entire
membership in just one semester and entire communities have witnessed
dramatic growth. While we would love to take full-credit for these successes,
implementing our system that makes year-round recruitment a chapter habit, is
what makes all the difference. The hard work is done by the members; our
system simply keeps their efforts going and moving in the right direction.

The 5 Recruitment Mistakes Chapters Make

As we have been out and about, we see the same mistakes made over and over
again. We want to share these mistakes with you so you can learn from others.

1. Choosing between quality and quantity.

People think they can only have one. Quality drives Quantity. One of the most
common things we hear repeatedly is “We need better members, but we need to
get our numbers up,” or, “We’ll build them up to be better through our new
member education program.” These are excuses used to take chances on
questionable candidates and examples of the battle between quality and
quantity. The assumption that you can’t have both is the biggest problem! This
misconception causes organizations to end up in one of two really bad places:
weak members hurting the chapter or a group that is simply too small to
accomplish what it wants.

Both quality and quantity are not only important, but also possible. How?
Determine the characteristics of your ideal member and make that the standard
by which you recruit. Don’t recruit or accept people lacking those expectations.
PERIOD. Then, use those standards to communicate to the best and brightest
that you are worth their consideration. Build the core of your organization
around top quality people and immediately teach them how to recruit other high
quality members.

Remember, Quality drives Quantity, not the other way around. Don’t just throw a
bunch of names against the wall and see what sticks. That’s not what our
founders did. And, that isn’t who we really are.

“People join people, and the organization follows.” Better members will ultimately
recruit others even better than they are, if you teach them how. Make it such
that by the time you graduate, it would be difficult for you to get in. Now THAT’s
building a legacy for your organization!

2. Recruiting only the first few weeks of each semester

In order to build strong and consistent recruitment practices in a chapter, it is
essential to view recruitment as a year-round responsibility.. Keep potential
members fresh in the minds of your members, discuss them at each chapter
meeting and continually add new recruits to your Wish List. Doing so allows time
to evaluate if these people align with your values and will be the type of member
you really want. Taking time to do this also allows those people who never
thought they would join (and often become our best members) to learn what
you are REALLY about. Time breaks down those negative stereotypes and allows
potential members to see what our organizations are truly about by seeing how
we normally act. We can stack the deck with sophomores who we have been
recruiting to be a part of that formal process from the prior semester. This is
legal, not dirty. It should be encouraged, not discouraged, by your community’s
rules and norms.

3. Lacking an action plan

Your chapter should have a list of goals, due dates, intermediary steps necessary
to accomplish those goals, and finally, who is responsible for each goal. Without
a plan of action in place, we see chapters flounder around hoping someone will
get things done. One member expects another will do it, then right before it’s too
late, someone throws something together. A well-developed action plan guides
chapter efforts and lays out each step necessary to get you where you want to
be. It is also a great tool allowing advisors and volunteers to hold you
accountable and even provide you with support in critical ways.

4. Delegating recruitment to just one member

For you to be successful, you must have the majority of the chapter bought into
your recruitment efforts. This doesn’t mean everyone is involved in all details. It
just means that each member has clear responsibility for basic participation. We
can’t delegate recruitment to just one person and hope they succeed. Does the
academic chair take all of your tests? Does the treasurer pay everyone’s dues?
No! Again, “People join people and the organization follows.” We need for our
members to be the reason why someone joins. Lots of people networking
throughout the entire year is more realistic and natural than a bum rush
mentality by a few; it’s the difference between cramming for finals and studying
along the way. The best performers in the classroom are the ones that do a little
work each week and don’t just cram. If we can have more of our members doing
a little work each week, we can reach more potential members in natural and
meaningful ways where we actually get to know each other.

When one member convinces people to join a chapter full of others whom they
don’t really know, retention drops. People don’t like a bait and switch, “like me,
but join them.” Getting more members involved spreads out our network and
allows us to recruit a wider range of people, more effectively..

5. Recruiting only freshmen students

Which year of school fails out at the highest rate? Which is involved in the most
alcohol and drug violations? Worst grades? Perfect! Let’s target THAT group and
no other! DUH!!

Not all first year students are bad people who will get drunk and fail out, but
statistically they are more likely to do so. Therefore, we shouldn’t be so
dependent upon just that population. Plus, everyone else targets first-year
students. That market is saturated with those efforts. The growth market for any
community is the sophomore class. With the strong negative stereotypes out
there about fraternal organization, can we blame someone for taking a year to
watch us to figure out they aren’t really true?

You might be thinking that only freshmen are interested in fraternity or sorority
membership, because older students already have an established group of
friends. Even if that were true, we can still succeed in recruiting older students if
what we offer is more than just friendship. Good chapters offer much more and
many older students figure that out. They will join if we ask them.

Yes, of course you should recruit freshman students. But, you should also
actively target, and not just passively accept, older students as well. We need to
recruit all students who can improve a chapter through their membership
regardless of their age. The lifetime commitment to your organization will allow
them to contribute for years to come, even after they graduate.

About the Author:

After serving on the staff of the North-American Interfraternity Conference for
two years, David Stollman continued working with fraternities by speaking on campuses
around the country. He has facilitated workshops on over 500 campuses and has
also served on the faculty of numerous university and fraternal leadership

David has been an active volunteer of his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, since
1995 in both national and local roles. Although he still volunteers for Sig Ep in
limited ways, he is now focused as a chapter advisor for the Alpha Sigma Tau
sorority at New York University.

Having launched CAMPUSPEAK a speakers agency, and HazingPrevention.Org,
David continues to support Greek life in his newest business called The Student
Union. It is a fundraising program allowing chapters to make money, by helping
members save money, on their textbooks.

David has dreams of someday watching his Philadelphia Eagles win a Super
Bowl. He now lives in New York City with his wife Melissa and new son Ari, and is
saving up for fraternity dues in 2028.

Recruitment Boot Camp provides chapters, campuses and
inter/national organizations with a systematic, results-driven approach
to recruitment. To learn more about how RBC can help your
organization/community succeed with recruitment, please contact
Laurel Peffer at or visit And, if you’re looking for a highly effective and
affordable recruitment tool, check out our RBC: Fall Webinar Series.

To learn more, check out our most in-depth article on fraternity recruitment: The Complete Guide to Fraternity Recruitment.

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