Recruitment numbers can often be a big problem for fraternities. Too often I talk to active members and when I inquire as to why they think their recruitment numbers are down, a common reply I hear goes something like this;
“Well the new students just don’t understand what it means to be a member of ____ ____ ____.” Or, “It takes a special kind of guy to be a member of _____ _____ _____.”
These are telltale signs of a lazy fraternity or a member who just doesn’t understand what Greek Life is all about.
Just about every fraternity creed, motto, toast, morals and/or guiding principles claim that they believe in five basic things; Brotherhood, Leadership, Academics, Philanthropy and being Social. One institution I worked at referred to these as the Five Pillars of Greek Life. Although the letters that are on our sweatshirts, houses and mountains of other Greek Life memorabilia might be different, all of our groups judge our success on these core ideals. (Or at least we should)
At the core of every fraternity we are striving to create Brotherhood. It is often the first word used to describe what the fraternity is all about. But what does it mean to create Brotherhood? For many it is materialized by brothers hanging out together and creating friendships. Brotherhood to them means partying together, watching football on Sunday, playing video games and all around just being visible on campus together.
For a long time I myself struggled with what exactly Brotherhood truly meant. Then one day it clicked. Brotherhood is all about Respect. You don’t have to like all of the other guys in your organization and by no means should you be required to hang out with every single one of them. But at the very least you need to respect them. The brotherly bonds that come with being a part of the organization will create themselves as long as you are holding your brothers up with respect. Stick up for them when others put them down and call them out when they do things wrong. Respect isn’t just about being nice all the time either. A true sign of respect is being able to be honest with a brother who is not meeting expectations or representing the fraternity the way he should and on the flipside, being able to take that criticism and not take it personally.
We all have ideas of what it means to be a Fraternity Leader. Often we associate it with positions of authority; President, New Member Education Chairman, Vice President Etc. “Joe is the leader of our fraternity because he is the President.” What we often fail to realize is that all of our members are developing leadership skills whether they hold a position or not. A Leader is just one person unless he has people that will follow him. Every member of a fraternity has a dual role as Leader and Follower. True Leaders are able to tell the difference between when each role is appropriate for them to play.
If you are one of those noticeable leaders of your fraternity then it is up to you to help the not so noticeable members develop their own leadership. Not everyone is born with natural leadership qualities, but that’s why Leadership Development exists. At the same time that doesn’t mean you tell them what to do all the time. Guide them towards making good decisions and help them ensure their own success.
“We are students first.” This should be a phrase that every fraternity embraces, teaches its new members and then continues to strive for after being initiated. There is no point in going to college just to be a member of a fraternity and then do poorly in classes. It is massive waste of time and more importantly money. Fraternities exist to instill higher values in their members and to raise the caliber of the men they recruit. Some fraternities, like Phi Beta Kappa (the first fraternity ever) and my own organization Alpha Phi Tau, were originally founded as literary societies. These organizations were founded to improve the social, political and most important literary (academic) standards of the college.
Greek organizations pride themselves on holding a higher average GPA than students who do not choose to go Greek. Unfortunately, not all organizations succeed here. Many institutions approach Greek Life similarly to athletics. If you want to be active in a Greek Organization or Athletic Team you must meet a minimum GPA requirement. Many of these requirements are not very high either. My alma mater holds a 2.5 GPA as sufficient to remain an active member. Just because that is the minimum, doesn’t mean that your organization shouldn’t strive to have GPA’s much higher than that. This is not only better for your group’s image, but it is better for the professional success of your members as well. Being a member of _____ _____ _____ fraternity means nothing to an employer if you didn’t bother to graduate.
This is an area that is vital for every fraternity to focus on. Greek letter organizations have been stereotyped as groups that are generally unruly and filled with trouble makers. I call this the Animal House Effect. Having a highly positive and visible philanthropy program gives you ammunition against those who might say you don’t do anything positive for the community. In addition to this, service teaches a sense of humility. Giving back to the campus or community shows that your fraternity is invested in the place you are living.
This means that you can’t just sit there and raise money for your philanthropy. Get out there and do some real service. If you can, serve the philanthropy you support. If that isn’t possible then find something local that you can do that the members of the surrounding community can see you doing. It’s one thing to say we raised $2,000 for this philanthropy and a completely different thing to say we raised $2,000 and then spent three weekends volunteering for Habitat for Humanity builds. Words of caution; if your fraternities rational to do service are solely to justify partying on the weekend then you are missing the point completely.
This final pillar brings me back to my point at the beginning of the article. The best fraternities are diverse. They pull members from all over campus and don’t use the “we only recruit a certain type of guy” as a reason not to branch out and find new members. Will your group typically pull in a lot of members that have similar interests? Yes. Does this mean that you should not even bother to try and recruit outside that mold? Absolutely not. Just because your fraternity has a lot of members that play video games or are involved in the theater department or doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and recruit that football player that lives down the hall from you. It is one thing to try and recruit someone and not get them and it is a completely different thing to simply not even try because you don’t think they will ever join.
The best recruitment guy in my fraternity was not the most popular guy we had. But he was the guy that would talk to anyone who would listen to him. He was the guy that brought people to our table in the dining hall or to our house and got them to meet the rest of the group. If it weren’t for him, we probably wouldn’t have recruited a number of great guys. He didn’t subscribe to the idea that just because a guy didn’t fit the exact mold of our fraternity that meant we couldn’t try and recruit him.
To sum this whole article up, the next time your campuses Greek Life Advisor, your Faculty Advisor or even some Alumni tells you to branch out in your recruitment strategies or tries to encourage a feeling of Greek Unity within the Greek Community on your campus, think about these five pillars. What are the ways in which every organization on your campus are the same? How can you use those to your advantage when recruiting new members? Don’t become that lazy fraternity that survives by recruiting the same three guys every year.