What is Fraternity Recruitment?
Fraternity recruitment is the process where fraternities find new members. This typically occurs during the first few weeks of the semester, and is often called Fraternity Rush. Fraternity recruitment can be an informal or a formal process, depending on the university.
Are You Prepared for Fraternity Recruitment?
Too often one guy in a chapter is really good at rush and is responsible for 75% of the fraternity’s recruitment success. The chapter funnels recruits to this brother in hopes that he can convince recruits to join. This particular brother is always popular, but he is a shining star during rush. What makes him so special during recruitment?
Most often he is an extremely out-going and engaging brother. It is hard to teach charisma, and he has it. He is likable and easy to get along with. There are other characteristics that he has that you probably aren’t noticing. This is what you can emulate to make sure you are prepared to recruit.
First, he is interesting. He has great stories to tell and can hold the attention of those he just met. He has told the stories so many times, he has become better at telling them. He is like a performer in that regard. He makes the listener feel like they missed out on an awesome time, and makes them want to be part of future adventures.
- What stories can you tell that are interesting? Remember that it isn’t even that important if the story is about you. What is important is that you have stories to share that the recruit would want to be a part of. Think of great stories you have about your fraternity experience and be prepared to share them.
Second, this brother genuinely cares about the fraternity. There is no doubt about his passion. He wears his letters proudly. More importantly though, he can explain why he loves his fraternity. This is very interesting to the recruit who is probably not familiar with fraternity life. If the reasons he loves the fraternity overlaps with interests of the recruit, it becomes a powerful recruiting tactic.
- Can you explain why your fraternity is important to you? Can you explain the value in your membership? Can you describe the moments that made you realize that there is no better place for you? During recruitment you are selling the vision of lifelong membership to someone who you probably just met. If you can’t do a good job describing why the fraternity is so important to you, then you will have a hard time convincing an outsider to join.
Third, he knows what he brings to the table. Everyone has a role in the organization. Everyone can make an impact, but the greatest impact is made when you are put in the right position. The guy who is a good recruiter thrives in this role because he is probably very good socially and typically a social guy is good at rush.
- What are you good at? What do you bring to the table? Maybe you aren’t the most social guy in the world, but you are good at academics or athletics. You can easily connect and relate to guys with those similar interests. You can also explain what guys with those interests can get out of the chapter. There are also a lot of other functions during recruitment that need to be filled. Setting up events, keeping track of recruits, designing marketing material and organizing brothers all take a lot of work. Know what you can do to help contribute to the recruitment efforts.
Fourth, he is genuinely interested in the recruit. When he has conversations, he is sincere when he listens. He isn’t just having conversations because he is recruiting new members, he is having conversations because he cares to learn about the person he has just met. People have a very strong BS meter. They can instantly tell if someone really wants to talk to them, or if they are just going through the motions.
- Do you genuinely care? If your heart isn’t into recruitment and the growth of your chapter, you need to figure out why not and fix it. You can’t be good at recruitment unless you care, and you can’t fake sincerity.
Fifth, the great recruiter is an example of what the recruit wants to become. I can recall the guy who was the best recruiter from my chapter when I was going through rush. He was popular amongst the other brothers. He had a pretty girlfriend. He was a good student. He dressed impeccably. He drove a fancy car. This guy was awesome, and I really looked up to him as an 18 year-old kid.
- Are you someone that a potential recruit would want to be like? Do you have your act together? Are you a great example of the type of person you can become by joining the fraternity? Have you become your best self? You are always a representative of the fraternity. This is especially true during fraternity recruitment. Be sure you are always prepared to put your best foot forward.
Where to Find Potential Recruits For Fraternity Rush?
Potential recruits are everywhere. Chapters that say they don’t know where to look are using that as an excuse for laziness or lack of focus. Below are nine places that you can find potential new members. These places worked for me, and I am sure you can come up with several more if you tried.
1 – Recruit Your Friends Outside of the Chapter
This is the old adage that you are always recruiting. Don’t overcomplicate it though. Every brother in the fraternity has friends who are unaffiliated. Those guys are great recruits. They are already friends. You shouldn’t have to convince them that the guys are good. That has already been established. If your fraternity is any good at all, then they should be easy to recruit.
Take note though that if they are difficult to recruit then that is a red flag for your chapter. They know more than most potential new members, and if they are friends with the brothers but still don’t want to join there is something wrong. Take time to investigate these scenarios, and then actually fix and eliminate the deterrents.
2 – Recruit Your Friends From Home
Most college men, especially in their younger years of college, know guys who will be attending school in the fall as freshman. These friends were younger than us in high school, but we kept in touch with them during summers.
Focusing on these guys is a great way to get a kickstart on your fall rush. These guys know practically nothing about college, and will be eager for a trusted upperclassman to show them the ropes. You can fill this role.
Be sure that you remember them the first few days after summer break. It will be tough as you will be returning to school and eager to catch up with your buddies after the summer. Making these guys a priority can be the difference between a good and great new member class.
3 – Recruit the Dorms
Brothers who live in the dorms should be fantastic recruiters for your fraternity. It is the least they can do when they aren’t living in the house. This is doubly true if they live in a dorm with freshman residents and triply true if they are a Resident Advisor.
I was an RA in a freshman dorm in college, and this was probably the strongest recruiting angle my fraternity had. Because of the position, you have a unique advantage. Parents trust you because the university vetted you and decided that you were safe to take care of their kid. The kid trusts you because you are the put in a position to be an advisor and confidant. It really is the dream scenario to recruit for your fraternity.
Here is an article I wrote about this very subject: Fraternity Recruitment as a Resident Advisor
4 – Start Recruiting During Freshman Move-In
Freshman move-in was always a big day when I was an undergrad. Hungover brothers would pull themselves together, put on their letters and give back to the freshman community. The brothers who were trying to recruit would be constantly fighting the brothers who went out of their way to help the freshman girls. I’ve humped more ugly couches in my life than I care to count. Good memories.
This is also a great opportunity to meet prospective new members. Help them schlep their crap to their dorm room. Make quick small talk. Ask if the guy is interested in hanging out. If he is, get a commitment. Then get his number and let him know you’ll reach out later. Getting the commitment is important as it is hard for people to break their commitments. You also want him to commit to you before he makes other plans.
It is important to get his number, and not rely on him to call you. If you rely on him, he will probably be intimidated and won’t ever call. Maybe he’ll find a better opportunity. Keep the responsibility with you at all times.
Don’t mention ‘party’ as his mother is probably there and doesn’t want to hear it. Just mention that it is a bunch of guys hanging out. Maybe a bunch of you are going to dinner. Invite him and see where it goes from there. Don’t forget to invite his roommate too. On day one of college, roommates have to stick together.
Regardless, this is a great recruiting move.
5 – Get Referrals from Legacies
Send a mass communication to your alumni over the summer and ask for referrals. Ask them if they know of anyone who will be attending the school in the fall, and especially if any family members will be attending. These guys should be easier to recruit as they already have an established connection with the fraternity.
Get their information and reach out to them. Don’t wait until school is back in session. Plant the seed over the summer and make sure they know the chapter is interested in them.
6 – If you are looking to take your recruitment to another level, look to recruit athletes.
If you can recruit the star of the basketball team, or the QB of the football team, then the rest of recruiting will become easier. Those guys will attract every sports nut to your chapter.
Don’t forget the other sports though. Recruit one guy on the golf team, and chances are you will recruit several. Don’t ignore the club teams either. It may actually turn out to be easier to recruit a team than an individual. This can have a huge boost for your new member class.
7 – Recruit Other Student Organizations
There are obvious leaders and high-caliber men on your campus. You know where to find them too. They are in student government. They are in honor societies. They are in clubs.
Think about how impressive it would be to have the president of the student body as a member of your fraternity? Or how about the chair of the honor council? Or the president of the student athletic booster club?
If you want your fraternity to be special, target special people.
8 – Ask Sororities for Referrals
This is like #2 above on steroids. Hopefully, you have made it a priority to become close to a few different sororities. If you haven’t – check this out: How Do We Get Closer to Sororities?
At the beginning of the semester ask your friends that are in sororities if they know of anyone that you should be recruiting for your fraternity. Chances are the guys they recommend will be decent guys, but also give you another in with a sorority.
Once you get the referral, be sure to reach out as soon as possible. You don’t want that opportunity to pass without you acting on it.
9 – Friend of Recruits
Finally, during recruitment make it an effort to recruit the friends of the guys you are recruiting. This is a simple question during rush. Just ask the guys you are recruiting if they know of anyone else interested in coming to some of the recruitment events.
If every guy you are recruiting can drag one additional guy to a recruitment event, then your pool of candidates for your new member class has doubled. This is a quick and easy method for doubling the number of recruits your chapter meets.
The point here is to make friends. Be social. Put yourself out there and make meaningful relationships outside the chapter. If you can do that, your recruitment will become infinitely easier.
Here is another good resource on the topic of where to find potential recruits that will help:
How Do You Convince Recruits to Join Your Fraternity?
Stop me if you have seen this play out before…
A freshman rushes a fraternity. He knows none of the guys going into rush, but over the span of ten days they seem to become his best friends. They fall all over him, make him feel important. They show him the best parts of college life, and are just great guys.
So this freshman decides to join the fraternity. He makes a four year commitment to the guys and the fraternity. This is a giant leap of faith on his part.
Almost immediately after joining the dynamics change. His ‘best friends in the world’ are all of sudden start dumping all kinds of nonsense on him. The fake sincerity they showed during rush leaves a lot of resentment in the freshman.
That story plays out every semester on every college campus every year. It is embarrassing and does not align with the ideals fraternities claim to cherish.
This is also a huge barrier to recruitment. Outsiders see what is happening in your chapter. They know when you are being fake or when you are being real. No one wants to be part of a chapter that is fake.
This is highlighted by the fact that people ultimately join people. At the end of the day, a recruit will join or not join your chapter based on the strength of the relationships with the guys in the fraternity.
That means you have to recruit on a personal level. It isn’t good enough to have great events that are a lot of fun. That is meaningless unless there are real relationships forming.
Make it your personal initiative to connect to the guys you are recruiting. Take them to lunch or dinner. Invite them to work out with you. I took a very high caliber recruit to play golf one year. That gave us valuable one-on-one time to develop a relationship. Again, it doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you are developing meaningful relationships.
Another key factor in recruitment is the strength of your organization. People want to be part of a winning team. They want to be part of a group that stands for something. They want to be a part of a group that has a positive reputation on campus.
Make sure your brothers know what you are selling during recruitment. Understand why your chapter is different, and understand why it is great. Explain the things the brotherhood is looking forward to that semester. Make sure every brother in your chapter can tell the story of why your fraternity is worth joining. If they can’t explain why someone would want to join your fraternity, you can be sure that an outsider won’t understand why they should join.
While it is important to tell recruits how great your fraternity is, it is probably more important to show them through stories. You can do that by sharing pictures and telling stories of recent glory. If there are standout brothers, be sure to tell their story as well.
Remember there is an unknown allure to fraternity life for those going through rush.
The best part about these stories is if they are captivating enough, the guy rushing will want to put himself in that picture. He can see himself at events. He will want to be like the successful brother. He can see that by joining he will becoming a better version of himself, but he will also have a lot of fun while doing so. That is a powerful tactic when recruiting.
This works because all guys are looking for opportunity. They are going to college because they want to become a better version of themselves. Most are looking to grow academically. Some are looking to grow as leaders. Many want to grow socially.
Be sure to try to understand what motivates the guy you are recruiting. If you can figure out what he is trying to get out of the chapter, or if you can figure out what hole in his life he is looking to fill; you can tailor your message to make sure he understands what the fraternity can offer.
Ultimately though, there will be roadblocks you will have to overcome to get a guy to join. You will have to skillfully navigate these barriers if you want to have a successful recruitment class.
Below are several hesitations guys will have when offered a bid in a fraternity:
- Concerns over the time commitment
To overcome this, you need to be open an honest about the time requirements of membership. If this is a serious deterrent, you need to rethink the time commitments you impose on your membership.
- Parents objecting
This one is tricky. At the end of the day parents want their kid to do well in school and have fun, but they ultimately want them to be safe. They are worried about hazing and excess drinking. You need to prove that your fraternity is safe to a very skeptical audience. Offer to have a senior brother or chapter advisor talk to the parents if there is a legitimate concern.
Fraternity life is expensive. You are doing the chapter and the recruit a disservice if you didn’t explain this obligation. Your job is to make sure you explain what the costs are, and what the value the recruit will receive for the money he will pay. If there isn’t a sufficient financial return for the recruit to join, then maybe the chapter needs to re-evaluate what they are doing for their membership.
- Scared of making a 4 year commitment
This hesitation by the recruit makes a ton of sense. So much so that many schools have implemented rules that don’t allow first semester or even first year students to join fraternities. It isn’t fair to expect a student who knows nothing about college life in their first few weeks of college to make a decision that will impact their next four years.
Therefore, I think the only reasonable way to respond to this hesitation is to explain that they aren’t committed until they complete the new member period. Should they decide the fraternity not for them, they can quit at any time. This is reasonable for both sides, as the fraternity doesn’t really know the recruit either at this stage of the game.
Fraternities deserve the bad reputation they have about hazing. Years of this juvenile practice is a stain on all our good names. If your fraternity continues hazing practices, you are doing all of us a disservice. You are also hurting yourself during recruitment.
- Living in House
Let’s face it – the appeal of living in the fraternity house is hard for outsiders to understand. Putting that expectation on a recruit could be enough to dissuade them from joining. I suggest two things. First, don’t make a hard policy that brothers have to live in the house. I know you have to fill it to make the economics work. However, there are other ways to achieve that goal. Second, make the house a place that the brothers want to live. The goal of the leadership of the fraternity needs to be serving the brothers. Making the house as appealing as possible is one way you to that.
Convincing recruits to join your fraternity during recruitment is a great challenge, but is also one of the most valuable experiences you will have in college. The skill of getting others to buy into your vision is often what separates the average from the successful in the professional world. You need this skill to recruit the best talent to join your team. You need this skill to get your team to follow your strategy for success. You need the skill of developing strong relationships based on trust. Learn this skill, and if you learn it well it will help you immensely in life.
How do You Organize Fraternity Rush?
Like most of life, the how is more important that the what. With fraternity recruitment, how you approach it will be much more important than what you actually do. The above sections are more than enough guidance to have an extremely successful rush period. However, for completeness here is some insight on how to organize your recruitment.
– Set a Recruitment Goal
You need to set a goal so the chapter has a tangible way to know if they are doing a good job or bad job during recruitment. Without an established goal, it is hard for the chapter to know if they are successful or not. Set a goal that is attainable, but also challenges the chapter to stretch to achieve.
I am always stunned at how much fraternities spend on fraternity recruitment. The math just doesn’t make sense. If you spend $10k on rush, but only get 10 guys to join, that equates to a $1000 a new member. Like we discussed at length earlier, people join people. They don’t join fancy and expensive events. Focus your planning on events that bring people together. Save your budget to spend on the brothers later in the semester.
– Recruitment Target List
A list of recruitment targets should be established before recruitment and kept up throughout the process. The recruitment chair needs to be the point man to make sure that the proper communication is kept up on them. That doesn’t mean that they have to do the communication. They can delegate that task, but ultimately they are responsible for making sure it happens.
Focus on events that enable brothers to create a relationship with the recruits. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Be sure to have events that are representative of what the brothers actually like to do. If the guys in your chapter like to play hoops, go play hoops. If they like to go to see live music, then do that. It is best to put your best foot forward to increase your chance for recruitment success, but it is also important to give a real representation of your chapter. This will increase the chance of your new members sticking with the chapter after they join.
– Keeping the Brothers Engaged
This will always be one of the biggest challenges to rush. There will be a large portion of brothers who just don’t care. There will be another portion that shows up to events, but doesn’t really put any effort into recruitment. They sit in the corner and cut up with other brothers, ignoring the recruits they are supposed to be entertaining.
To get brothers engaged, you have to create success. Once the chapter feels like they are winning at recruitment, they will be more active to participate. Everyone loves being part of a winner, and recruitment is no different.
Before you can get to the stage of winning though, you have to spoon feed brothers information and expectations. Make it clear where they are supposed to be and when they are supposed to be there. Also, make it clear that they know what they are supposed to do when they arrive. Simply being present doesn’t count. Leave nothing up to chance or doubt.
Then start landing commitments from the guys rushing. Never forget that winning solves a lot of problems.
– Getting the House Ready
There is the obvious here. Make sure the house is presentable. I’m sure you get that already.
Digging deeper though, your house can be a selling point for you. I remember my first ever experience in a fraternity house. The captivating image that I remember was the pledge paddles hanging over the fire place. Each one had someone’s nickname on it, and my 18 year old mind knew that each nickname told a story.
Play up the allure and mystery of fraternity. Remember that the guys who are rushing know very little about fraternity life, and they will find it interesting and intriguing.
– Get Your Chapter Recognized on Campus
Your fraternity public relations team should always be working to get your name out there. There are small things you can do to increase your visibility during these first few weeks of the semester. The most significant is having all brothers wear their fraternity shirts. Potential recruits will notice your letters on campus, and as a result will probably end up thinking your fraternity is bigger and better than it is because they were reminded of it so often on campus. Working a recruitment table on campus is a good move if the brothers are outgoing enough to actually make it worth their while. Regardless of how you approach this one, make it a point to get your fraternities name out there for all potential new members to see.
– Formal Rush
I am not an expert on formal rush. I never went through it so I have very little experience. That said, outside the structure I don’t think much is different. You still need to connect with guys in order to convince them to join your chapter. Developing real relationships is the key regardless of it is an informal or formal rush.
– Social Media
Make sure your social media is in order. The guy you are recruiting will absolutely be checking it out. Make sure it aligns with the stories and ideals you have been sharing. Make sure it has a lot of picture of guys having a lot of fun. This is a window for an outsider to look into your fraternity. Make sure you are doing a good job making it an accurate look.
Fraternity recruitment is challenging. It is always challenging getting someone to make a significant commitment to something they barely understand. It is imperative that your chapter becomes good at recruitment though. This is the lifeblood of the chapter. This is where you find your future leaders and future ideas. It is essentially because the economics of a fraternity don’t work if you aren’t replenishing the membership. Almost as importantly, this is the source of energy for the chapter.
Buckle down and recruit hard when it is time to recruit. The fruits of those efforts will be enjoyed for years.