By Matt Mattson
We've been helping several fraternity chapters and organizations with summer recruitment over the last several months, and wanted to share some lessons learned for future summer recruitment efforts. Read this and then tuck these thoughts away to plan for next summer.
Lesson 1: Do Summer Recruitment
The first lesson learned is simple" you should do SOMETHING in the summer to drive recruitment results if you want to truly recruit the highest quantity of the highest quality members. Many organizations simply don't do summer recruitment. Recruitment efforts over the summer are often found in the big Midwest schools, schools in some Southern areas, and toward the west coast. For whatever reason, the cultures of these fraternity (and rarely sorority) communities has evolved to not only partake in, but often depend upon summer recruitment to build their membership for the upcoming year. Typically the focus is on recruiting incoming freshmen before they even get to campus so that they can move directly into housed chapters, though I do know of some schools, like Gettysburg College, that uses the summer to build relationships with second year students because of a deferred recruitment process.
Whatever the situation, and wherever your school is located, we'd recommend exploring summer recruitment as an opportunity to build some early relationships when many chapters on your campus might not be doing anything with regard to recruitment. Since "Quantity Drives Quality," the more relationships you have over going into the school year, the better CHANCE you have to recruit the quality and quantity of members you desire.
Even if it seems impossible, impractical, or just plain wrong to recruit people over the summer, whether you're a fraternity or sorority, BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS during the summer with non-Greek or incoming students can be greatly beneficial. Without the distractions of classes, other organizations, dorm life, etc., the summer offers a great opportunity to develop some friendships (a.k.a. leads) with fellow or future students in your town, neighboring communities, over Facebook/MySpace, and through service, leadership, or athletic activities. Do something over the summer to keep your year-round values-based recruitment momentum going.
Lesson 2: Quantity Drives Quality (even in the summer)
"You can't recruit who you don't know," and this is true even in summer recruitment. The first step to a successful summer recruitment is building a comprehensive plan for MEETING PROSPECTS. Some typical strategies for this include: 1) Cold Calling, 2) High School Visits, 3) Summer Fairs and Conferences, 4) Leadership Retreats, 5) Service Events, 6) Social Networking Media (Facebook, MySpace), and 7) Partnering with the School to Position Your Members. You can learn more about all of these ideas by reading the "6 Cylinders" handouts Phired Up uses in its Dynamic Recruitment Workshops (search through for the summer ideas ‐ they're in two different areas of the document): http://www.phiredup.com/files/admin/Presentation_Part_2_&_3_Handouts__6_cyl__vbsp__etc_.pdf.
Many, if not most, successful summer-recruiting-chapters spend a lot of effort making cold calls during the summer by telephoning incoming freshman students from a list distributed to them by the university. There are some obvious inherent problems in cold calling as a recruitment tactic for fraternities and sororities" the most obvious of which is that you seem like a disreputable telemarketer trying to sell lifelong friendship and a commitment to values ‐ in other words, you seem like a cult leader trying to recruit people by interrupting their dinner with a badly scripted phone call. Plus every other chapter on campus might be calling the same kid at the same time and that probably turns more people off of Greek Life as a whole at these schools than anyone could possibly imagine.
If, however, you do choose to do cold calls, do them well. There are pages and pages to write on the subject of how to do a good fraternity/sorority recruitment cold call over the summer, but for brevity's sake, here are some quick tips.
1) Be friendly, genuine, and helpful. Practice with your members for a while first to work the "cheeziness" or "sales-y-ness" out of your approach. Remember, people can hear whether you're smiling or not, and they want to talk with happy people. Most importantly" call with something of value to offer them" a scholarship opportunity, a service event in their town, a leadership retreat you're hosting, or just help from a friendly upperclassman. Call for two simple reasons" to help them, and to build trust for a future call or meeting" don't cold call to recruit (recruitment comes later)!
2) Know your call objectives and talking points. Have a script. Know what you want to get out of the call (objectives ). Here are some sample objectives: A) Be a welcoming, helpful student from your school, B) Introduce the scholarship opportunity (or something of value to them), C)Learn more about the person, and be interested in him, D) Set up a time to meet soon, E) Leave with a positive, non-threatening perception of what people in your organization are like.
3) Fail your way to success. Look forward to having people hang up on you. Be excited when someone tells you to stop calling them. Celebrate when someone tells you to do things to yourself that are anatomically impossible! The more failed prospecting calls you make, the more chance you have of building a huge list of prospective members. Cold calling is a numbers game. You will find some success, but it will be buried beneath a lot of disappointing hang-ups, caller-ID blocks, and disinterested people on the other end of the line. The more bad calls you happen upon though, the better the chance the next call will be a huge success.
Lesson 3: Think Small Activities
If you got a call in the May following your senior year of high school from someone purporting to be a frat guy who said, "Hi, I'm from Alpha Beta Gamma fraternity at the college you're coming to. Me and my brothers are doing this awesome camping trip this weekend deep in the woods. Would you like to come and learn more about our brotherhood?" How would you react? I would imagine that banjo music from the movie Deliverance along with a clear image of how these frat guys were going to show me their "brotherhood" utilizing some rituals and paddles deep in the woods, and then I'd hang up on the guy. Your big summer recruitment events and outings are probably a blast for you and your brothers, but for the "best freshmen in the new class," these are events to be avoided for personal safety reasons if nothing else!
Chapters we've worked with over the summer have used trial and error to learn that better relationships are built with potential members through dinner, coffee, lunch, etc. with just a few members than are built at big fraternity recruitment events. If you're going to have summer recruitment functions as a chapter, think about using them for "closing" opportunities as opposed to early relationship building. Focus on small activities" lots and lots of small activities with lots and lots of potential members so that you can really get to know these people in comfortable settings.
For other relationship building opportunities during the summer, consider: 1) Partnering with the university to offer house tours during orientation, 2) Offer to take parents and student out to breakfast before their day of summer orientation, or 3) Make home visits to the best prospects so that mom and dad can see how great members of your chapter are.
Lesson 4: Mules Are on the Beach
I wish I could say that during the summer the apathetic members of your chapters get energized and are willing to make cold calls, help with recruitment activities, and actively build relationships with tons of incoming students. But they don't. And they probably won't no matter what you do. Get over it. Gather the "workhorses" of your chapter, and get to work. The "mules" of your chapter are on the beach, making excuses, taking vacation (all summer long), saying they "need a break," or they just plain disappear entirely out of communication for the whole summer. Get over it. Get to work.
Overall, the most challenging part of running a successful summer recruitment effort is managing the chapter when many of your members are spread out around the region, state, country and sometimes world. There aren't easy answers to figure this out, just questions for you to consider.
Who will call prospects? How will the chapter know who is doing what and what results they're getting? Who will be at recruitment functions? How will names get added to the master names list? How will multiple chapter members get to know prospects in far away places?
A vital conversation to have as you're planning for summer recruitment should be about membership selection. Who will give out bids? On what authority? What is the measurable values-based selection criteria on which we'll determine who deserves an invitation for membership? How will the chapter know who is being considered for a bid, who is getting a bid, who has gotten a bid, who accepted a bid, and who did not accept a bid? Are we o.k. with only a few members determining who will be invited for membership in our organization? Should we wait until the Fall to actually give out bids, and only build relationships during the summer?
Summer recruitment can be a great way to increase the quantity of quality members in your chapter, but it takes a comprehensive plan, strong focus on everyday behaviors, and a lot of stick-to-it-ness.