There are no finite answers as it relates to the future of recruitment. I don’t have any answers, and I do this for a living. However if there’s anything we’ve realized over the last couple of months it is the resiliency of the human spirit and need for human connections.
Enter fraternities and sororities. The fraternity and sorority experience is one of the few that provides a sense of security and a home away from home. We know that potential new members come to our organizations because they want to fulfill a sense of belonging. But there are some things we do know: that once this is all over things will look and feel a little different. So let’s look at this as an opportunity for a starting point.
I’m breaking this up into three sections: The COVID Conundrum, The Target Market, and QTNA (Questions That Need Answers). As always, if you’d like to touch base to talk through ideas, concepts, or just figure out what in the world you should do next, feel free to reach out and we’ll find a time to chat.
The COVID Conundrum
Unprecedented ≠ Unknown. Our organizations have survived world wars, famines, depressions, recessions and everything in between. Believe it or not, this entire pandemic could be one of the best things to happen with our organizations (I’m trying to look on the bright side here, so just go with me for a minute). Someone recently said that this could be the virus that killed frats. And if you think about it – it’s true. Groups that used to rely only on their social capital can’t focus on that anymore. This also could be an interesting time for our chapters to do a mini-membership review. If we have members that really only show up for the social and are late on dues, maybe this is the opportunity to give them an out. It’s time to channel our inner Elsa’s and just let them go (gimmie a break, I’m a dad).
I was recently listening a podcast about the effects of COVID-19 on Gen Z (it had some really good interviews with students both currently in college and those about to enter college). So let’s take a quick snapshot of where our potential new members will be coming from this fall:
- They might have been in isolation for a couple of months, having missed cornerstone events like prom and graduation.
- Some students had their spring break, only to realize they weren’t able to come back to school; and then had to shift on a moments notice to online learning (which many high school students hadn’t done before).
- They will have experienced a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) from hanging out with friends and some of the day to day of just living their lives.
- They will have experienced a sense of JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) from some of the day-to-day monotony, from having to attend classes.
- There might have been no in-person way to experience campus orientation, or have never taken a campus tour this spring/summer.
From a few conversations with on-campus fraternity/sorority advisors, we’re seeing potential new members sign up for the formal recruitment process before even telling the admissions office they’re coming to campus. And in higher numbers too. PNMs are looking for the experiences we can offer them to fill in what they’ve missed. The connections and sense of belonging that our organizations can provide. The pomp and circumstance of our events to make up for missing prom and graduation, which can be replaced by our own initiations and socials engagements. This is our time to truly shine and show our relevance.
I think the overall message of social distance was incorrect. We need to be physically distant in order to be safe, for others and ourselves. But we need to be socially connected, more engaged with each other than ever before. At the moment of writing this I have been in some form of lock down or stay at home orders for almost seven weeks. Yet I’ve had more phone and Zoom calls with friends, family and colleagues than I have in a year. The power of our sister/brotherhood should be seen and felt during this time. If you find your chapter always saying “our sister/brotherhood is so great, we’re all really good friends” – then now is the time to show it for others to see. Now is the time to be more socially connected on a deeper level – As brothers and sisters.