By: David Stollman

Your university might require students to complete a semester of college or participate in a formal recruitment process before they can join a fraternity or sorority. There might even be some crazy expectation that organizations don’t “interact” with potential members before their second semester. But even then… Deferred Recruitment doesn’t really exist… only deferred JOINING.

A university can’t prevent genuine recruitment, nor should they want to. Recruitment is about interaction, not about events. That is why I was never a fan of getting rid of the term “Rush” because Rush was always a just period of time where as “Recruitment” was what happened during Rush. Recruitment is just a process between people getting to know each other and finding out if membership was right.

Dru Bagwell, the long-time Associate VP at the University of Maryland served as national president of Phi Sigma Kappa, and the Chair of the North American Interfraternity Conference. I was fortunate to count him as a mentor while in college. He taught me the simplest and yet most profound concept of recruitment. He said, “Don’t make it so hard. Just do fraternity. Do it well. And, ask people to join you.”

There may be rules that prevent you from “asking people to join you” until 12 credits, or Bid Day, but there are NO rules against, “doing fraternity.” And there are certainly no rules against “doing it well.” There aren’t even as many restrictions around asking people to join you in your fraternity activities as you think! Most administrators really only fear potential members (especially new students) attending parties. This is especially true in communities where chapters have trouble recruiting without alcohol. Campuses where fraternities throw big “get out name out there” parties that tend to be larger, create more risk and generally invent new rules to violate.

Universities fear fraternities use of alcohol in recruitment because it has proven so dangerous over the years among chapters that use parties as bait to get people to join.   There are three types of IFC chapters when it comes to recruitment – “Wet,” “Damp,” or “Dry.” Wet chapters throw events that are clearly their own, (without hiding it) where there is alcohol. A chapter cookout would simply have beer available. “Damp” chapters still have alcohol involved in recruitment but it is not overt. Usually there are dry events followed by wet ones that appear to be chapter events by the potential members but are organized in a way or at a location to allow for deniability to avoid penalty. Dry chapters don’t have any events with alcohol. Nor do they empower or encourage members to use alcohol in recruiting. Individual members might drink with potential members but it isn’t related to chapter operations.

Lots of fraternities (it is usually the men) do some really stupid, embarrassing, offensive, even dangerous things in an effort to “get their name out there.” Everything from culturally insensitive events, to misogynistic marketing, through outrageous off campus “not-our-party” parties. These are lots of opportunities to offend people, degrade the image of the institution, and generally endanger the peace and even safety of our students. The ones that are targeted for these alcohol-fueled events are often the ones least prepared to deal with them, our first-year students. It is enough to make even our biggest advocates within campus administration cringe. Wet (even Damp) recruitment, is one of the major reasons that administrators want to prevent students from joining fraternities right away.

But, just because you aren’t allowed to have first semester students join, don’t act like that is preventing you from meeting them. Or, preventing you from engaging with them through service, or philanthropy, or intramurals, or educational program, or anything else other than… social events!

Look at the specific rules that you govern Deferred Joining. Some campuses don’t even have rules that prevent a chapter from OFFERING an invitation to join but rather have a rule that a potential member cannot ACCEPT an invitation to join until they are eligible. Ideally the community is filled with chapters that understand the best way to succeed is through ongoing, year-round recruitment that deemphasizes social events as one of many benefits to joining and not the stereotypical purpose.

So now that we understand this, let’s all agree to some terms:

  1. Deferred Joining / Deferred Affiliation: When students are prevented from accepting invitations to join a fraternity or sorority until their second semester or second year of school.
  2. Delayed Joining / Delayed Affiliation: When students are not allowed to accept invitations to join a fraternity or sorority until a few weeks after classes have started.

We also need to understand that recruitment happens at three levels. There are the Individual, Chapter & System levels of recruitment. The Individual meets people in class, work, sports, etc. and develops a relationship with them. The Chapter trains the individual with skills to recruit, motivates them to recruit, and organizes the efforts of many individuals through chapter wide recruitment events. The System level of recruitment includes all efforts by the council such as a formal recruitment (Rush) or Greek wide events like a picnic or organization fair.

There is great value in members recruiting throughout the year at the individual level. Whether you’re a member of an MGC, NALFO, NAPA, IFC, NPHC, or NPC organization the same holds true. Our members living our values and letting people learn what we are about by comfortably engaging in conversation with people as appropriate makes the biggest difference. People join people and the organization follows. When our members are out there being their same, genuine, authentic selves throughout the year, people know our values and mission are sales pitches when that recruitment time comes around. This does NOT mean we’re always out there proselytizing like a crazy cult. It does mean that getting to know potential members, identifying potential members, networking them as people (not PNMs) through our brothers/sisters is simply stacking the deck. When recruitment season rolls around you’ll walk into it knowing the right people for your organization, and they will know if you are right for them.

Here are a couple specific tips to succeed if you’re on a Deferred Affiliation campus:

  1. Compile a Wish List—this is a list of 3x–4x the size of your chapter of people your members know that may, or may not want to join. Their likelihood of joining is irrelevant. Rush is about people we don’t know coming to our events to meet us. Recruitment is about people we DO know and networking them through our chapter.
  2. Discuss specific people on your list at every chapter meeting. Don’t waste so much time in meeting on stupid things. Take 10 min each week and talk about the people who we want to join.
  3. Maintain clear eligibility standards. Since you have more time to get to know potential members, the chapter should say “Oops” about member far less frequently.
  4. Focus more on Sophomores that are in your member’s networks who might be interested and eligible right away.
  5. Make it FUN! Make it easy. Include recruitment in the events on your calendar don’t add recruitment events to your calendar.
David Stollman has been teaching recruitment to chapters, national organizations, and campus communities working with thousands of chapters on hundreds of campuses for 25 years. His keynote program Recruitment Boot Camp can be customized to meet any campuses’ specific needs. Additionally, David is the co-founder of LaunchPoint Consulting that provides coaching and additional support in the areas of growth, and online programming.