Think about when you stepped foot on campus for the first time. Do you remember the feeling? Were you excited? Nervous? Maybe a little of both? You had your entire future ahead of you and a desire to create your own path – so you decided to check out the involvement fair. Wow, talk about an extrovert’s dream and an introvert’s nightmare. You’re bombarded with flyers and candy giveaways and lists for you to write your name down if you wanted to be contacted. And then you found your way to the fraternity and sorority section, and write your name down on a couple of lists.
Maybe you ended up attending an open house to learn a little more about the organizations, maybe you signed up for recruitment, and maybe you ended up joining. But did you know what you were getting yourself into? Was the information provided prior to going through recruitment actually beneficial or educational? You made a decision that will impact you for the rest of your life, hopefully you got some good information about the importance of that decision, right?
Joining a fraternity or sorority has a plethora of benefits, however over the years new members seem to have less of a concept of what they’re actually getting into. Perhaps it’s because of incorrect stereotypes or the media coverage of fraternities and sororities. Perhaps it was through word of mouth from Aunt Erin and Uncle George over the holidays with family. Perhaps it’s also due to poor information given by the campus or chapters prior to joining. There are so many ways to get information about joining a fraternity or sorority, however that doesn’t mean the information is accurate.
Over the last two years, we have gathered information on the importance of providing the right information prior to people joining a fraternal organization. This was accomplished through our assessment and data collection platform: Potential New Member Orientation (PNMO). This gave us the ability to understand why students are joining fraternal organizations and their expectations of membership. In the first year of students taking the program, we gathered data from thousands of participants and noticed some patterns standing out…
When asked which components of PNMO were most relevant in preparing for Panhellenic recruitment, women reported that they found the overview of the joining process, a review of recruitment and Panhellenic terminology, and the benefits of membership as some of the most important. The biggest takeaway women gained from PNMO was learning how to determine their best match, including developing the confidence to ask questions. It seemed that women joining Panhellenic organizations lacked the understanding of their role as an active participant in determining which organization they would join for their lifetime.
While men had far more range in what they found most relevant from PNMO, many of the male participants found their biggest takeaway to be that fraternities offer more than social outlets and actually provide leadership & service opportunities for their members.
Knowing why students want to join and what they expect out of their membership can help us effectively market our chapters to potential members. It can also ensure that we are meeting the interests and needs of our members, potentially increasing our overall retention. Women seeking to join Panhellenic organizations reported interest in sisterhood, meeting others, personal development, leadership, and service opportunities. Men looking to join fraternities reported wanting brotherhood, the ability to network, and to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
A significant number of participants indicated that their understanding of critical components of recruitment & membership increased as a result of taking PNMO. Between the beginning an end of the course, there was:
- A 73% increase of potential new members that could describe values based recruitment,
- A 68% increase of Panhellenic PNMs that understand the role of the recruitment counselor, and
- A 69% increase of Panhellenic PNMs being able to identify their rights in primary recruitment.
Overall, more than 99% of PNMs found Potential New Member Orientation helpful in preparing for IFC or Panhellenic recruitment. Imagine having all of your potential new members better prepared and equipped to go into recruitment #likeaboss.
We also identified a few key takeaways from the data collected through PNMO. First, we have an opportunity to provide potential new members the insight they need about the community they hope to join. This insight allows our future members to enter recruitment and their chapters with confidence (and maybe a little swagger too). Second, there are also potential impacts on retention in the recruitment process, the new member process, as well as overall membership. If people understand better what they have chosen to join and can better match with an organization meeting their expectations and interests through this understanding, we believe that might affect their overall commitment and engagement during their lifetime of membership. Just imagine what the chapter meeting would look like with engaged and caring seniors!
If you were to stop and think about it: Would you rather buy something with no information, or know more specifics about what you’re buying? You’d want more information to make the right decision. That’s what PNMO is: providing educational information about the history, purpose, definitions and nuances of joining the fraternal community.
There’s an old cartoon that always ended with “Knowing is half the battle” (shout out to the old school G.I. Joe Saturday morning cartoons). Knowing what you’re signing up for and believing in your potential as you begin the recruitment and membership journey is paramount to your success. As the landscape of joining fraternities and sororities continues to change, we look forward to being there at the forefront helping educate, train, and embody what it means to truly be a member in our fraternity and sorority communities.