One of the primary misconceptions about fraternity rush events is that the best ones are over-the-top social events that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Remember, recruitment is all about making friends, so your rush events should be planned accordingly. Some of the best rush events can be thrown with the simplest ideas and a very low budget. Take the following scenario for example.
At one university with a large fraternity system, the top fraternities regularly spend $6,000-$10,000 each on summer recruitment; pinning 35-40 new members a piece during that time. Each fraternity had four traveling recruitment chairmen. Each recruitment chairman received a salary, clothing allowance and expenses. There was a formal recruitment in the fall, but most of the top men pledged in the summer.
The Pi Kappa Alpha chapter there was average on the campus: average size, average quality, average reputation and prestige. They wanted to become one of the best fraternities, but to do that they had to pledge the top recruits, and that meant battling it out with the giants in the summer. They had one recruitment chairman, and only about $1,000 in the recruitment budget.
The chapter planned carefully. They realized that they couldn't match the top groups dollar for dollar, or man for man. They couldn't throw the same style recruitment events or make the same striking impression as a group, so they decided to spend their money in a way that would do the most good for them. Here is what they did:
- The recruitment chairman set up headquarters in the chapter house and kept in constant phone, letter, and email contact with his area and city chairmen. A list of incoming freshmen, plus names of local high school prospects were recommended by the brothers and gave him a solid working list.
- Intensive, persistent, one-on-one recruitment was organized. Then, when the area or city chairman felt that a recruit or group of recruits was sincerely interested in PIKE, the recruitment chairman drove down to that city and "made the sale." The emphasis was on quality and hard work by the brothers.
- The chapter reasoned that with so much money at their disposal, the big fraternities would tend to let their events get impersonal, and depend more on splendor than personal attention. The Pikes didn't call their functions “parties" because that word suggested bands and lots of people - and in that case they would compare unfavorably. Instead, they invited rushees to "get-togethers" at private homes or brothers' apartments. These activities were informal, small and inexpensive: a canoe trip or river float, a cookout (bring your own), a softball game, etc. In all cases, personal contact was the key.
- When a man decided to pledge, he was given an exceptionally warm welcome by the brothers. He was presented with an inexpensive PIKE jersey - something no other fraternity did for their new members - and it gave him an immediate and tangible identification with the group. It also helped quell any "second thoughts" by a man who would ordinarily have pledged a larger, stronger fraternity.
Of course, the top fraternities continued to get the top new member classes. But PIKE also began to get top men – not as many, but men of the same quality as those pledged by the major houses. While the best fraternities pledged 35-40 men, PIKE pledged 20 men. And while the other fraternities sat back during the year, PIKE worked hard in open rush, until they too had 35 sharp new members. Within two years, PIKE was as large and powerful as any fraternity on the campus. They got there through sound planning, proper allocation of resources, and understanding the market. And they did it with about 15 percent of the rush budget of the top chapters on campus.
The moral of this story is that rush events are not about spending money, or throwing extravagant social events. The best rush events are the ones that merely facilitate the quality interaction that friendships are built upon. Present the recruits with a comfortable environment, a warm welcome, and a good time, and they will want to join.
A sample recruitment retreat agenda can be found under Appendix F at the end of Section I of the recruitment handbook.
The Best Rush Event
One of the first questions that is typically asked by a newly-appointed rush event captain would be “What is the best rush event?” Depending on who you ask, answers to this question can vary greatly. Some people say concerts are the best events. Other may say parties are the best way to recruit. Someone from California may say that a beach day is the best rush event. But when it comes down to it, the best rush events in the fraternity world are those that facilitate the most quality interaction between the members and the men they are trying to recruit.
With that in mind, are concerts or parties the best events? Well if the music is so loud that the rushee can barely hear himself, much less the people around him, then probably not. It doesn’t matter if the recruit had a great time if he never gets a chance to speak to anyone while he’s there. What makes a good rush event as compared to a good social event is the quality interaction between the members and the rushees. “Showing him a good time” is not the key to successful recruitment. Rushees can “have a good time” at any number of places without ever joining a fraternity. What makes a fraternity is the camaraderie that is enjoyed between its members, so we have to keep this in mind when coordinating our recruitment events.
Keys to a Successful Rush Event
Here are some generally good policies and ideas when creating successful rush events. While regional preferences may vary, these basic ideas tend to hold true across both time and geography:
- Include good food. Good food is generally associated with good feelings. Having food at the event gives it some purpose, and will also serve to keep rushees at your events for a longer amount of time.
- Play some music, but at a respectable level. While you or some of your brothers may enjoy blaring heavy metal every once in a while, the odds are that the general population does not. Try playing some generally agreeable music that you know most people would enjoy.
- Invite women to your event. This will provide quality interaction for the rushees with people outside of the chapter, and help them feel more at ease. Consider giving formal invitations to the women that you would like to attend, as it will increase the likelihood that they show up. Certain schools may have restrictions against this is some way, shape, or form, so only follow this guideline if it is permitted in your community.
- Dress to impress. Looking better than the average college student will only serve to help the impression your chapter will make. While dressing in a suit to every recruitment event may be intimidating for some rushees in some Greek systems, wearing a clean collared shirt and khakis is likely to make a positive impression in almost any situation. As it will be detailed in later sections, your chapter’s image over time is its reality.
- Have something for the rushees to do. While it may seem obvious, having something interesting for the recruits to do while they are at your event will help keep their attention. This can range from games (such as billiards or darts) to guest speakers to sporting events. Many people may be tempted to create over-the-top activities for the rushees to do, but it is most often the simplest of things that can create the most quality interaction between your members and rushees. Think of what you and your friends like to do in their spare time, and go from there.
Again, the specifics may vary. What is deemed good food in one area may not be good in another, and what is seen as fun in one region may be dull in other places. But by following the above universal guidelines, you will be able to create worthwhile events that will help your chapter achieve its recruitment goals.
Below are some ideas for specific rush events that may be effective at your respective chapter and campus:
- Dorm move-in days
- Cookouts / barbeque / roast
- Beach / pool day
- Games night (pool, darts, poker, bowling etc.)
- College or professional sporting events
- Athletic games / tournaments (basketball, softball, flag football, etc.)
- Formal dinner (possibly w/ a sorority)
Rush Event Planning
Proper planning prevents poor performance. If you are going to have effective recruitment events, it is going to be absolutely imperative that you do an ample amount of planning ahead of time. There are materials that will need to be purchased, reservations that need to be made, people that need to be contacted, and many other things that will need to be taken care of before the event. To try and shoot from the hip on something as important as a recruitment event would be a foolish thing to do.
Create an Event Checklist
For each rush event that your chapter will put on, you should create an event checklist. This checklist should include every task that needs to be completed in order to throw a successful event, from making the reservation three weeks in advance, to setting up the room directly before hand, and as far as writing thank-you notes to appropriate parties once the event is completed. It is also wise to include hard deadlines for each task on the checklist. This will help ensure that every last detail is taken care of, with ample time for completion and adjustments.
Delegate Tasks as Necessary
While it is the rush event captain’s responsibility to oversee recruitment events, it is not necessarily his duty to complete every task on the event checklist. Just as the recruitment chairman needs to know how to delegate to his captains, the captains need to understand how to delegate to other members of the recruitment committee.
While the rush event captain may want to take care of some of the long-term tasks himself (such as making reservations or managing the budget), it would be advisable for him to delegate some of the simpler tasks (such as purchasing supplies or contacting members/rushees) to other chapter members. Not only does this lighten the load of the captain, leaving him to handle the top-level management of the events, but it gives other members an opportunity to get involved, gain valuable leadership experience, and take part in the success of both the event and the recruitment program as a whole. In other words, if the rush event captain is making a last-minute run to purchase ice for the drinks at a rush event, he probably is not operating as efficiently as he could be.
Maintain the Recruitment Calendar
Once you begin to determine what kind of events your chapter will host, write them into the recruitment calendar. Work with the recruitment chairman to make sure that the events are planned for the most opportune dates. Include hard deadlines in your calendar as a reminder of when you must have certain tasks completed.
A sample rush event checklist can be found on page 70 of the recruitment handbook. Let’s get to work!
Jarrett M. WayDirector of Educational Content & Strategy