While recruitment was expected to be a challenge due to COVID-19, chapters navigated and overcame some of these challenges in various and creative ways. Some ended up with enough new brothers to convince people that the virus had no impact, while others could not come to terms with recruitment being an option in a virtual setting.
Toward the beginning of the summer, chapter officers seemed optimistic about being successful through COVID-19. However, challenges continued to persist as campuses changed their learning platforms from on campus to hybrid to entirely virtual for some. As expected, students would see this change as a significant barrier to succeeding in recruitment. Brothers of all fraternities continued to ask, “how can we possibly recruit people without ever meeting them in person?”
This question encouraged the ZBT staff to think harder about how staff can support chapters and chapter leaders. Over the next month, ZBT’s growth team reached out to all chapters and prospective chapters (previously known as “colonies”) to learn more about their frustrations as well as to challenge them to overcome some of their frustrations and concerns. As a result of these conversations, ZBT chapters and prospective chapters not only recruited but excelled. Some chapters like ZBT’s USC (17), Texas (47), Cal Poly (18), Boston City (7), Binghamton (5), Wisconsin (25), and many other chapters continued to thrive in fall recruitment by adapting to the virtual setting as well as identifying creative ways to meet potential new brothers, both virtually and in person. Some practices include pairing brothers with new brothers to go to lunch, hike, surfing, skiing, etc. Other ways involve meeting in a public space on campus for socially distanced sporting activities. However, not all chapters were able to meet in-person. Some of ZBT’s chapters successfully recruited men only by connecting virtually through platforms such as ZOOM and getting to know one another on a personal level.
However, COVID also provided chapters an excellent opportunity to thrive even more so than they have in the past. ZBT’s Penn State (+4), Monmouth (+2), Brandeis (+2), UC Santa Barbara (+18), Illinois (+0), Quinnipiac (+3), and UCF (+4) chapters have increased their fall class size by an average of 42% and a max of 90%. Chapters like Quinnipiac, UCF, and Monmouth dominated their campus recruitment by recruiting the most men on their campus, showing that recruitment is less about the type of event you host and more about a high level of engagement and high-quality relationships.
In addition to chapters succeeding in recruiting with a typical or greater number of brothers, chapters retained their new brothers better than they ever have before. With 79% of chapters retaining 100% of their new brothers, ZBT chapters have greatly improved their retention from 2019-2020’s 35% of chapters retaining 100% of their new brothers. It is also believed that as a result of COVID, chapters are doing a better job at getting to know potential new brothers over a more extended period and identifying their genuine connection to ZBT.
While we want to believe that though things seem great even through a pandemic, many chapters have been unable to recruit due to campus closures, virtual challenges, and lack of support in connecting with students without being on campus. Nevertheless, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Based upon conversations with brothers and students across the United States and Canada, many students chose to wait until winter or spring terms to join a fraternity in hopes of things being back to normal by then. With that in mind, it is believed that students are now more willing to join in the upcoming terms because nothing has changed. Students are unwilling to wait yet another academic term to join a fraternity, especially if they know which they want to join. Chapters across all campuses are prepared and expecting winter and spring classes to be much larger than years past and fall 2020.
ZBT is also excited to share that two new chapters have been established at the University of California-Berkeley and Emory University despite the pandemic. These expansions were completely virtual, incorporating one-on-one virtual meetings, virtual town hall events, and other recruitment events. With the use of social media and different kinds of outreach opportunities, the ZBT staff connected with potential new brothers who have become founding fathers of each of these groups. Changing the mindset and how to build personal relationships with strangers through a virtual space was at the forefront of the expansions.
The creation of the virtual expansions could be credited to ZBT; however, the real kudos should go to the founding fathers of both Eta Lambda and Alpha Eta. For months, the brothers recruited, networked, and worked toward a successful expansion. Understanding the values of ZBT, their passion for being a brother of the Fraternity spread to their friends and classmates. Without this passion and their willingness to go above and beyond their expectations, ZBT would not have been able to identify nearly as many future campus leaders and great brothers. With their knowledge of the Fraternity and sense of ownership, the Eta Lambda Chapter and Alpha Eta Chapters will be top-performing chapters in the upcoming years.
If you have any questions about ZBT’s growth, know someone who should be a brother of ZBT, or would like to start a chapter, feel free to reach out to Director of Organizational Growth, David Rind, at firstname.lastname@example.org or refer a brother by visiting zbt.org/refer.