Are Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff right? Do parents just not understand?
How do you get parents to understand that Phi Delta Theta is more than just a house? How do you help them understand the value of your fraternal experience without them attending ritual?
The average parent would probably say they are confused enough by LMAO and Tweeting. What about the parent that did not attend college and does not recognize the funny looking letters on your house and shirts…or phrases like coke date, swap and mixers.
As the first-generation college student population increases the number of first-time fraternity parents does as well. Most of these students start off at a two-year institution and then transfer often times with a break immediately after high school for work and/or military service.
What does this mean for you as a Phi Delt?
As you’re probably discovering the way your chapter is recruiting is changing. The potential new members might be a little older, might be coming to school from the military and have parents that are not familiar with what fraternities have become today. Fraternities are no longer “frats.” They no longer have membership restricted by race and the phrase “values-based recruiting” is a part of the everyday conversation.
Recruiting potential new members and keeping members also includes recruiting and retaining their parents.
As chapter leaders, it is important that parents be included in the undergraduate membership experience. No, I’m not talking about inviting them to social events and chapter meetings. But consider how parents could be included in the other aspects the fraternal experience.
It could be as simple as a parent newsletter. Don’t just send them a copy of the alumni newsletter. Make a specific one for them. Make it parent specific. Include pictures with members doing “stuff,” not just pictures of members dressed up in costumes for social events. Show them what day-to-day living is like in the fraternity house and/or on campus. They want to know about intramurals and the service project the chapter just completed and even the member who got his first A on a test.
Consider starting a Parent or Mom or Dad Club. They can be a virtual “club” since not all parents are (a) parents in the traditional sense especially with the growth of step-parents and (b) not all parents live nearby. Take advantage of Facebook and have a Fan page for parents only. Create a Parent Chairman position to communicate with parents. He can post reminders about upcoming fees, events and updates on the chapter’s activities. Some parent clubs work with Housing Corporations on projects and/or fundraising. Below is an example of a fundraising letter sent to active members’ parents by the chapter president’s mother.
Use the same communication strategies that you use with members. No, not the chapter listserv that generates 100+ emails a day. Use the chapter’s AIM or Twitter account with the reminders and daily updates. Invite parents to follow and/or subscribe to it. Keep in mind that means that these messages should always be parent friendly.
Keep in mind that parent relations should not be hard or expensive. Parents want to be involved and want to know what is happening with their kid at college. Creating relationships with parents is very similar to recruiting potential new members: meet them, make them your friend, introduce them to your friends and then introduce them to Phi Delta Theta.
PARENT LETTER EXAMPLE
Up on the housetop, reindeer pause.
Out jumps good old Santa Claus.
The roof gives way at the Pike house, alas
Santa lands in the foyer, right on his —.
Ho, ho, ho! Where did he go? Ho, ho, ho! Where did he go?
As the holiday season approaches, ideas for the perfect gift begin to overtake my thoughts. I have a 20-year old son who is a member of the XYZ Fraternity at the ANYWHERE College. Since he turned twelve and gave up paint ball, it has been my greatest challenge to give him a Christmas gift that is meaningful and appreciated.
So if you are a XYZ, a recently graduated XYZ, a parent, or spouse, here is a chance to give an interesting gift and offer a helping hand to the entire brotherhood. The fraternity house is in need of a new roof and estimates for replacement costs are in the range of $15,000. Consider making a roof repair donation in honor of your XYZ.
A $25 donation will provide one bundle of shingles and two bundles are $50. It will take approximately 600 bundles to cover the roof. Mail checks to:
Memphis, TN 38112
Please include XYZ fundraiser on the MEMO line of the check. Within a few days, you will receive a certificate that can be presented to your XYZ honoree on Christmas morning or a similar occasion.
I truly believe that your XYZ will appreciate the thoughtfulness of this gift. These young men who are current brothers have every intention of raising this money and having the job done properly and they will certainly appreciate the financial help. This house full of friendship and fun will be made secure for posterity. Please help Santa stay safe on the housetop.
For further information on this project, contact CHAPTER PRESIDENT, Theta Chapter president, EMAIL@ANYWHERE.edu.
Donations are not tax-deductible.
Parent of XYZ Chapter President
M.L. Gough is the Event Coordinator for the University Center and Rose Theatre at The University of Memphis. She is a Delta Zeta from Arkansas State University and received her Masters of Education from The University of Arkansas. She has served as the Greek Advisor at several institutions and now enjoys volunteering with fraternities and sororities.