Strength in Numbers

By Anika Jackson, Senior Director/Director of Member Services

As every Brother looks for ways to keep his/her Chapter strong, conversation usually turns back to membership. There are two crucial things to think about when considering a Chapter’s membership:  1) how to recruit quality Brothers and 2) how to keep these Brothers interested and involved.  Unlocking the secrets to these two areas puts a Chapter on the road to continued success.

Since we’ve talked so much about recruitment in recent months, I’d like to talk about the second point: how to keep Brothers interested and involved.

Let’s explore two tools to help with long-term Chapter sustainability:

  • Ideal Chapter Size, and
  • Retention.

Ideal Chapter Size – What is it?

You may have heard the term “Ideal Chapter Size (ICS)” in passing, but what is it and what does it really mean?

Each Chapter has an ICS that’s calculated based on a number of variables specific to each sheltering institution (such as number of undergraduate students, number of Greek organizations on campus, etc.) and each Chapter (such as past recruitment and attrition rates).

Your Chapter’s ICS is specific to your Chapter and your campus.

How the ICS Can Help Your Chapter

By attaining and maintaining your Chapter’s ICS, your Chapter will:

  • Achieve long-term sustainability by ensuring a stable membership base.
  • Stay competitive with other organizations on campus.

Your Chapter’s ICS

Each Chapter will receive notification of its ICS within the week. Please check with your Region Consultant or Chapter president to find out your Chapter’s ICS.

Retention – What is it?

When thinking about retention, one has to think about keeping existing Brothers as well as Initiates engaged, interested, involved and excited about Phi Sigma Pi. Think of each Initiate and Brother as a customer. Are his/her needs being met through membership in your Chapter? What will keep him/her connected to the Chapter? These are things each Chapter should examine.

Retention is Important

Retention ensures that your Chapter will remain a viable Chapter. Retention ensures that Brothers will stay engaged with your Chapter and hopefully remain connected as Alumni. This ensures that knowledge is shared (and not lost) over time and that the Chapter continues to improve.

Also, as each Chapter strives to become the Ideal Phi Sigma Pi Chapter, you’ll notice that retaining at least 85% of the Initiate class (from Pinning to Induction) is an element.

How to Make Retention Work

As I began thinking more about retention, I bumped into this article and came away with some ideas. While the article talks about customer retention, there are some direct correlations to Brother retention.

Listening to and implementing feedback from Brothers and Initiates is a free, easy way for the Chapter to make sure its offerings continue to match the needs of Brothers and Initiates.

Take Action!

Challenge yourself to apply some of the tactics found in the link above in your Chapter. Think of ways to keep Brothers excited about and involved in your Chapter. This will naturally lead to stronger retention in pursuit of your Chapter’s ICS.



  1. I appreciate that a great deal of work has gone into determining the “Ideal Chapter Size,” but I am concerned that stressing this quantitative aspect of retention may detract from the importance of qualitative aspects of retention. The case could be made that there is strength in small numbers too. That smaller, more intimate Chapters form more meaningful, longer lasting bonds within their ranks than larger Chapters. Surely these more intimate experiences lead to greater lifetime retention of quality Brothers per capita than the less personal experiences of a larger Chapter. How does a Chapter effectively balance the quantitative and the qualitative when being presented with multiple numeric metrics in the “Ideal Chapter” document?

    1. Josh- Thanks for your response. The conversation about quality vs. quantity has been one that’s been around for a while. Of course, every Chapter strives to recruit and retain quality Brothers, above all. However, one must be cognizant that in order for a Chapter to succeed long-term, an adequate membership size is necessary.

      A Chapter’s Ideal Chapter Size (ICS) is a guideline for Chapters to use as an indicator of on-going Chapter sustainability and competitiveness on campus. This is only a guideline.

      National ICS numbers range from 25 to 100, depending on the Chapter, and are calculated based on a number of Chapter specific variables (campus demographics, past Chapter size, past Chapter recruitment, etc.).

      In terms of incorporating the Ideal Chapter document guidelines for recruitment and retention [1) recruits at least 5% of all eligible perspectives at the university and 2) retains 85% of initiate class (Pinning to Induction)], these are also goals for which the Chapter should strive. These can be challenging to achieve, but encourage Chapters to think about their true potential.

      The key to retention, overall, is to find ways to recruit and keep Initiates engaged in the Chapter so that they continue to want to remain connected as Collegiate and Alumni Brothers. As you state, those “meaningful, longer lasting bonds” are what motivate Brothers to stay involved. On-going engagement to achieve this can be done in a number of ways including: surveys of the Brotherhood to ensure that Chapter events match well with Brother interests; open forums to discuss Chapter ideas, particularly for fellowship events; and Chapter-level goal setting.

      Anika Jackson
      Senior Director/Director of Member Services

  2. Thank you, Anika.

    I like that you have presented these metrics as guidelines and challenging goals rather than hard rules upon which Chapters are graded. Part of my concern was that in striving to reach numerical goals, Chapters may loose sight of the more important aspects of our Fraternity, namely scholarship, leadership, and fellowship.

    I thought that the article you linked in the original blog entry was a smart perspective too.

    Can you offer any insight on dealing with the qualitative challenges that arise as a Chapter grows to meet the quantitative goals? I recall that when I was an undergrad, our retention rate from the Induction Ritual to the Alumni Ritual seemed lowest during period of great expansion.

  3. Josh,

    Some tools provided by the National Office that help Chapters and Brothers remember and remind others what it means to be a Brother (the quality aspect) are:

    * Characteristics of an Ideal Brother – Revisit this list at least once per academic term. Perhaps the Chapter can create a Brother-led event around having Brothers tell how they exemplify one of the 17 traits.

    * All of the ceremonies contained in The Ceremonies Book* reinforce what it means to be a Brother. A few examples:

    ** Meeting Commencement Ceremony – Implement this at the beginning of each meeting where voting will occur. This can be especially helpful for meetings that are scheduled to be longer or more emotional/controversial, to ensure that Brothers are reminded of why they are there.

    ** Alumni Ritual – Use this as a way to remind Brothers who are moving from Collegiate to Alumni of their commitment to the Tripod and the Brotherhood. Implement at the end of each academic term for graduating seniors.

    ** Ritual Review and Discussion – Reinforces for newly inducted and more seasoned Brothers the meaning and purpose of Phi Sigma Pi. Consider implementing this shortly (a week or two) after new Brothers are inducted into the Chapter or at the beginning of the following academic term.

    I’d suggest that Chapters use these tools often as a reminder to current Brothers as to why they became Brothers and why they continue to stay involved.

    Again, each Chapter needs to keep its “finger on the pulse” of what’s important and relevant to its Members. Surveys and fellowship events are a great way of achieving that, as well.

    Anika Jackson
    Senior Director/Director of Member Services

    *Copies The Ceremonies Book can be requested from the National Office by emailing

    1. Anika,

      I can tell you from my undergraduate experience that utilizing the Meeting Commencement Ceremony and the Alumni Ritual have a very positive effect of Chapter and Brother morale. Thank you for the additional suggestions and resources. Have a great week!


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