Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Dr. Aariel Charbonnet, Phi Theta Kappa’s Manager of Member Support and Outreach.
The inaugural cycle of REACH (Recognizing Excellence in Acceptance and Completion with Honors) Rewards has ended with 422 chapters earning this esteemed distinction. Launched in 2016 to recognize and reward Phi Theta Kappa chapters excelling in membership development, the REACH Rewards program rewards chapters that meet or exceed a membership acceptance rate of 15 percent.
Acceptance rates are calculated using the chapter’s membership totals, the number of eligible students provided to PTK, and the enrollment totals for the chapter’s college.
In addition to free graduation stoles, REACH chapter attendees were honored at our 99th annual convention, PTK Catalyst. Students received special REACH chapter ribbons; advisors were recognized for this distinction at the advisor luncheon; and all REACH chapters were listed in the 2017 Awards Program.
As we embark on the 2018 cycle of this program (which runs Jan. 1-Dec. 31), I encourage all chapters to strive for REACH Rewards. Director of Membership Services Heather Schmidt says focused effort on recruitment and ambassadorship is key to increasing chapters’ membership acceptance rate, and, therefore, their likelihood of earning REACH Rewards. As a former recruiting coordinator for a college athletics program and transfer admissions recruiter, Heather offers an insightful take on the importance of member recruitment and the value of becoming a REACH chapter. I sat down with her to learn more.
Q: To earn REACH Rewards, a chapter’s membership acceptance rate must be at least 15 percent. What is significant about 15 percent?
A: In 2016, our membership acceptance rate for the Society increased to 13.2 percent. The strength of PTK as an organization is determined by the achievements of our chapters on the local level. If we challenge the local chapters to achieve 15 percent acceptance rates, then the Society as a whole will be elevated in terms of providing access to the life-changing benefits of membership to more and more deserving students.
Q: In addition to receiving complimentary graduation stoles and recognition at the annual convention, how else do Phi Theta Kappans benefit from this program?
A: The REACH Rewards program allows all PTK participants (advisors, alumni, members, officers, or even other school officials) to get behind an initiative that will stimulate growth AND provide motivation and a goal to focus on every day. Also, any type of reward or recognition is a marker for success that the chapter could use as justification or evidence of return on investment when requesting funding or other resources from administrators. After all, the larger the PTK chapter, the more individual students who are being encouraged to persist, engage, complete, and transfer/enter the workforce.
Plus, it gives students something tangible to discuss with a future employer or internship provider in terms of the skill of recruiting/ambassadorship to tell a compelling story in a scholarship essay or admission application. It’s a marketable, transferable, and valuable skill, something quantifiable. There’s a time and place for raising awareness, but that’s more subjective and passive. Taking action and having the confidence to engage in direct recruitment is a gold mine of an experience for students who are in year one or two of their college career. And, recruitment is for EVERYONE—no one is too shy. They can help out with organizing events, building a website, or with social media recruitment efforts.
Q: You stress the importance of recruiting/ambassadorship as a necessary ingredient in and benefit of REACH Rewards. What makes this an invaluable component of the REACH Rewards equation?
A: Employers or internship providers will be impressed to hear a college student talk about how he or she recruited students to accept membership in PTK, an organization whose mission they support. Students should leverage their PTK membership and capitalize on the opportunity. Telling a compelling story about creating access for others to join PTK should involve mention of things like getting comfortable approaching strangers, strategically setting up an eye-catching display, confidently pitching membership, and being responsible enough to follow up with prospective leads after the event.
Professionals in hiring positions or on interview/review committees will appreciate applicants who took the initiative to better themselves, their campus and their community—not because it was required for a grade or mandatory, but because they chose to do so. The Phi Theta Kappa experience is so much more than a stamp on a transcript or a line on a resume.
It is simply not enough to identify and invite students. It is a dangerous assumption to think students will receive an invitation and join. Recruitment, follow-up contact, and orientation/information sessions are necessary to convert eligible students to members. Failing to convert eligible students into members means no exposure to life-changing benefits of membership.
Q: You mentioned that Phi Theta Kappans would benefit from focusing on REACH Rewards as a daily goal. What does that look like?
A: As a true ambassador of Phi Theta Kappa, you’re “on” 24/7. Whether wearing a PTK shirt, “Ask Me About PTK” sticker, pin, or medallion, you will attract attention and get questions. There are many other things that a member can plan and promote daily: a webinar, an on-campus informational session, a Competitive Edge or CollegeFish.org workshop. When members sign the C4 pledge, one aspect of it is for each one to help one, so members should feel obligated to create access to PTK or promote membership benefits each day. If you consider every student to be a prospective member and every staff and faculty member as a potential supporter, then you will find yourself developing a true recruiter mindset.
As the 2018 cycle of REACH Rewards takes flight, Phi Theta Kappa will continue to encourage membership development with complimentary graduation stoles for chapters earning at least a 15 percent membership acceptance rate at the local level. By making a concerted effort to recruit new members and serve as strong Phi Theta Kappa ambassadors, EVERY chapter has the potential to become a REACH Rewards chapter.
Advisors, Members, and Officers: Make this your goal! The long-term benefit is maximized access to the lifetime benefits of Phi Theta Kappa membership.