Over time, sorority membership ebbs and flows for a myriad of reasons. Continuous Open Bidding is the way to make sure chapter membership remains at a level that is consistent with the other chapters on a campus. Before diving deeper, there are a few terms to make sure you really understand:
Total: This is the maximum number of members a chapter may have. It has year-round significance and automatically re-adjusts each fall and spring. When you have primary recruitment, it changes right after Bid Day. When you don’t have primary recruitment, it changes within seven days of classes beginning. Total is set on each campus a little differently, and the method should be stated in a Panhellenic’s recruitment rules. Most campuses use the size of the largest chapter, the average chapter size or the median chapter size. When a chapter on a campus falls below the campus total, the chapter is permitted to recruit new members to reach total again. Because of the way total is set, most, if not all, chapters within a Panhellenic will be able to take new members during the year.
Quota: When a chapter participates in bid matching, quota is the number of members that may match with a sorority. Reaching quota is the only time that a sorority’s membership may grow above total. Because quota is related to bid matching, it happens once yearly and has significance to that primary recruitment cycle.
Continuous Open Bidding (COB): Sororities use this process to recruit women and grow their chapter to total. COB begins when total is reset and ends when classes end for that term. Eligibility to grow to total is an opportunity offered by your Panhellenic. While it is recommended that all eligible chapters use COB to grow to total, it is not required by the Panhellenic. Forfeiting an opportunity to host COB is like not collecting a tax return. You do not have to do it, but you’re leaving something valuable on the table if you do not.
Snap Bid: Snap bids are offered by chapters that do not match to quota in bid matching during primary recruitment. Snap bids are given out before bids are distributed on a campus’s bid day. They are not to be confused with COB bids. If bids have been distributed on your campus, everything else is a COB bid.
Why is Continuous Open Bidding important?
Continuous Open Bidding (COB) allows a sorority to close the gap in terms of membership. Because all chapters are allowed to recruit to total each fall and spring, most chapters are really close to that number. Because the chapters that are below total are only a few below, it doesn’t take many new members to grow back to total. Because the chapters that are above total are usually only a few over, the chapters above total at the beginning of the term have gone below it by the end of the term, meaning almost every sorority has the opportunity to recruit through COB during any given school year. Almost certainly, every chapter goes below total at least once during a student’s four year time on a campus, so everyone should stay abreast of COB strategies. And again, it is recommended that every sorority take every opportunity to grow to total through COB.
Think about it this way:
· Fall of year one:
o Sorority E has 100 members and matches to the quota of 35.
o Sorority E has 135 members and is the largest chapter of 8. Total is 129.
o Sorority E loses 4 new members, 6 members resign, and 3 members graduate.
· Spring of year one:
o Sorority E returns with 120 members, after two do not return to campus.
o When all chapter sizes are evaluated, total is reset to the median, 122.
o Sorority E chooses not to host COB to fill those two spots.
o Four members resign, 24 members graduate, and one does not return to school.
· Fall of year two:
o Sorority E returns to campus with 92 members and matches to the quota of 37.
o Sorority E has 129 members. Total is 131.
o Sorority E chooses not to host COB to fill those two spots.
o Sorority E loses 3 new members, 5 members resign, and 1 graduate.
· Spring of year two:
o Sorority E returns with 119 members after one does not return to campus.
o When chapter sizes are evaluated, total is 125.
As you can see, in the matter of a few semesters, Sorority E went from six over total to six-under total, just by not utilizing COB. If they continue to neglect COB, that gap will quickly grow. You can see that the chapter isn’t losing large numbers of women and you can tell by the change in quota and total that membership is growing and the other chapters are staying closer to total, most likely by COB. These gaps of two and three and even six are manageable. But, as COB is neglected, the gap can grow to an unmanageable number, leading that chapter to eventually become far below total. Chapters that are strong in recruitment are not just strong during the primary recruitment process but capitalize on growth opportunities all year round.
Scenarios that lead to COB opportunities:
· Sorority A is one of seven chapters on a campus.
o The campus uses median chapter size as their campus total.
o Last term, the median was 75 and Sorority A had 76 members.
o Primary recruitment was held during this academic term.
o After every sorority lost members to graduation and attrition, each chapter also matched to quota, which was 20.
o The new median size is 80.
o Sorority A was at 82, but 6 new members have withdrawn, leaving the chapter at 76.
§ They have room to recruit four more members.
· Sorority B is one of four chapters on a campus that uses average chapter size to calculate total.
o Sorority B is new and established last fall was set at 60.
o When the sorority came to campus, they invited 60 women to join.
o All but five were initiated and five more graduated at the end of the term.
o It is the new term and Sorority B has 50 members.
o Other sororities lost a few members as well and the new average is 58.
§ Sorority B can invite eight more women to join.
· Sorority C is on a campus with three sororities.
o They use the largest chapter size to determine total.
o Last term, Sorority C was the largest on campus, with 36 members, so total was 36.
o This term, they have 31 members, but the largest one has 34.
§ Sorority C can recruit three more members.
· Sorority D is on a campus with 15 sororities and uses median chapter size to determine total.
o Sorority D is a very strong chapter on the campus and matches to exact quota each year in primary recruitment.
o Members rarely resign from the sorority. But, they are academically strong and they have a higher number of early graduates that the other sororities.
o Total is typically around 150 on this campus and Sorority D usually has at least 10 graduates early each year.
o While Sorority D has excellent retention, they are losing members to graduation and are often six to eight women below total at the beginning of the non-primary recruiting term.
As a College Panhellenic, here are steps you can take to help every chapter grow to total:
- Be timely in setting total. Get your rosters settled early and often. In alignment with NPC policy, total should be set within 72 hours of bid distribution during terms when primary recruitment happens. Otherwise, it must be set within 72 hours of the beginning of class for that term. The setting of total is like the starting gun of a race. It lets everyone know when to begin. Out of respect for the chapters who are ready to proceed with events, set total on time and make sure it is done accurately. Announce it to the chapters and let them get going.
- Have an officer within your Panhellenic assigned to monitor and promote year-round joining like COB. This is usually the recruitment officer, but she can have an assistant assigned to this if it helps.
- Keep tabs on chapter sizes. As soon as you become aware of a chapter that is eligible for COB, reach out to them and let them know that they are eligible and how many bids they are allowed to give out. They may not even realize they have room for new members. Also, remember that there is no limit on the number of times a chapter may conduct recruitment. A chapter may welcome new members every time they are below total, even if that is more than once a semester.
- Keep any necessary documents on hand and make them available to the chapters. Some campuses have grade releases for potential members to sign so that chapters can check grades. Make sure to put these in the hands of chapters below total, even before they ask for them. If you ask them to register their events, have that procedure to them in writing before they need it. Remember that their COB new members must sign a COB MRABA. Make sure each chapter has copies. Once they are signed, the chapter submits a copy to the Panhellenic Office to be kept for one year. The chapter may consider keeping a copy on file for themselves.
- Maintain a database of interested women. This could be done by a google doc. It could be a Word document to be completed and emailed in. It could be a notebook of hand-written forms in your Panhellenic Office. Make sure you are collecting their names, contact information, and academic information. If a woman is not academically eligible, chapters do not need to invite her and string her along if she has no hope of being asked to join. However you do it, make sure the information in the database is readily available to the chapter recruitment officers as needed. Remember, that a woman does not have to be in the database to receive a bid. It is just a place that chapters can go to for ideas. Promote COB by promoting this database and inviting women to sign up.
- Make and share a database of ineligible women on your campus. Include women who have been initiated into an NPC organization already, but are no longer affiliated. Also, include women who have signed MRABAs, received bids, and then either declined the bid or withdrawn before initiation within the past year. These women are not eligible, but they sometimes still try to join a sorority through COB. We need to make sure that the chapters understand all policies regarding eligibility so that they will be faithful in reporting ineligible women to the database as well as in making sure that they do not mistakenly ask an ineligible woman to join.
- Stay in touch with the chapters as they host COB. Collect basic outlines of their plans, making sure they comply with university policies but do not get too in the weeds. Also, remember that a sorority does not even necessarily need to have an event to host COB. If they have room for one and they know who they want, they can simply call her. She should still sign and submit an MRABA.
- Respect chapter wishes. Some organizations want to meet lots of women through COB and will have events that anyone can come to. In those cases, help them get the word out if they want you to. In other cases, a sorority may only have room for two people and maybe quietly selecting their two new members. Help them maintain their private business. Some people will only be interested in COB if the “right” chapters are participating. If this is their approach, COB is probably not for them. Be mindful that chapter membership numbers, which chapters are eligible for COB, and which ones might host it are not to be shared with anyone.