The Care and Keeping of College Clubs
College clubs are like butterflies: beautiful to behold and terribly, terribly fragile. Because of the high turnover rate of club leaders and the fickleness of college students, clubs can be quick to die. There are, however, some things that you can do to make sure your club survives the summer season and flourishes in the coming school year.
Make sure people know who runs what: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s possible that in the rush to head back home for the summer, club members may have forgotten who exactly is the president or the PR chair. If you’re an old club executive, make sure this is squared away. If you’re newly elected, make sure your school and your student government knows who you are and how to get in touch with you. This way they’ll let you know about those all-important club registration meetings with the Very Important Paperwork. As an added bonus, knowing who’s responsible for what will make it much easier to assign tasks to club leaders once the school year starts.
Meet before school starts: Whether it’s through Facebook, Skype, or in person, the executive board of your club needs to keep in touch during the summer. Leaders should know–before the school year starts–what the big picture goals are for the club in the coming year and what big events are coming up. That way they’ll have something to talk about with prospective members and something to motivate returning members to keep coming back. Plus, a before-school meeting will give club leaders a single focus to aspire to and a unified direction to move in.
Make plans for club fair: Your school probably has a club fair to convince people to get involved during the first few weeks. Know (preferably a few weeks ahead) what’s involved in getting a table–and reserve it. In addition, find some artistic member to create interesting signs for your table. Nothing says “sad” quite like a slapped-together poster board with some glitter glue. Last but not least, make sure to actually have someone (preferably multiple someones) manning the table for the entire length of the club fair–try to get your most personable, chatty members to sit. You want to attract new members and make it very clear what it is that your club does.
Keep up a steady presence: Once club fair is over, you need to keep up a presence on campus so that members keep coming. Have regular meetings, and advertise them well–more than the day before. If your school is big on sidewalk chalk drawings, draw them. If they have a central electronic notification system, use it. Create a Facebook group or a Twitter feed and make an executive board member stay on top of it. Clubs are much harder to ignore when they’re reminding you that they exist.
Collaborate: Find like-minded clubs and collaborate with them. The easiest way to have well-attended events for little money is to collaborate with another group. If you’re a cultural group, combine with the film studies kids to screen a relevant film with pizza. If you’re a religious group, advertise to the other denominations on campus. If you let people outside of your circle know about an event, you’re likely to draw a big crowd and (if you’re lucky) draw in some new members.
Food: Ask your student government for as much money as you can get away with, and spend it on food. Have cookies at your meetings and Thai at your events–college students will come to almost anything if they’re promised dinner (even more so if it’s something more exciting than pizza!).
Being involved in a campus group can be one of the most rewarding parts of college–especially if it manages to last through multiple generations of college students. Commenters: what tips do you have for keeping a group active even during the most hectic parts of the college school year?