Most college campuses offer students the opportunity to get involved in a wide variety of clubs and organizations. But what if your school doesn’t offer a club in the area you’re interested in?
Not to worry, you can start your own! We spoke with Whitney Cowling, Student Organization Activities & Initiatives Coordinator at Aims Community College, to help us break down the steps needed to get your club off the ground.
Why start your own club?
Campus clubs and organizations allow students to connect with their peers over a common interest or activity.
“It’s important for students to have an outlet that’s not necessarily academic with a group of people who share the same interest. Clubs build community, which has been shown to help students complete their degree program,” explained Cowling.
Aside from making new friends, you can hone your leadership and professional skills. Students involved in organizations learn how to plan and advertise events, recruit new members, and engage with their community under the guidance of a staff advisor. These are all great things to list on your resume.
Define the purpose of your club
Think about the goal of your club and identify what you’re looking to accomplish.
“We have a broad offering of organizations. They run the gamut. Some are tied to academic departments, some are identity-based, and some are interest-based,” said Cowling.
Check in with your Student Life office for guidance. They can help you flesh out ideas and ensure your proposed organization is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws, in addition to school policies and procedures. Ultimately, they will review your club’s proposal for approval, so it’s a great idea to receive their feedback from the start.
Start recruiting club members
It’s common for schools to require a minimum member count before approving the club. Cowling explained that Aims Community College requires five fee-paying students to be interested in a club before it is approved as an official campus organization.
“Find students with the same interests as you, then find a staff member who’s willing to help advise.”
Advisors are generally required to oversee the progress of your organization. They will provide helpful feedback and make sure you’re staying on track with the goals you’ve outlined for the club.
Receive training and spread the word
Your organization’s officers will likely need to receive some formal training before you can start advertising on campus. Cowling explained that the president and treasurer of new clubs are required to complete a mandatory officer training before the club can represent itself as an official organization of the college.
“Once they find their members and advisor, and complete a mandatory training officer training, we consider them to be an official club on campus. Then our office awards them $100 as start up money.”
After the club has been approved you may be entitled to helpful resources, like graphic design and printing assistance to get the word out around campus. You can also create social media accounts or have promotional items made to help stir up interest.
Hold your first meeting
Now that your club is up and running, you’ll need to put together a few strategies to keep members interested.
“Honestly, I tell my leaders to Google ice breakers. They can be as simple as ‘Would you rather go swimming or climb Mount Everest?’ The goal is to get people talking and move into deeper conversations.”
Need help generating ideas? Ask your advisor for help with team building activities. They’ll help steer you in the right direction.
Keep the momentum going
Starting a club is hard work, but rewarding in the end. Be sure to keep meeting records to archive discussions and ideas for improvement. Connect with club members and ask for their feedback on how the club is running.
Lastly, don’t try to do everything at once. Building your club will take time, so focus on small goals and celebrate your victories.