In this past week, we have been looking at the different types of student organizations, from nationally recognized to major-specific to interest-specific. What if, however, you have browsed the student organizations at your school and have yet to find one that you want to belong to? Or maybe you already belong to an organization, but feel like there needs to be another one to fill a particular void. The answer: start your own organization! Every student organization was started by people who felt the way you do and it is important to remember that an organization does not have to be well established to make an impact. Today, we will be looking at how to start your own organization and look at how to find people with similar interests, how to create a mission statement for your group, and how to establish a solid membership base.
Step One: How to Find People Let’s say you feel like your school doesn’t do enough outreach to the elderly community in the city in which it’s located and you think there should be an organization that goes to nursing homes once a month to read to residents. You have spoken with some of your friends about this and they agree. Where do you go from here? Start by making fliers and posting them in high-traffic areas on campus, such as advisory offices and your major’s office. Give a brief–and by brief, I mean a sentence or two–about what you hope to do and list your email for folks that are interested. Or, ask your major’s office to send out a bulk email with the same information. This is a great way to find people and chances are, if you feel like something should be done for the community, other people do to.
Step Two: Building a Mission Statement Once you have received a response, set up a time for all respondents to meet in a casual atmosphere to talk over different possibilities of how the group should operate. Make sure that all ideas are written down and discussed thoroughly. Discuss how you want the group to operate and what the mission should be. Your goal at the end of this meeting should be to come up with a mission that all members endorse and to set a rough schedule for future meetings.
Step Three: Retaining Members Often, this is the place where fledgling organizations fall apart. This can be avoided if one simple thing is kept in mind. People want to feel like they are part of the decision-making process of anything they are involved in. Be sure that you allow members full input and instigate some sort of voting system for new ideas. Everyone should feel like they are involved in an open forum and that everyone has equal power to contribute to the group’s progress and movement. This can be done in person or by email, but communication must remain open for members to feel involved and remain involved!
Remember, anyone can start a successful student organization with the right tools and attitude!