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How to Start an Organization on Campus

Updated on May 11, 2016

College can be a place of great opportunity. Especially at small colleges, you might have the chance to start a new club, organization, or chapter that has never existed before on campus.

But how do you do that? Here are a few tips to get you started.


1. Have a Strong Vision

What are you going to make? Are you going to start up a film club affiliated with your school's Student Government (SGA)? Are you going to start a chapter of a larger national organization like "The Odyssey" or "Her Campus?" Are you going to start something that operates beyond campus?

First, you should see what your college already has. Second, you should consider what you have passion for and experience in. Remember, if you are going to be the one to start this organization, it's going to have to be in something you love.

Once you've found unmet need in an area that you love, you should start working on core vision of what that organization will be about. For the film club example, you'll want to distinguish what kind of film club you want. Will you watch movies? Will you talk about them? Will you make them? What will you do when you meet up?


Make a Team

Once you have a clear vision as to what your club will be, you will need to build a strong team of individuals to make it happen!

If you want to make an SGA affiliated club, you will have to find a Vice President. Treasurer, and Secretary, in addition to a strong set of general members. If you are starting a new chapter of a national organization, you will have to fill the role of Editor-In-Chief, as well as find section editors (this varies from publication to publication). If you want to make something not affiliated with the school or a national organization, you are your own boss, and you can make roles as you see fit!

Be sure to pick individuals that you work well with, and who are capable of doing the work. Don't hand out jobs to friends, this can complicate your relationship with them and you can be accused of being biased.

Keep in mind that during your club's first year, everyone will not only be responsible for their assigned job, but for helping to get the organization off of the ground. The roadmap you initially create for them might also have to be modified. For example, my college does not allow new clubs to have a budget for their first year, so we had to modify the responsibilities of the role of Treasurer until we had actual money to work with.


Problem Solve!

Your club will have a lot of malfunctions its first year, especially if this is the first time your e-board/staff have ever held leadership positions. Either way, it'll be a learning experience.

Talk to your members! See what is working and what is not. Be open to suggestions and new ideas.

When something goes wrong, talk it over with your "inner circle" (most groups have these, usually members who are in leadership positions). If you deem it necessary, talk it over with your general members. If your club is watched over by a member of the SGA/a national representative, be sure to talk to them about the issue! Chances are, other groups or chapters have run into the issue you have!

Be sure to crowd source for new ideas. If there is something your members want to see happen, do everything in your power to make it happen. Pleased general members come back.


Pitch Passionate Members on Leadership Positions

This is how organizations stay alive. At some point, there has to be a transfer of power, and to ensure that this goes smoothly, it is advantageous to give passionate members responsibility where you can. You want to keep these members active, as they are very hard to get back once they drop off.

The ideal situation would be to give people as much responsibility as they feel comfortable with. If you don't have a position open, you can make one. This can only grow your group, making it more active on campus and beyond.


Rock n' Roll!

The last, and most important thing you can do, is be consistent. Show up to your job, make sure you know everything that is going on, and emanate passion. If you're not passionate about your club/organization, your general members won't be.

Be reliable. Half the battle is showing up, the other is actually doing something. If you don't know how to do something, use your club as a resource. It is important to be aware of your member's strengths/ weaknesses in the eventuality that you will need to utilize their skills.

Remember that you are managing people, not robots. You are all there to accomplish a common goal, but you must be wary of how you accomplish that goal. An award-winning newspaper that treats its members poorly might not be worth being on. You must find the balance between work and play. If your organization is built around play (like a gaming club) it makes your job all the more easier.


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