How to Start a Club on Campus

Have you ever found yourself sitting back in your chair asking yourself, "...what if I started a club?" I am sure you also follow up with that question with statements like "...but that seems like TOO much work," "I could NEVER keep up with all of that," or "...I don't know if I am good enough to do that..." I cannot stress enough that those statements are far from the truth.

I had all of those statements swirling around in my head one after another, continuing with more and more statements of self-doubt and uncertainty. A best friend of mine, Erin Lalli (President of Her Campus Pitt) one night texted me a screenshot of a "Her Campus" conference held annually in New York. She went on to explain how it seemed like a conference I would be interested in and altogether the organization reminded her of me. We have known each other since second grade and I really valued what advice she had for me. I answered her in excitement and went on and on how I wished there was an organization like that at my school. She answered immediately saying, "You should start a chapter yourself! Why not!" I went on saying "...well I don't know about that" and filling my screen with sentences of self-doubt saying I don't think I am good enough to do that or if I had what it took. She shrugged her shoulders and said it was up to me but I should think about it. I opened the application and after briefly looking it over, I was filled with panic and complete anxiousness. Unsure about what to do, I closed my pages and fell asleep.

I pushed it aside and tried to not think about it, but there was a little voice bothering me. I found myself sitting at the reception desk at my internship thinking about it for the entire week. An email popped up from Julianne Skrivan saying she had noticed I started a form and to follow up with her if I had further questions. At this point in my life, I was a sophomore in college. I had a job where all the men in the office got to have "basketball breaks" and my boss would give me the work they didn't finish up for the rest of my shift. I was stuck, I wasn't sure what I was aiming to do and I hadn't found anything at my university I was truly passionate about. At the end of my 8-hour shift, I drove home and began the application process.  

Looking back, now marking a full year since I started and became the president of Her Campus, I cannot express how grateful I am that I made that leap of faith. I never looked at myself as a self-starter or a person to talk in front of a room full of people. But, there was a small part of me that told me I was capable, even if I was unfamiliar with it, it didn't entirely mean I couldn't do it. So, from my experience with trials and errors, here are my tips on how to start a club/organization on campus!

 

  1. 1. Know Your Contacts

    A group of people are in a meeting. They appear to be in a conference room at work. A woman is standing and shaking hands across the table with a man who is sitting down.

    First things first, know who you need to contact to get started in the process. In my case, I had to contact our Student Government Association so that our club could be a "recognized organization on campus." Oftentimes, they will send you a list of requirements and steps that you will need to fulfill and pass to be able to get to the final steps for SGA to approve of your club/organization. 

  2. 2. Ask Questions

    four women working at conference table job

    Do not be shy, ask questions! Reach out faculty and staff on campus that you can trust will guide you into the right direction and will have your back along the process. These are the contacts you will be reaching back out to down the road for references, advice, and help when you graduate going into your career. These are the unsung heroes that deserve more gratitude than they are given. 

  3. 3. Be Knowledgable and Ready

    a hand holds a pen writing on sheets of paper on a wooden desk. there's a coffee cup and a notebook in front of it.

    I cannot stress this enough, come prepared.  

    (1) One piece of advice both of my parents gave me was the following: #1 - Memorize your mission statement & #2 Memorize a short, concise summary of your club and what you are aiming for/your goal is by having this club on campus. Not only did this help prepare me along the application process, but it also gave me confidence when I was in board meetings with students and faculty asking me questions regarding Her Campus and my mission.

    (2) Compile a folder filled with any possible information you may need on hand in any of the meetings you are invited to attend. For Her Campus, I made sure to include the national application forms (with prompts and answers listed), my ideas for the club, how I would organize meetings/paperwork/elections/problems and anything I could possibly think of that I may be asked. This preparation enabled me to be knowledgable about the organization I was starting. Funny enough, I ended up using all of my forms stored in my folder, whether it was to answer questions or personally bring up suggestions on how Her Campus could better the university's campus.

  4. 4. Hold Your Ground and Negotiate

    6 women working together in conference room meeting

    Please, and I cannot stress this enough, do not back down if someone does not agree or understand your POV or goals. I was consistently questioned and pushed to do things differently by countless amounts of different people along the process. However, I held my ground and kindly agreed to disagree. From there, I proceeded with what I wanted to have accomplished and how I was going to get there. Many times, you would be surprised how many times people will back down if you stand your ground and have credentials and expertise behind your statements and knowledge. 

    If you find yourself in a situation where you hit a dead-end, negotiate! Many times, staff and faculty will be willing to make arrangements with you if they feel you are competent and resourceful enough to uphold your organization and promises you are making to the college or university.

  5. 5. Have People Backing You

    Right away, they will ask you for a list of names and emails of who would consist of your executive board for your club/organization. If you do not have a list of people right away you can think of, use your resources! Go on your Class of 2021's Facebook page, reach out to other students you follow on Instagram, post on your story saying that you are looking for students for the following positions, ask your close friends to ask their friends if they know people, and etc! You never know where it may lead you to. My founding executive board consisted of friends of friends, people I reached out to through Instagram, and past clubs I was a part of. 

    Reach out to people, and be unapologetic and confident while doing so.

  6. 6. Know Your Goal and Lead with It

    two yellow pillar candles with a bullet journal and art supplies

    Have ingrained in your brain what your overall goal is behind this club/organization you are starting. A way that I found helped me reach the exact goal was these few questions I asked myself:

    (1) What will my club bring that my university may not have already?

    (2) What will my members carry with them from my club after they graduate?

    (3) What can I provide my members to help better their experience on campus? What can I improve on and add to my club?

    If you have answers to all of these questions, you are on the right path and you will make a difference.

  7. 7. Follow Up with People and be Persistent

    I will not sugarcoat it, you will need to be on people's backs to get responses and answers in a timely manner. Many times, it has to do with waiting for a response or "so and so" to get back to you. Be persistent. Thank someone for meeting with you and make sure to include in your email "I look forward to hearing back from you." If you do not hear back, follow up. Go to their office during office hours. Do everything in your power to show that you want to get things done because not everyone will be on the same time crunch as you. 

    Trust me, you are not being a pest or annoying. You are getting business done. I was told during the time I was applying that oftentimes it takes students a few months to a whole semester to get the process done and approved. 

    I started and completed it within three weeks.

  8. 8. Be Proud of Your Club and What it Stands For

    Four Women In Front Of Green Bushes

    Be excited, proud, and happy about your club! Let everyone under the sun know how cool your club is and why they should want to be a part of it. Your excitement and enthusiasm will be contagious and the right kind of people you want to attract to your club will gravitate to you. People will be just as excited as you and will want the club to succeed just as much as you want it to. Make a club you and your members can be proud of at the end of the day. 

At the end of it all, be so incredibly proud of yourself for the hard work and dedication you are putting into your club/organization. It takes a lot of grunt work and tedious attention to detail with paperwork. However, when everything is said and done, you will be so happy with the end result. I promise you.