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How to Start a Successful Club on Campus

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Starting a club can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your undergrad. It gives you the opportunity to bring people together to make an impact, discover who you are as a leader and celebrate what you are passionate about in a supportive and uplifting environment.  

Launching a successful club takes a lot of planning and execution. You can think of it as starting a business. Similar to a business, when you start a club, you need to have a purpose, lead a founding team, garner awareness through marketing efforts, constantly provide value for the community you serve and raise funds to subsidize the costs associated with putting on high-value events, workshops, competitions and more.  

Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to start a successful club on campus. 

Have a Specific Purpose 

A successful business has a clear mission that unites everyone and serves as its core identity. Do you have something that you’re super passionate about that you see others are passionate about as well? Are you a Harry Potter fanatic looking to meet fellow witches and wizards or is there a prevalent mental health crisis on campus and you want to address the stigma around it? Whatever it may be, make sure you’re specific and clear about it. In fact, sit down with your founding team and write out your mission, values, goals and desired impact. This will help everyone involved gain clarity around what it is they’re working towards and encourages everyone to make decisions that are in alignment with the club’s overall mission and values. 

Here are some examples of the types of clubs you can create: 

Academic 

Arts 

Athletics & Recreation 

Community Service 

Culture-based 

Hobby & Leisure 

Media 

Politics 

Spirituality & Faith Communities 

Social Justice & Advocacy 

Student Governments, Unions, Councils 

Work & Career Development   

Get Registered 

At Wilfrid Laurier University, you can register a club under the Students’ Union to make it official the same way you have to legally register a business. This is a smart move because registered clubs have credibility as established clubs on campus and receive resources such as funding from SU, a bank account for the funds you raise and access to rooms and equipment for meetings and events. 

If you’d like to be considered for ratification, ensure that the club is open to all WLU undergraduate students, check to see that your club’s value isn’t already being offered through an existing club and decide whether you want to register as a SU-based club or a faculty-based club. In addition to this, the SU requires Waterloo-based clubs to have a president, two executives and a minimum of 20 members who have expressed interest in your club. Once you have all this in order, you can register your club on the SU website.     

Hire a Good Founding Team 

When you start a business, your first few hires play an integral role in the success of your startup. The same is true for a club. The actions of a club’s founding team set a precedent for future teams and play an integral role in shaping the culture of your club, hence why you shouldn’t just blindly hire all your friends. Instead, hire peers who are also passionate about your club’s mission and have skills they can bring to the table. Having a passion for your club’s purpose is key because it serves as a motivator when challenges arise, and things get tough. Moreover, raising awareness about your club is a priority when you first get started. You want your founding team to act as champions for the mission on campus and being passionate about it makes it even easier and fun. 

An effective team consists of portfolios focused on various tasks that need to be carried out for the success of the club. These portfolios include corporate, events, internal, marketing, finance etc. Each teammate should ideally have a specific skill such as event planning, sales or graphic design or at least show a commitment towards learning that skill/function. If you hire your friends without checking to see if their skills are a good fit, you run into the risk of wasting time and resources to make up for competencies your team may be missing. 

Create Value Internally 

In the business world, there’s a common saying that goes, “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.” It’s hard work being a leader. You’re expected to #makeshithappen, stay calm and collected no matter what and guide a team of 20 plus people. A good leader cares deeply about their team and knows that their team doesn’t work for them, they work for their team. It’s your job to create meaningful and impactful experiences for your team and set them up for success. First, you can do this by ensuring that each member’s tasks and responsibilities are defined and clear. When people don’t really know what their job is, they feel undervalued, frustrated and unmotivated. In addition, ask everyone what they hope to accomplish through their role and see how you can support them in accomplishing their goals. Next, create a culture where feedback is valued and prioritized. You can do this by carving out time during meetings for group feedback, having one-on-one feedback meetings and asking for feedback for yourself to show your team that everyone is expected to give and receive it. Feedback is what helps individuals improve themselves and their work, address doubts and uncover new ideas. Lastly, prioritize mental health and communicate to your team that their wellness comes before everything else. Collaborate with your team to create realistic expectations and take action when they let you know that they’re struggling or feel overwhelmed by deadlines and life.  

Create Value Externally   

Any good business is customer-centric and provides its customers with continuous value. As a club, you should strive to ask your community what “value” looks like to them and focus on how you can deliver that value. For example, let’s say your club is focused on helping students break into tech and you take a poll on social media asking your followers, “What’s your biggest struggle when trying to break into tech?” Let’s say that the majority vote indicates that it’s networking and getting noticed by technical recruiters. Bingo! Your next event could be focused on bringing students and current professionals in tech together to talk about the dos and don’ts of networking for a tech job. This gives students the opportunity to meet tech professionals in a more intimate setting and learn from them. Another way you can provide value using that poll result is through your marketing. Create posts such as, “How to Network for Introverts,” “Tips & Tricks to Stand Out at a Networking Event” or “Hot Takes from a Technical Recruiter”. Once you know what your peers want, you can get creative about how you deliver that value to them! 

Have Fun 

Starting a club is a big responsibility that will take up a lot of your time. It’s up to you to make the most out of it and make sure that you and everyone else that’s along for the ride is having fun! Start a club you enjoy building and one that you’ll be proud to leave behind.   

Starting a club on campus can be stressful but rewarding! I hope these tips help you create a successful club on campus. 

Thabeetha Regi

Wilfrid Laurier '23

Golden Hawk 💜 | Tech Sales Enthusiast 👩🏽‍💻 | Passionate about tech for social good 🌍 | Hufflepuff 💛 | Adventure is out there 🎈
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