Clubs are a great way to pad your college applications or résumé for the working world—but they can also be so much more than that. Learning how to start a student organization can help you empathize better with others and teach you several elements of responsibility and leadership as well as give you an outlet for something you love that may not be currently represented at your school. If your school doesn’t already have an organization for your greatest interest, it’s time to start one for yourself and other like-minded students by following these important steps.
How to start your own student organization
Student-led organizations are often the most fun because they’re clubs created by your peers, for your peers, so most efforts are made in the best interests of other students. With student organizations, you can go beyond casual academics and sports and find something you’re really passionate about. If you see the power behind student-led groups, you may be looking for how to start your own high school club or college organization. Although you have quite a bit of paperwork to look forward to, combining forces with your friends and creating a club that speaks to you all will pay off for years to come. Here are five crucial steps to take to get your club up and running.
1. Gather interest
No administrator will approve a club if you don’t have potential members lined up! The first step of starting a club happens before you even start it: gather interest. You need to find students’ who’d like to join your club and collect names and contact information as proof. You can usually hook students rather easily, especially if you form your club around something that isn’t already represented at your school. Additionally, remind fellow students that high school clubs give them a boost on their college applications because schools like to see that students are involved in something—and the same goes for college students and potential employers. Once you have enough people—the minimum number of names may vary from school to school—you can finally present your club to a faculty member for their approval and sponsorship.
Related: Get Involved and Stay Involved in Student Activities
2. Find a faculty sponsor
A faculty member must serve as supervisor for your potential club. If you’re in college, it’s likely your supervisor won’t be around or attend meetings, but in high school, the staff representative will attend all your meetings and make sure everything is running smoothly. You need a faculty member on your side if you’re going to legitimize your club. This faculty member is the person who can go to bat for you and acknowledge that the club is meeting the minimum requirements to stay running. Try enlisting a teacher or professor who teaches something similar to what your club is all about so you know they’ll be passionate about it too.
3. Outline rules and policies
Whenever anyone joins your club, they’re going to have to review the rules. If you don’t have rules, your club will be lawless—you have to put boundaries in place. While some institutions may not require you to have a constitution that details every bit of the club and its checks and balances, you need to lay down some rules to make sure everyone is equal and that bad behavior isn’t tolerated. You may also have to complete online forms for the legitimacy of your organization. By registering through the school and making sure all information is up-to-date and accurate, you can potentially earn institutional funding for your organization.
4. Elect officers
Who knows this club better than you? Since you started the club, members may assume you’ll take on the role of president—but that doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re not interested in being an officer, hold open and fair elections for the office of president and any other roles and responsibilities your club must have. Make sure the officers—your peers and friends—have the best interests of the club at heart. You need to nominate devoted individuals and support them fully in their efforts. If you lean on one another when times get tough or stressful, your club will be successful without a doubt.
5. Advertise your club
Now that your club has been established and has some structure, get the word out! If you’re in high school, you may choose to announce your club through the morning announcements. If you’re in college, you could use an online portal to get your organization out to other students who might be interested. Social media is also a great option whether you’re in high school or college. You can create an account for your organization and existing members can promote it on their own social media platforms. Once you gain enough of a following, use that page to advertise your club as well as announce events and meeting times.
Related: How to Start Your Own Great Club in High School
How to maintain a club that supports everyone
It’s crucial to make sure your club includes people of all backgrounds and that everyone feels welcome and comfortable. Learning how to start your own student club that’s inclusive isn’t hard—in fact, as long as you’re open and accepting, you’ll find it’s actually quite easy. Here are three more crucial steps to take to ensure you’re running a supportive club.
1. Keep your mission in mind
Your mission should be the heart of your club. It’ll be what attracts students most to the organization and what will make them stay if the club ever goes through rough waters. Your mission should be specific and actionable. Maybe your club seeks to teach future HR workers interesting methods in the field like recruiting from talent pools, or maybe it’s an active archery club that teaches its members how to shoot arrows. Maybe it’s a club for advanced bakers who want to learn more recipes and try them out in the dorms. Whatever the case, be sure to clearly define your club’s purpose so you can attract the type of students you want in your organization.
2. Listen to others
Feedback is crucial to running a successful organization. As the founder and (potential) leader of a club, you have to be receptive to others’ feelings and take their words into consideration when revamping parts of the club that are lacking. Listening to others makes people feel welcome, included, and valued, and you definitely want happy club members. Beyond talking and working together, one way to get your members to know one another is through an icebreaker activity. Icebreakers may seem overdone in classes, but in a club setting, it’s totally different. Icebreakers can boost energy, making it an excellent activity for the first couple of meetings when you still have new members trickling in.
3. Always return to the beginning
If you lose your way and fall off track with your club, revisit what made you start it in the first place. The reason you wrote down a mission statement and went through all the trouble of legitimizing your organization was to provide a place for students who felt like this was the space they wanted to spend their time and dedicate their energy. The foundations of your club will help you in times of trouble and assist future leaders years down the line when they want to know what your organization was about at its core.
Related: Feeling Burnt Out? 5 Steps to Get Back on Track
Student-led organizations are popular because they take students’ needs and desires into account as they’re led by students themselves. They go beyond academics and sports into the most niche of interests. By creating your own student club, you’re going to be making a space that tells students they’re appreciated, even if your club represents an unusual hobby or interest. Bond with your fellow students and never forget to represent them and put them first.
Find more great advice about living your best life outside of academics in our Student Life section.