Want to make a difference on your campus? Here are some tips for getting started:
-Examine the current campus landscape. Are their existing campus groups that match up with what you want to do? If so, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Join the group and become an active member.
-If there is no existing campus group that is a good fit for your beliefs, start one. The first thing to do is to figure out what your goals are. What issues do you want to focus on? Is your group an activist organization? An educational organization? Think through what you want your group to become and write these goals and this vision as a succinct mission statement. A good mission statement will drive the actions of your organization and help ensure consistency over time. For example, here is the mission statement of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club:
The Bucknell University Conservatives Club is a non-partisan student organization dedicated to promoting the free exchange of ideas in an environment where meaningful debate and ideological diversity are often lacking. We, its members, seek to serve the Bucknell community by infusing it with the ingredients necessary for a balanced educational experience. These ingredients include conservative, libertarian, and classical liberal thought. We aim to find and describe logical solutions to issues big and small, while adhering to the Constitution of the United States and all its amendments. We believe that peace is best achieved through strength, that utopia is nowhere, and that true equality is blind to race, creed, sex, and sexuality. We take it as our mission to expose the inadequacies of the leftist ideas that dominate this University and to articulate an alternative viewpoint. We strive to inform, engage, and perhaps even amuse our fellow students in doing so.
-Establish a club constitution. What officer positions will your club have? How often will you hold elections? Who will be eligible to vote in club elections? Having a written procedure for these questions will help you avoid conflict and controversy and ensure consistency in the organization over time.
-Elect officers based on the calendar year, not the school year. This is helpful in two ways. First, it guarantees that a second semester senior cannot be a club officer (which is a common reason why clubs fizzle out – the leadership graduates and no one is ready to take over). This will give you the entire spring semester to train new leaders before any former leaders graduate. Second, it also allows officers to be active over the summer months, which is often a critical time for event planning and fundraising.
-Become a recognized student organization on campus. You may have to navigate lots of bureaucratic red tape to make this happen, but it will be worth it. Being a recognized student organization opens up the door to funding from the university, allows the club to book rooms on campus for meeting and events, access university activities fairs, and take advantage of other benefits. Start this process as soon as possible and keep track of any ongoing work you’ll have to do to keep your university status (many schools require student groups to fill out paperwork annually to retain their status).
-Establish contact information for the group that won’t change. An email address and mailing address are the most important. Select an email address based on the group’s name that can be passed on from club president to club president. For an address, see if the school will provide your group with a campus mailbox that will not change from year to year. If that isn’t possible, contact the local post office to see if you can afford a P.O. Box. Having a consistent address makes it easier to stay in touch with alumni, donors, and national organizations that may be able to help your group.
-If you have the time and resources, create a group website. Many schools provide free hosting for websites of students and/or student organizations. Look into that option if it’s available. If not, consider private hosting. Be sure to choose a URL that is easy to remember-keep it short and sweet!
-Set up an email listserv so group members can easily communicate with each other. See if your school will provide this feature for you. If not, you can set up a free listserv through Yahoo Groups or a similar website.
-Meet regularly at a consistent time and location. This will keep group members actively involved in your organization and ensure that club members and potential club members know where and when they can find you.
-Work with national organizations that can help your cause. Keep IWF informed of what you’re doing on campus and we may be able to help by providing materials or by having an IWF speaker visit your campus.
Allison Kasic is director of the R. Gaull Silberman Center for Collegiate Studies at the Independent Women’s Forum.