July 29th, 2013
Throughout July, I have been suggesting ways that student organizations can grow over the summer and various tasks that you can work on to ensure your expectations exceed previous years. The summer is an invaluable time that far too many organizations do not utilize. Although the school year is now just a month away, there is time to plan for events and begin coordinating other efforts such as recruitment, engagement, and retention of members. This week, in my final installment, I offer an important aspect of summer planning – Everything you do throughout the year, while true to your mission, should be fun.
Too often, students will plan events, speakers, or other various activities that may seem appropriate for the time or seem impressive in size and scope, but fail to attract students. One of the central reasons behind this is that students find that they don’t enjoy themselves. On college campuses, students are constantly barraged by a wide myriad of activities that they can partake in, including student organizations, university-sponsored lectures, intramural sports, study groups, and yes, even going out with friends. For example, many universities host 200 – 700 student organizations that vie for the attention of students. This means that it is extremely important to come up with ideas that will be both informative and enjoyable to the student.
I have suggested various ways to improve the status of an event through recruitment, advertising, planning, and coalition-building with other groups. This is all vital to the success of any organization’s efforts, however, people will be much more likely to come if they think they will enjoy it. Your organization may have booked a laundry list of prestigious speakers for the coming year, but if there aren’t other activities that encourage people to take an active, participatory role, membership will suffer.
There are countless ways to balance this scale. Come up with interesting and fun ways to get students to meet and inevitably talk about the issues of importance to your group. Host an informal tailgate on the Saturday morning of a home football game. This would allow students, particularly underclassmen, to socialize with other members. More importantly, they would be participating in an event where most other students on campus are also involved.
Coming up with new ways to make the year fun is extremely important. A club’s calendar does not have to be only formal events and structured meetings. Instead, it should feature a combination of “field trips” or social events that make the members feel like they are involved with an organization beyond being a name on an e-mail listserv. From there, they will be more likely to come back, tell their friends to join, promote the cause, and enjoy their time away from strenuous study.