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Leadership, Student Activites, The Facts|February 15, 2011 11:40 am

Recruiting Students for Groups, Clubs, & Orgs

The recruitment of members is one of the largest areas of opportunity for any student organization. Often times, student organizations operate with leadership positions filled, but little active membership beyond their officers. The lack of participation in student organizations tends to place the entire burden of operating a group on just a few of the active members’ shoulders. This burden all to often overwhelms the few active participants, which causes activity to diminish and the student members to burn out quickly. A group whose members are overburdened tend to not be successful, the members’ academics often decline, and the group’s goals tend to slip from their grasp. On the other hand, groups with higher  student involvement tend to be able to reach exceptional goals and the members are generally able to maintain higher grades. By simply having a larger number of active participants officers can delegate tasks, increase activity, and rely on a larger network of support. So how does a small organization of passionate students effectively recruit members, retain them, and assist them to contribute quickly? There are a few time tested techniques to improve student involvement on campus.

1. Define what it is your group stands for before embarking on any recruitment campaign.

Ensure that your active membership is able to define the core values of the group, understand what the group stands for, and is able to envision the group that the group seeks to accomplish in the short and long term. If you do not know what your group stands for, you will never motivate other people to join. Why should they devote their time to a group with little to no vision?

2. Set the standard early.
Make the effort to take an internal audit of how your group functions. If your active group members are limited in number, it is the best time to set the standard for activity. How does your team communicate with each other? Does everyone participate at the same level or do certain members run the show leaving others to be spectators? How effective are your meetings? Does everyone contribute? These internal questions are key to realizing how your group will operate with a larger membership. If you only have six members but communication is not fluid, know that if your group increases to 60 members communication will still falter. Make the necessary changes when you are small, that way – with growth – communication remains effective. Same with participation, if you have a group of six, and two members demonstrate high activity and four members have low activity, know that in a larger group only a few members will actively participate, while the majority of members will remain inactive. If you are able to ensure that all members are active early on, the culture of the group will be one that bestows each member with a since of duty, purpose, and responsibility.

3. Create a sales pitch for your group.
Granted you are not selling a product or a service, you are trying to attract others to volunteer their time and effort to your group, which can be an even more difficult sale than tangible products. Marketing the volunteer experience that your group offers is one of the most effective means to attract members. What will the student get from joining your group? What are the benefits? Why your group? Why not devote their precious time to another activity? By being able to answer these types of questions your group will be better suited to attract more membership and answer questions for members in manner that is appealing. For help look how Honor societies and Greek organizations attract students. They both focus on highlighting the benefits that they offer their members. Honor societies sale the future by speaking to the possibility of grad school and increasing employment opportunities after gradation. Greek organizations thrive on developing a sense of unity today, built on the legacy left by past Alumni. What can your group do to create a tradition of excellence, of community, of good works that can be sold to those individuals that may join your group? Can your group summarize this in a slogan?

4. Know your constituency.
Who exactly is your group targeting as members? If it is a narrow focus, then how can your group get their message to this specific group of students? For example, if you have a social media club, are you engaging new members by utilizing social networking or word of mouth. When recruiting students for business or foreign language clubs, does your group work with faculty that teach these courses to announce the club during class? If your group is solely targeting commuter students, what are you doing to attract commuters? Why not hold a commuter café with your message. If you need more student government members, are you placing current council members in high traffic areas to inform students of leadership opportunities? As you can probably see, getting the word out is the big factor between success and failure. Most students are willing to participate in extracurricular activities but they simply do not know the opportunities that are awaiting them. What is your group doing to get the word out? If you can’t answer this it is important to brainstorm and plan a recruitment effort.

5. Seek Advice.
On your campus you have staff, faculty, and administrative personnel that are paid to assist you in your efforts to increase student life on campus. These individuals are your advocates on campus and they have chosen a career path to assist students in these key areas. Utilize them whenever possible. All too often students want to take the ball and run, which is good. However, no team that is successful does so without a coach. Not only do you have on campus resources, you have the excellent staff and resources from outside like the team here at iPlan Magazine. We are here solely to support you and your group efforts. Utilize us.

6. Contact inactive members.
It is a fact that people like to be acknowledged. Say hello when people join and follow up with those members whose participation is waning. You will see results. Now, it is the wrong expectation to think that every one is going to participate, in fact I promise that you will never have 100% participation from every member in a large group. It is simply not going to happen. Why? People join groups for different reasons. Some just want to serve, while some just want something on their resume, while most fall somewhere in between. When you start to have members join your group ensure that they meet other members. Hold events that go beyond official meetings run by Parliamentary Procedure. If a person is new to a group and new to parliamentary procedure, they will feel lost and unable to contribute due to lack of familiarity with the processes. If you hold social events that are less formal talk to them or in meetings that do require official processes ask them about their ideas. By asking, don’t do it generally, actually ask each of the more introverted members in the group about their opinion. It is amazing how important acknowledging others can be when it comes to recruiting and retaining members. Do this and you will grow, not only your membership numbers but also your ability to relate to others.

7. Pass the ball.
Did you know that one of the key factors that separates successful groups from groups that burnout is the ability to delegate tasks? If you do not have active members, you must do everything and the simple fact is you cannot. There is no need to take on the burden of doing all things, when the first step is to build active membership. Since groups with higher numbers of active members can distribute the workload more evenly, these groups offer members a balance between course loads, home life, and group participation. This is key. Delegate tasks to keep members active but do not over delegate to either yourself or others. Too much and members burnout, too little and members fade out. Actively seek balance and your group is sure to gain membership and visibility on campus. Remember, everyone likes the glory of shooting the ball, but successful teams play unselfishly and great leaders pass the ball.

Follow these tips and you are sure to reach results, recruit active members, and keep them active for the duration of your tenure in leadership.

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  • I am the VP of our journalism club. Luckily, we’re growing in numbers but we, the officers, see to it that every member is actively functioning. For me, one factor which helps our club’s population grow is the students see how determined and interested our members are in their work. This somehow attracts other students to joining our team :D

  • I just wish lots of studs, especially those organization-oriented, have spotted this site. Anyway, I guess the writer forgot to include something important on his/her techniques;) It’s giving recognition for those members who are doing a job-well-done in an organization XD

  • 8th spot for Natalie’s technique! It really gives more encouragement to a member when his good acts are noticed and recognized. Giving of incentives or other rewards are a plus.

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