Student organizations and clubs are an integral part of campus life. They are central to student engagement and student success.
Student organization leaders know the importance of recruiting and retaining members. However, they do not always know how to do this or what tools could help them. This may especially be true for small clubs that are not affiliated with regional or national organizations.
Outlined below are ways for student organizations to strengthen recruitment and retention efforts. Drawn from the experience of CampusGroups’ amazing partners, these best practices are key to sustaining a vibrant and healthy organization.
Each year, student organizations, and clubs need to recruit new members. This constant churn is part of doing business and should be a year-round endeavor. A student club is only as strong as its members, and members eventually leave to pursue other interests or graduate.
It is important for student leaders to put the emphasis on the quality of its members over the numbers. Given the many options available to students, clubs and organizations need to layout in a compelling way the reasons a potential recruit should join their club over another.
To do this student leaders need to determine the motivations of prospective candidates. Below are some tips.
College students generally join or start a campus organization or club because they want to build a relationship with:
1. A CAUSE
It is therefore important to clearly outline the organization’s purpose. The mission statement should succinctly describe what the organization stands for and what it does.
Being transparent on the who, the what, and when helps attract potential members interested in working towards the same cause. Providing examples of past achievements and strategic goals is also a great way to engage prospective recruits.
Note that it is important to revisit an organization’s mission and goals regularly to ensure that the organization is living up to its purpose.
2. AN ORGANIZATION/COMMUNITY
To this end it is helpful to develop a sense of purpose and belonging from day one. Asking current members what made them want to join the organization will help with outreach.
Including all members in the recruitment process is the best way to give potential members a window into the organization. It is also important to clearly layout the membership requirements and benefits to potential recruits.
This includes listing activities and involvement opportunities to prospective members. Defining and aligning potential roles with the skills and interests of new recruits further helps with engagement.
3. OTHER PEOPLE
Many people join student organizations to expand their network. It is thereby critical to make potential members feel welcome throughout the recruitment process. Hosting a variety of fun and engaging events is a great way to get prospective members to connect.
Further, people within an organization want to feel valued. It is therefore important to discuss with each new member how they will contribute to the overall mission.
For students that join clubs to develop leadership skills, it is especially important to outline what position they may hold and how this role will evolve over time. Getting members involved in planning an upcoming event is a great way for them to feel recognized and empowered.
For more information on the reasons for joining a student organization, refer to The GRAPE Principle, which stands for Growth, Recognition, Achievement, Participant, and Enjoyment.
Student engagement is key to sustaining a healthy organization. There is also a strong correlation between involvement in co-curricular activities and student retention.
While natural attrition is inevitable, there are steps student leaders can take to retain members. These include:
1. BUILDING RAPPORT
It is important to build a sense of community and common purpose among members. To this end, student leaders should regularly hold touchpoints to keep members connected and engaged.
Below are some ideas of team building activities:
An annual orientation meeting for all members, outlining the organizations mission, goals, key officers, and upcoming events for the academic year.
Small icebreakers at the start of each meeting to get people to relax and get to know each other.
Social events that do not have to do with the organization’s core mission and enable people to get to mingle. Activities may include a retreat, painting events and other fun team building activities such as disco bowling.
2. GIVING RESPONSIBILITY
Delegating roles helps provide a sense of ownership and develop leadership skills. Having clear roles also makes it easier to give credit where credit is due.
Further, recognizing the unique skills of each member helps them feel valued. Enabling them to use these skills to achieve a common goal is also a great way of empowering members and helping them build a support network.
3. GIVING CREDIT
Publicly recognizing members for their contribution or a job well done goes a long way. It helps members feel valued, shows their role in the wider organization, and demonstrates that hard work does not go unnoticed.
Whether it is giving someone a shout-out on a call, in a newsletter or email communication, a simple thank you is always appreciated. Some organizations may also give members awards or badges for achievements.
The Campus Life Office and Student Activities Office are great resources for student leaders and student organizations. They are there to support registered student organizations and provide them with the tools they need to grow and succeed.
Further, student engagement platforms provide the structure student clubs and organizations need to thrive. They serve as a one stop-shop for student leaders to manage all their organization’s needs. These include:
Student organization registration.
Event programing and calendaring.
Virtual involvement fairs.
The most comprehensive platforms have a centralized calendar of student activities and events. Some may also integrate gamification to encourage engagement, and include features such as co-curricular transcripts to track co-curricular activities.
Below are best practices provided by student leaders for using their student engagement platform to attract and retain members:
1. Design and brand your group page well. Make sure to include cover photos, a logo, mission statement, goals, officer information (photos, titles, bios), a “what we do” page.
2. Plan events for the year and create them as early as possible. This demonstrates to potential members that your organization is active. It also helps attract more traffic from the calendar of events, and helps attendees sign up early.
3. Design your events well. Make sure to include a photo and description, speakers, event tags, etc.
4. Post on your group feed regularly. This ensures current members stay informed, engaged, and speak well of your organization to other students.
5. Create a newsletter template and process to regularly communicate to members. Further, assign 1 or more responsible officer for this process. Don’t make your newsletters too long. Add a Share Group link to allow members to recommend your group to non-member friends and invite them to join.
6. If your campus organizes an involvement fair (in person or virtual), make the most out of it. Use all available features on your student engagement platform for a dynamic and seamless event experience. Print a Join Group QR code so prospective members can easily join your group in a simple scan.
7. Organize events open to non-members. This enables students to discover your group outside of involvement fairs or other structured events and motivates them to join.
8. Post photos of your events in your group feed and in the community wide feed. This helps existing members feel that they are part of an active community and helps attract new members.