When an entering freshman class first begins high school, many administrators will boast about how easy it is for one to pursue their interests through clubs. They’ll reference a list of activities, and acknowledge that, if your passion is somehow not mentioned, it’s so easy to start your own organization. They’ll reassure that you only need a specific number of students and a faculty advisor. However, very few clubs are created yearly in a typical high school, and for good reason; the number of those clubs that will last is even fewer. When following through with an extracurricular idea, one encounters several problems that transcend beyond the surface issues presented. What do these club founders do wrong? Moreover, what’s the difference in approach between a founder of a successful club and one that quickly fades into oblivion?
1. Securing consistent membership
Some schools will give minimum member amounts, but they don’t mention that the frequency that these members attend meetings is imperative for success. In other words, even if twenty people sign a petition for the club creation, if only four of them regularly come, then the petition was useless.
To solve this, those in charge of the club should vote for what day and time meetings will be held. Meetings should not conflict with popular times for other clubs or otherwise inconvenient expectations. For example, if most clubs meet on Fridays, it probably isn’t in your best interest to create a club on the same day. The one exception to this solution is if your school has a mandated time allocated for clubs. While this can be an effective approach to centralize extracurriculars, it limits the breadth of potential individual student involvement. In this case, founders will want to work around this time frame, whether it is by going at a slightly different time on the same day, getting an advisor to agree to host the club on another day, and decreasing the frequency and lengths of meetings.
When securing consistent membership, one should take note of student rationales for joining. Of course, in a perfect world, all students who join your club will join because they are passionate for the idea behind it. In reality, ulterior motives are extremely common, especially given the competitive nature of college admissions today. Founders will want to look for genuine interest, not just a college filler. Those in charge can incentivize active, authentic participation with leadership positions. This is more apparent in organizations like student government, as opposed to a more recreational activity.
While anyone can join a club to put on a resume, only the truly dedicated will be able to add the leadership element to their applications. Some founders may want to assign a minimum attendance rate and to consider using member contracts, warning messages, etc. to show that there are consequences for not meeting requirements. Though clubs should be fun, a certain amount of discipline and respect must be maintained for consistency.
2. Supervisor compatibility
While schools always say that having an administrative supervisor is necessary for logistical reasons, they don’t stress the importance of that teacher’s personality, demeanor, and perspective fitting with that of your club. Club founders should make sure that any teacher they are considering asking have a vision of the club that matches theirs, and that both parties agree on designations of power, responsibility, etc. In this relationship, mutual respect is key; while teachers are usually volunteering their own time to help and should be appreciated, if they are doing something that goes against what you believe the club stands for, you need to make sure that you have established an atmosphere for open communication.
Just as students have motives for joining clubs, teachers have reasons for supervising, though they might not be as obvious. You want a teacher who has a passion for the club that matches yours. Most importantly, this teacher needs to be enthusiastic and supportive, since they will likely need to be willing to put in work on their end, especially at the beginning. In addition, the teacher’s reputation is generally important. A belligerent, condescending teacher that no one likes will not attract as many consistent members as a friendly, warm one will. A positive supervisor personality and strong personal involvement with the club can make this experience more enjoyable for everyone.
One of the key issues after starting a club is making sure that communication is open and accessible between members. Members need to receive prepared updates for full involvement. If possible, many groups tend to utilize Facebook, Google groups, text alerts, or mass emails to reach everyone involved. If your school offers, restating messages on the morning announcements can be effective. Members need periodic reminders about upcoming meetings as high school students are stereotypically forgetful and overbooked. Even the most consistent of members still needs to be reminded, because people can make mistakes. Within these groups, the club founder and those in charge need to establish authority among peers.
If done right, creating your own club can be an extremely rewarding experience, both for yourself and for all of the members involved. With the right idea, a strong population, and effective strategies for managing an extracurricular, club success does not have to appear so overwhelming.