As a leader, the first thing you should check is whether your group is recognized by your school. Recognition generally confers important benefits such as participation in the activities fair, a budget, and permission to operate. At this point, you will encounter one of two scenarios:
You are recognized. Congratulations! Identify the requirements to retain that recognition (attendance at council meetings, submission dates for budget, sign-up dates for the activities fair), and ensure you meet those requirements. Feel free to move on to the next section.
You are not recognized. Your first priority is to conduct all the activities necessary to receive recognition. Read on.
There are two sets of requirements to consider.
First, what are the official requirements from your student activities council that you have to fulfill in order to receive recognition? Generally, this involves proving a certain level of interest and requesting a budget. Follow these requirements to the letter, and if you have any questions, reach out to a representative on the council.
Second, what current unmet need does your group address that would bring value to the student body?
CS2 (CFA): When I co-founded CFA, we strove to differentiate ourselves from other existing organizations. There were other student consulting groups on campus that covered a variety of fields from specific business interest groups to NGOs. In addition, the university had a small business development center that supported budding entrepreneurs. As an organization that focused on social impact small business consulting, we needed to come up with a value proposition that differentiated us from the competition.
After doing research, we found that consulting groups on campus fell into two categories.
Groups dedicated to teaching about the industry and bringing in thought leaders.
Groups that performed services for actual clients.
CFA fell into the second arena. There were two other consulting groups that also served clients: Social Impact Consulting and the Small Business Development Center. By narrowing our scope to focus on local small business, as defined as annual revenue under $100,000, we differentiated ourselves from the social impact consulting group that focused on NGOs. Our classification also differentiated us from the Small Business Development Center which focused on clients making $1M or more a year (“small business” being a relative term). By finding the unmet need and clarifying our activities, we were able to successfully attract individuals who were interested in our specific mission.
When seeking recognition from an activities council, you will generally have to provide the following:
1. A constitution or mission statement that shows that your organization serves a niche interest not currently covered by existing groups.
2. A list of members (preferably from different years in school).
3. A list proving that you’ve conducted activities.
4. A list of expenses, otherwise known as your requested budget.
In order to attract members, you’ll need a platform for communication (Facebook, group text chats, etc. work fine for starting purposes), and you’ll need to hold events. In order to hold events, it’s can be useful to secure funding. However, the most vital activity at this point is documentation. An excel document that tracks members, activities, and potential spending will assist with compiling the parts for your application. I’ve provided some examples below:
CS2 (CFA): When looking for funding, you’ll want to focus on internal resources as well as official university avenues. For CFA, one of the board members had a relationship with a professor who was willing to provide sponsorship and financial support for our preliminary activities. We also managed to recruit a webmaster who designed a site for the organization. At the beginning stages, this site was the lifeline between us and interested students who would find us online. Even without official recognition, we were able to hold meetings, dinners, and fundraisers by reserving the rooms that were generally available to students.
Once our operations were in order, we were able to compile information about attendance at our meetings as well as how much it was going to cost to keep operations going throughout the year. By proving that we were an already active group and with real numbers to back up our activities, our application was significantly more detailed that most other groups seeking recognition. CFA benefited significantly from the relationships that our members had. Similarly, if you can begin your organization by recruiting another person with beneficial relationships, you’ll be able to get your activities off the ground much more quickly.