Tips for Choosing or Starting a Club
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By Calla Buttke

The club fair finally rolls around and you eagerly browse the array of colorful tents and flyers, listening to chipper club officers pitch their Greatest Club Ever. With so many options to choose from, you sign up for several and anticipate the many things you’ll learn and the many activities you’ll take part in as a club member. Yet, your enthusiasm starts to wane as the weeks go by and you witness unproductive meetings, cliquey club officers, and members dropping out like flies. What happened to all that potential? How did such a great idea turn into dust?

Clubs can be tricky business. While some of them thrive, with new members jumping at the chance to sign up each year, others have a harder time keeping their members engaged. So what are the differences between successful and unsuccessful clubs? Whether you’re looking to join a new club or hoping to start your own, there are certain things you should be mindful of in order to ensure a positive club experience.

If you’re looking for a club to sign up for:

  • Ask what is accomplished during the meetings. Your time is valuable, so look for clubs that use meeting time effectively. Will you be learning about something interesting, making progress on a particular project, or organizing community service and fundraising events?
  • Ask how members are involved. The most successful clubs are those with active club members, so look for clubs that provide opportunities to do community service, participate in competitions, assist with projects, etc.
  • If the club is just starting, ask about the motivation behind the club and how the officers envision the future of their club. Do the officers seem enthusiastic about their new venture? Do they seem to be taking their roles seriously?
  • If the club has been around for a year or more, ask how this year will be different from the previous year(s). Are there things the officers are looking to change or improve? Will the club be moving in a new direction?
  • Consider what you will gain from a club. Are you looking to meet new people, learn valuable life skills, build something, do research, educate yourself about an issue, help others? Figure out what you want out of a club and look for clubs that will help you achieve your goals.

If you’re starting your own club:

  • It’s fine to get a group of friends together to start a club, but make the sure club meetings don’t turn into just hangout time. New members might feel excluded or wonder what the point of the club is.
  • Be proactive about scheduling and preparing for meetings. If the meetings seem unstructured or unproductive, members will have a hard time taking the club seriously.
  • Give your club members tasks to accomplish! If club members are too passive, they’ll become bored and drop out. Keep your members active and busy so they can contribute to the progress of the club.
  • Give members a voice. Let them be a part of the decision-making process and ask for their feedback and viewpoints. Allow them to take on responsibility. Although club officers are the main people in charge, don’t make the club feel like it has a strict hierarchy that prevents collaboration.

Clubs should be fun, educational, and social. Joining or starting a club is an easy way to become involved in something extracurricular, and clubs can cover any topic imaginable. While not every club you sign up for will pan out the way you hope (which is why you should sign up for several to try them out), there are bound to be some that you stick with. Eventually, you could become the next club President or come up with the new Best Idea for a Club Ever. You’ll not only have a great experience along the way, you’ll also have something meaningful to add to your resume. Whether you’re a new member or a seasoned veteran, make the most of your club experience!