Running a University Society can be rewarding and a great addition to your CV. It shows several major abilities including teamwork and leadership. You can help run a society through gaining one of several positions on its committee.
Running a Society does not come without its pitfalls and this guides hopes to help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
Electing the Committee
The previous year, the new committee is elected. This usually happens around May/June time at a meeting of the society. There maybe requirements for nominating yourself. Make sure you follow the procedure and if you require multiple nominations, get an extra signature from another person just so you don't fail to be elected on a technicallity.
Check the nominations. If you are up against someone else ensure that your speech covers why you want this position and what you will do if you get it. It doesnt have to be a stunning speech but it needs to show that you are competent and organised.
Ensure the committee will work well together. If people are at each others necks now it wont be good in several months time when they are arguing over stuff at a committee meeting.
Ensure that the election is run fairly and that people do not feel bullied or unfairly beaten. This could cause severe problems further down the line.
Before you go home for the summer
Make sure all the details on your unions and university systems are changed over to the new committee (details, websites, email inboxes, financial documents, etc). Have a joint meeting where the old committee can give advice to the new committee. There are mistakes they will have made and regret and you will not want to repeat them. Get the details of speakers, hoodie sellers, etc plus any documents that you will need. Try and keep one or two involved if none are elected on to committee, just so you can ask questions.
Make sure that the new committee has swapped details and set up a mailing list to ensure that all the information is passed around the committee. The biggest reason for societies failing is a lack of communication. This leads to backstabbing and ultimately break down. It doesn't take long for problems to affect the membership and important events to be cancelled
Ensure that your societies documentation such as health and safety documents do exist with your liason in the union. Whilst you should get training in September in how to do it, check anyway.
Find out when the organisers of your Freshers Fair will be sorting it out. If it is over summer, leave the details of someone who is not gallavating across the UK/world and can check their email account regularly. This will be essential if you want to get a stand or run an event.
Its unlikely you will be able to meet over the summer, but try to get things like a poster sorted out and plan for what you are going to do during and just after Freshers Week. Make sure that the committee will be available to man any stands or events you may run. There is nothing like promising something and not delivering it. If you fail to deliver it, it will be a bad start to the year and possibly lose you many members.
If you can run an event that could add to freshers week, contact the person/people who organise it. Push the idea of alternative events, especially if you can avoid the idea of getting mashed. Not everyone is a hardcore drinker.
Arrange a meeting before freshers starts so you can get a summary of ideas for events and plan the year. Any big events that are crucial for your society should be highlighted (Christmas Ball for example) and any work such as venue hire should be sorted.
You should send out an email to all your old members telling them you are back and what you plan for your first event to be.
Hopefully your committee will receive training. You need to find out things like how to hire rooms and manage your financial affairs. Make sure you know where your liasion in the union is and their contact details. It will help in the long run.
Run those events, attract those Freshers using as many of the ideas in promoting your society section below.
After Freshers Week
Once Freshers week is cleared, you need to just keep the society rolling. If your society can offer services, try and subtlely market yourself and ensure you reply to everything you receive within a couple of days (even if its just a confirmation you have received it or a plain no). It looks more professional.
If you see any opportunities to market yourself appear, get on the bandwagon ASAP.
Promoting your Society
Promoting a Society can be difficult and occasionally time consuming but there are plenty of ways to do it
Set one of these up and sign as many people up to it as you can. You can then send an email out to everyone quickly and easilly. Its also easier to maintain than a list of email addresses.
If you are a subject society, try to negotiate with your department for the mailing list or the chance to use it once or twice to promote the society
Set up a facebook group for your society. It can be used to message members and advertise events. Keep an eye on it though, as it can be easilly taken over by some ranting from another facebook user. Feel free to ban those that take the mick
It will be up to your committee if you want to do this. Many societies do turn up, but some subject societies may find it a waste of time as they only need to market to their department. Lecture shout outs maybe more effective.
An idea for your union is to hold a smaller subject fair in after the January exams when everyone is looking for stuff to do.
Give it a Go
Some unions run this, some dont. But the intention is to provide an opportunity for students to sample your society for free and hopefully encourage them to join. Try to make it free and ensure it runs smoothly. Remember this is an advertising opportunity.
Lecture Shout Outs
Very useful if you are a subject society. Try to do it to each year seperately. You can then market your society specifically to that year.
Put posters up in official locations. Check with the buildings reception before sticking them up or else you maybe fined. Do not fly post anywhere as this can get you into trouble and affect your reputation. A good location to also look at is Halls of Residence. This is an excellent opportunity to market direct to freshers.
Check with your union about where you can put up posters and try to keep them fresh. It does not look good in January when a poster from Freshers week is still up. If you cannot take down a poster, only put a general poster up.
Many student newspapers offer societies a place to advertise for free. If it doesnt happen at your university, push them to do it. Keep your advert short and sweet, telling people what your next event is. If you host a big event try and get the student newspaper to come down and write up a report or even save their legs and do it yourself, providing the report and a few pictures on a memory stick.
Try not to damage your university, unions or societies reputation. Be very careful if you are going to do anything which maybe perceived as illegal or cause crowd control problems. The last thing a vice chancellor wants to read is that your society has made it on to the front page of the broadsheets because of some foolish action.
The biggest thing that should be on your minds is to ensure no one is killed or seriously injured. This does make newspapers and to ensure you are not completely hung out to dry either by your university or a lawyer in court, make sure your health and safety documents are up to date.
A lot of societies rely on good will from various staff. You may borrow things from various people/groups and most of all, use up peoples time. A Christmas card and a box of chocolates/wine/gift voucher can be very helpful for you and can usually ensure continued help for the rest of the year. Don't take anything for granted and arrogance will only be dealt with the same way back.
There are many members of society committees on TSR who can give you all sorts of advice. Chat in General University Discussion.