Brandon Cestrone’s Tips for Running a Successful Chapter: It Starts from Within

Running a successful chapter requires many things. For one, you need to know what characteristics good chapters possess so you can build upon their success. Second, you should understand the principles of leadership and apply them to running your chapter. Not only will this increase your ability to take your chapter from point A to point B, having the right skill set will make you much better at spreading the message of liberty on campus, thereby fulfilling your ultimate goal.

If you are running a chapter, or are on a leadership team, I have compiled a list of tips and principles that can help you in your activist adventures. These are the important recommendations I can give you after having the great opportunity and privilege of being the founder/president of the Slippery Rock chapter and Pennsylvania State Chair. I want to clarify that though I’ve practiced some of these principles well, I could have done a better job of following others. I am writing this so that you don’t make the same mistakes and blunders I committed. There are a ton of other handbooks and tips on how to run a chapter, but these are the principles I believe have allowed my chapter to flourish and will hopefully help yours prosper as well.

This is going to be a series of blogs over the next couple months; this is the second installment.  Click HERE to read the first installment. 

Before going any further, please read and commit to memory the Guide to Build an Effective YAL Chapter to fully understand how to represent your organization on campus. This blog is designed to supplement your master guide, not replace it.


“The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.” ~Dale Carnegie

These suggestions are things that you, as a leadership team member, should practice on a daily bases. The following laws of success can help you not just in running a chapter, but in whatever you decide to do in life. 

Moreover, it is your responsibility to keep your chapter’s tank full. NEVER let that tank dip near empty. Below are ways you can keep your chapter energized and ready for whatever challenges come your way during the semester.

Be confident. 

The development of self-confidence starts with the elimination of FEAR. Fear is the voice that whispers inside your ear, “You can’t do it. You are going to fail. You don’t have the ability.” Uncontrolled fear will only hurt your leadership and effectiveness as a organization. Fear of failure is probably the most common form of fear that affects us as activists and leaders within our chapters. Starting a chapter, and all the responsibilities that go along with it, can unleash within us the fear of, “what if I can’t?”

comfort zone

Fear can be so powerful, sometimes it stops us from pursing our dreams and goals in life. Fear can also force us to settle within our comfort zones. Within our comfort zone lies a sure thing; it’s familiar territory.  Our comfort zone involves minimal risk, but it can also mean minimal potential for growth and lack of realization.

Your chapter’s comfort zone might be sitting around in a circle discussing the characteristics of a free society every meeting instead of recruiting. If you don’t actively seek to educate and influence other students, you are missing out on opportunities for growth. Another example is tabling. Ask yourself, “Am I actively approaching students and asking them to sign up for our newsletter and join our organization?” If you’re just sitting behind your table, you are staying within your comfort zone, and thus, missing great opportunities.

As activists andchapter leaders, setting outside our comfort zone, whether it’s starting a new chapter or doing a provocative event, can build your self-confidence along with a more fulfilling feeling of success. In order to build your self-confidence you first must “know thyself” and realize that you have all the power you need to reach your goals as long as you believe in yourself and reject fear. By consciously believing you will be successful, you are building your self confidence because “you are what you think about most of the time”.  Remember, 90% of the population stays within their comfort zone. You ARE NOT the 90%, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

Be Positively Enthusiastic.

Have you ever had something bad happen to you that knocked you down? How did you handle it? It usually comes down to two options, stay down and feel sorry for yourself, OR, get up and move forward. As a leader, you need to reject negativity within your group. Negativity is something you need to be extremely wary of. Switch to positive thinking and use its power to your advantage. For example, if you are tabling outside and it starts to rain, are you going to pack up and leave? Or are you going to find a sheltered location and continue on? A speaker canceled on you; are you going to give up? NO! Find a new location, event, or date and keep moving forward.

Along with positive thinking you need enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a state of mind that inspires everyone around into action. Last installment we discussed the benefits of inspiring your troops. In order to inspire enthusiasm, you need to practice it first. Consider the difference between two salespeople. One is unenthused at working for his company and about selling his product. The other, loves his product and delivers enthusiastic service. Who are you more likely to buy from?  Some people are naturally blessed with enthusiasm while others must acquire it through practice. But once mastered, enthusiasm is one of the most important factors in winning people to liberty. 

Being enthusiastic is imperative to selling the ideas of a free society, which is exactly what we are doing, selling an idea. If you are not enthusiastic about liberty, how do you expect to educate and win others towards our cause?  Enthusiasm affects everyone around you. By the tone of your voice, others will either accept or refuse your statements. When you portray conviction with burning enthusiasm, you bring your words to life; others will have no other option but to follow. 

Be Disciplined.

Discipline requires two main things: time and effort.  Using your time wisely is a mark of a good leader; using effort while wisely spending your time is the mark of a great leader. This is called ORGANIZED EFFORT. Self discipline gives you the power to stick to your decisions on where to spend your time and effort. Additionally, discipline allows you to follow through with your decisions until you have reached your final goals.

Why is this important in regards to running your chapter? That’s easy. No goals are met without first making the initial decision of how to spend your effort and then following through with those choices. Having discipline will not only lead to reaching goals, but also to improvement and success by allowing you to reflect on the judgments you made and how, next time, you might change and tweak those choices. 

Self discipline expresses itself as perseverance: the ability not to give up, but to push forward even when the deck is stacked against you. Without discipline, projects will often fall through after the initial rush of excitement has faded. Discipline will serve you well throughout your entire time on the leadership team.

Think about it, how many times have you gotten excited about an activism idea, then after two weeks you push that idea to the backburner? This is where discipline is vitally important to seeing that idea come into fruition.  Self dicipline is likened to a muscle; use it or lose it. Be conscious of areas in which your chapter lacks self-discipline and train that muscle. The same goes for your personal life. With increased awareness, you will be conscious of your behavior and greet change more proactively.

 So let me ask, are you confident, enthusiastic, and disciplined?

— Brandon Cestrone


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