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 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.
Part One: Dream big, define your vision, and inspire your troops.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ~ John Quincy Adams
These three suggestions are things that you, as a leadership team member, should be doing all the time. It is your responsibility to keep 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.
Nothing amazing would have happened in history if people decided not to dream big. All advancements in civilization are first just dreams by men and women who decided to use those dreams productively. Having big goals will excite and motivate everyone to perform at a high level. Along with dreaming big is asking for for those big things: ask your chapter to do that big event you have been dreaming about. The nice thing about dreaming big is it allows you to fall short but still gain a lot. The important thing is that you are shooting for something.
What specific issues are everyone excited about in your chapter? Write down the choices and see which one is the biggest hit. Pursue a hard goal; you may be surprised what heights you may reach. Remember, expect big things to happen. If you don’t expect your dreams to come true, you are wasting those dreams. Start to dream boldly. Our movement will not grow unless we take bold steps.
Define your vision.
Before anything else, you need to define what you want to achieve. What are your goals for this semester? If you don’t know the answer, how can you expect to accomplish anything? As part of the leadership team, your main job is to give a sense of direction for your organization. Having a detailed action plan is vitally important for the success of your chapter. Don’t wait until the beginning of each semester to plan your events; planning and preparation should be done as soon as possible.
This principle can also be applied to your events. For example, if you are planning a Free Speech Wall event, what are your main goals? If it’s education, have you created flyers or materials to hand out to students that describe their First Amendment rights on a public campus? Do you have FIRE packets? How many sign ups do you want to get? Tackle these questions as early as possible.
So you have your vision laid out. How are you going to obtain it? Where are the funds coming from? These are the sort of questions you need to ask now, rather than later. The last thing you want as President is to look unorganized and confused about how you plan to lead your chapter. “Winging it” is not an option for our movement. If you are serious about being an effective activist for liberty, you need to have a detailed plan of action.
Inspire your troops.
Nothing can kill a chapter faster than complacency. All the great leaders of our time knew how to inspire people. Moving people to do great things is a mark of an effective leader. When you talk to your members, are you speaking positively about what your chapter is going to do? Do you instill excitement and anticipation within your realm of influence?
If you are the chapter president, you are the figurehead of your chapter; you are the one everyone looks to for direction. Step up and be the one who speaks boldly and positively about the great things to come. People will respond to your actions and they too will inspire others; it’s a chain reaction. Inspire and be inspired. These are great words to live by.