Chapter-Building Strategy 2: Building Community for Sustainability

Thank you for reading the second installment of YAL’s chapter building strategies!  We hope that these tips plant ideas that will catalyze your growth as members and effective leaders of your YAL chapter.  They are designed to prepare you to successfully advance liberty in your campus, neighborhood, and government.

Read last week’s chapter-building tip “Focusing on Principles, Not Labels”

This week’s chapter building strategy addresses the need to build community within your local YAL group, as is necessary in any long-lasting organization.  One of the easiest ways to begin the process of developing these unique social bonds is group-wide participation in some collaborative project that requires good communication to complete the project, but also allows for plenty of social interaction.  Participation in the March activism event “Visualize the Debt,” especially during the construction of your giant debt display, is a straightforward opportunity to apply these ideas.  As chapter leaders, do not take for granted the opportunity to help provide a solid foundation and future for your chapter through this event!

The Idea: Community

Think about the most successfully organized groups you know.  These may be churches, veterans groups, or college fraternities, for example.  The common attribute that sustains the existence of these groups is that they create an environment which not only enables the purpose of the group, but ultimately fosters social cohesiveness.  In other words, they function as a community even beyond the original reason they met. 

The community aspect exists because people build bonds with each other, find other common interests, become friends, and eventually begin to interact outside of the group.  It encourages the creativity that occurs when people are comfortable around each other and sharpens ideas on philosophy and rhetorical skills.  Consider this as glue for your YAL chapter.  Keep this in mind as your YAL chapter establishes its vision and as you plan ways of expanding and sustaining membership.

The Purpose: Sustainability

Developing the idea of a “community” will ultimately help to sustain the middle section of your group, as new people join and older members graduate and move on.  If the community idea is ignored, you run the risk of losing members over time as they find other groups to connect with, leaving only the most hardcore, individualistic types who show up and then immediately leave your events and meetings, like they would for one of their college classes.  These chapters eventually die out when the leaders leave.

Be aware as you bring in new members that you do not want your leadership team to appear exclusive or privileged.  Groups that are cliquish and do not interface or invite ideas from other members will not be sustainable.

How: Be Inviting.  Be Social.

How would you want to feel coming into a new group?  The atmosphere of YAL should always be inviting and your leadership should constantly be aware of this.  All of the members, especially leaders, should be expected to make attempts to welcome and interact with new faces in the group and setting the example for other members. 

Identify ways to encourage social interaction between members.  For example, use some cheap name tags until members become familiar with each other.  If you go out to petition, encourage the leadership to pair up with newer members and not just their friends. 

Additionally, plan events that are entirely social, such as a cookout or a meet-up at a local pizza joint.  Host these types of events often when you have had new members join the chapter.  Make certain that these events reflect well the character of YAL and are open to all of your members.  Be moderate with their frequency and make sure that exclusively social events don’t make up the bulk of your activities.

Large-Scale Activism Projects: The Best Way to Build Community

So put this into action by finding ways to simultaneously encourage social interaction and engage in political activism.  Something that doesn’t involve chairs and goes beyond what you typically do when standing around tabling.  A perfect opportunity for this is YAL’s March activism project, “Visualize the Debt.”

Don’t forget to have fun!  Your group will be most effective in spreading the liberty message when you both enjoy the activity you perform and build strong ties with your group members.

So, gather the supplies to build your debt display, grab your beverage of choice, enjoy the company you’re in, and raise some awareness about the national debt!

Your correspondence and feedback is always appreciated.  Contact Josh Jackson, Southeast Regional Director, at josh.jackson@yaliberty.org with ideas, insults, or improvements to these chapter building strategies. 

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