Return of liberty at Kent State

The Kent Student YAL chapter was in decline. All the tabling, flyering, and free-road-tripping in the world didn’t seem like it was making any difference in growing liberty on Kent State’s campus. After the monotony started to gnaw on the leadership’s morale, attendance by the executive board itself became more shoddy: more sicknesses, more homework that had to be finished Tuesday night, you name it. It became pretty obvious that we had to not only wipe the slate clean, but probably also invest in a whole new metaphorical slate.

I took a lot advice in from leadership within the liberty community to get our chapter off life support. After a lot of nights over brews/dinner and planning, our executive board put together a tentative action plan that, so far, has brought us back on the map. Last Wednesday, we celebrated having the largest and most involved meeting we’ve had in the history of kick-off meetings. Special thanks to: Kristen Hirter, Katrina Darst, Corey Moore, Megan Jennings, and pizza.

This is pretty much everything we did differently to get our group off the ground and stay off the ground.
 

1. Partner with other pro-liberty groups
It’s probably the most important thing. People are social animals. They will stick around groups that are popular- groups that have high social proof- and the best way to build that value is to make other groups more valuable.  To do that, you associate with your campus SSDP group, Turning Point USA group, or, if it comes down to it, Democrats or Republicans and do stuff like plan events in tandem or have meetings back-to-back so that you can attend theirs and guilt them into attending yours. 

Once the numbers are there, people who come to check out your group won’t think that they walked in on the kids who play Magic: The Gathering in the corner of the high school lunchroom. They’ll think they walked in on the cool kids- or at least the kids who are liked by other kids. That fact will bring them in long enough to be captivated by all the other opportunities that YAL has, because you know that won’t be the first thing they seek when they walk in the room.

2. Get social with your members.
Have your meetings early enough so that you can go out after, whether it’s for ice cream or Mario Kart or even just to chill outside with your cigarette-smoking members for twenty minutes after a meeting. You don’t have to be their best friends, but setting that up sets the stage to develop a culture, which then means you guys are close enough to start handing off responsibilities and work towards some cool events that can be a team effort. 

3. Be ready to guide the meeting through ups and downs
It’s tough to get everyone involved. You can make the perfect meeting itinerary talking about libertarian presidential candidates and have no substance when nobody knows much of anything about any candidates. You can’t just talk at everyone; you know that gets boring. What are you supposed to do?

Have a lot of things in the back of your mind. Let organic conversation flow; so long as you hit on all the important things, you don’t necessarily have to keep the meeting tied to any certain order of business. Then, remember where conversation died to do things like bring a speaker on that subject or have a meeting where you watch a few videos exploring that topic.

Other cool things to try that worked out for us:

  • Feature the word libertarian in your outreach to potential new members. People seem into the label now, it’s not a tin-foil hat phrase anymore.
  • Pizza will bring anyone anywhere.
  • Bend the rules. If your campus says you can’t table somewhere or have certain food, let them personally remind you. Especially if it’s a state school. As long as you know it’s not a severe infraction, they probably won’t even stop you, and if they do, channel how sorry you are that you got caught into a sincere apology. Courage gets things done.
  • Make a good brochure for your group. It only takes two hours if you have someone who knows what they’re doing and it makes you look way better.
  • Print an itinerary to put around the table at the meeting. It makes you look awesome and official.
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