Why YAL (Almost) Lost Me

Now that the year is in full swing, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on how I ended up in the clubs that I did after starting at a new college this fall.

Surprisingly, the YAL chapter on my campus has failed to convince me to participate, despite my desire to do so. Actually, if they can’t convince me, a dues-paying, YAL-blogging member to join the chapter, who can they convince? Probably not very many people.

But here are a few easy fixes they could make that I believe would greatly increase their membership in a short amount of time. If any of these apply to your chapter, you might consider changing them as well.

1. Meet in a meeting room or classroom on campus

The chapter at my college insists on meeting in bars and restaurants in the area, rather than on campus. I object to this strategy for several reasons.

First, you are simply not going to convince an innocent freshman girl to walk into a strange bar and yell, “Hey! Which five of you are the YAL chapter?” Especially when your entire chapter is senior guys she’s never met before.

Second, it makes your club look less legitimate. There are hundreds of rooms on campus to use and look professional. If you don’t take your club seriously, nobody else will either, so please, meet in a classroom.

2. Meet at a regular day and time

This is a no-brainer. You should have a regular day, regular time, and regular room.

This makes it easier for people to remember and show up to meetings even if they don’t come every week. It also keeps people energized about the club and makes it part of the routine of more active members so they don’t even question whether they’ll show up or not.

Ensuring people come back is just as important as making them show up the first time!

3. Give people plenty of notice before your meeting

I don’t know about you, but I’m busy in college! I get very annoyed when I get messages on Facebook saying, “Meeting tonight!” when I had no prior knowledge of the event. Obviously, a reminder such as this is important, but you should inform your members at least a week in advance of every meeting that’s at a regular time and at least two weeks before meetings at irregular times.

This will allow people to adjust their work schedules or budget their homework time accordingly. You don’t want to lose members for something so easy!

4. Keep everyone on your e-mail list

I recently asked a different club’s president if he could add me to their e-mail list because I noticed I was missing some of their events, although I attended most of the meetings. He added me, but I only received one e-mail from the group.

I have no idea why he deleted me; I missed two meetings in a row, but I still considered myself a part of the group. If the group acts like it doesn’t want a member in it, the member is likely to quit. It is much better to send dozens of e-mails to people who don’t want them than it is to miss one person who does want the information.

At some schools, you can send e-mails to the entire student body. Do it if you can! Those who don’t care will take half a second to delete it, but even if only a few join because of the e-mails, you’ve accomplished a lot for very little effort.

Those are the four biggest mistakes I’ve seen made so far this year by clubs on my campus. I’m willing to give my YAL chapter another chance, but the fact remains that they have far from capitalized on my enthusiasm so far, and who knows how many other members all across the country are underutilized becuase of silly slip-ups like these from chapters?

Let’s fix this now since it’s so easy to do it!  Get more chapter-building tips here.

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