When you’re in first year, you might be hustling to get to your next class on the other side of campus, confused about saying “professor” instead of “teacher,” and already behind a mountain load of readings. But amidst the chaos, you carry the same interests and hobbies from high school. You love dancing, photography, or maybe playing soccer. And you can usually find those hobbies in a student-run club.
But what if, when you enter post-secondary, there isn’t an avenue for you to continue?
Will you give them up? Or find different hobbies? Or would you create an opportunity to enjoy your hobbies again? I did the latter. I created my archery club at school since there wasn’t one.
In high school, I practiced archery and fell in love with the sport. Mind you, I wasn’t very good but I loved it all the same. While other archers practiced archery on a competitive level, I used archery as a recreational sport. So when I entered first year and attended the “Clubs and Academic Societies Fair,” I saw dance clubs, multicultural clubs, even a League of Legends club, but no archery club. I thought maybe it just wasn’t at the fair that day. To confirm, I went straight to the student center and asked the front desk representative if there was archery. She pointed me towards the list of clubs but, still, no archery club.
My next question to her was: “How do I create a club?”
I asked that question without even thinking: Do I want to be President and take on that big of a role when I haven’t figured out how to be a university student yet? I don’t even know how to run a club! But none of these thoughts ran through my head as the question left my mouth. And sometimes the best decisions are made without thinking.
Before I knew it, I found myself sitting at a table in the scorching sun—collecting signatures. Along with other requirements, we needed at least 40 interested members for approval. At the end of a long day, and with my heart in my throat, I tallied up the number of interested students to 150! The archery club was created at the University of Toronto, Mississauga!
So, if you want to create your own club, let me break it down for you in simple steps.
Step 1: Determine what type of student group you want to create
Do you want to create a student club, student society, or academic society? What’s the difference? A student club is an organization formed by members of the institution that share a common interest—to create a community or sense of belonging.
Student societies are referred to as student governments, student unions, or student councils. They are supported by your student fees. If you look at your invoice, you’ll find a section called “Incidental Campus Fees” that lists your membership association and fees. These fees can range from $0.50 to $200 dollars. For example, my university’s student union charged us $45 a year. And every student was automatically a member of the student union.
Academic societies aim to unite students studying a specific program and assist them with their professional development and career goals. For example, a commerce or management society will host events: case competitions, mock interviews, and networking events to assist business students with their career goals.
Step 2: Determine what you’re passionate about
Maybe it’s something you already love or something you want to try for the first time. Or it’s something you’re already an expert in. Perhaps you want to work towards your career goals, like business consulting, or you want to create a community for your culture or religion. You could also raise funds for a charity organization you care about or create a community for games, like League of Legends. Really, the possibilities are endless!
Step 3: Gather support
Creating a club is no joke. It’s a lot of hard work. When I asked the front desk representative, it was a Tuesday and she told me I only had until Friday OF THE SAME WEEK to submit my application. The Club’s Committee was meeting the next week to go through new applications and the deadline was Friday!
Okay, don’t panic, I told myself.
I used the resources around me and gathered support from friends and family to complete the application on time. A big part of starting a club is developing a support system. I know it sounds cheesy, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my team.
Step 4: Reach out to appropriate groups
Furthermore, reach out to your respective student union and book an appointment with the Clubs Coordinator to determine what you need to get your club recognized. The student union will ask you to fill out some or all of the following:
Club Acknowledgement Form: reading and accepting the rules and policies for clubs.
Club Member List: collecting enough student signatures to demonstrate the demand of the club.
And Club Executive Member List: hiring your own executive team which will consist of, at minimum, a President (you), Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Depending on the type of club, you can hire additional executive members as required like directors (Design Director, Fundraising Director, etc.) or associates. For example, I hired all of the above positions. Also trained and certified archery coaches because coaches are required to facilitate archery practices. The duties and responsibilities of each executive member must also be determined.
Possible Events List
An accurate and realistic budget
Club constitution which outlines your club’s mandate, membership rights, transparency, accountability, and democratic principles.
Optional forms such as a request for an email account, access to web site hosting, office space, or a locker
Once you submit your application, you may be interviewed by the Clubs Coordinator and the Vice-President of Finance or Vice-President of Internal Affairs of your student union to determine if you’re genuinely interested in running a club. They may ask you for an action plan and how you will follow through on your SMART goals based on your club’s mission statement. The student union will then take your application and/or interview feedback to the Student Groups Committee who will make a recommendation for approval to the Board of Directors. You may or may not be asked to attend this meeting in order to answer questions.
Upon approval, presidents are required to attend workshops and training on the following:
Booking tables and rooms around campus
Leadership workshops and networking sessions
Step 5: Open a bank account
Once your club is approved, you will be asked to open a community bank to track your finances. This will be important when it comes to auditing your club! Yes, student groups get audited to ensure students are not misusing the club’s funds for their own benefits.
Open your bank account at an institution pre-approved by your student union
At least two signing officers are required: the president and the treasurer
The bank will ask for a letter from the student union confirming your club’s approval
Make sure to order a checkbook which will definitely come in handy! You’ll need to use your own personal funds at first since your club won’t have any money at the beginning. With a checkbook, you can repay yourself once your club has enough money. Always remember to keep receipts after your purchases!
Step 6: Create a logo
Don’t have anyone on your team that can design? No problem. Your student union may provide a graphic designer to design your club’s logo based on your specifications.
Step 7: Build a social media platform
Create a Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter account, etc. and get as many followers as possible! Get your entire executive team to advertise your social media platform. Ask the student union to give you guys a special shout out. Use any appropriate marketing techniques to get the word out about your new club!
Step 8: Create a membership database
Having a database of all your members will come in handy when you need to send out regular e-newsletters to your members. Remember the Club Member List you compiled? Use that list to build your database. Also, gather members during your institution’s “Clubs and Academic Societies Fair.”
Step 9: Consider setting a yearly membership fee
In my case, archery equipment was and still is outrageously expensive! One bow cost $200 and that was after a club discount! To get equipment, we had to raise a lot of funds and the easiest way was through a yearly membership fee.
Step 10: Reach out to potential partners and sponsors
Since the archery club was sports-related, I built a partnership with the Athletics Department. So that we could use the gym space for archery practices. Additionally, to get sponsors, you’ll need to create a Sponsorship Package and use your network to pitch your club to potential sponsors.
Step 11: If applicable, order or create marketing materials
Order materials such as banners, membership cards, and posters. If you’re short on funds, create your own marketing materials. It will be a great DIY team-building exercise for your executive team!
Although this list can differ—depending on your post-secondary institution—the general process stays the same. This list sounds daunting but if you’re intrinsically motivated and dedicated to making a difference on campus, you’ll be eager to achieve your goals. My club was like my baby. I had to take care of it. Sometimes it was an annoying brat but I still loved it all the same. I made sure it grew up to be independent. So when I let it go, it could flourish on its own.
Congratulations on creating your very own club! That was the easy part but running a club, however… that’s a different story.
Tip Sheet on Creating a Constitution (PDF)
Constitution Template (PDF)
Blank Constitution Template (DOC)
Club Recognition Process by Major Post-Secondary Institutions in the GTA
University of Toronto
All three campuses: https://www.ulife.utoronto.ca/page/view/slug/apply
University of Toronto, Mississauga
Student Union: http://utmsu.ca/clubs-documents/
Centre for Student Engagement: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/utm-engage/student-organizations
University of Toronto, St. George
Student Union: https://www.utsu.ca/clubs-recognition/
Department of Student Life: http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/studentlife/club-recognition-and-renewal
University of Toronto, Scarborough
Student Union: http://www.scsu.ca/clubs/
Student Union: http://www.rsuonline.ca/start-a-new-group
York Federation of Students: http://www.yfsclubs.ca/
Student Union: https://www.msumcmaster.ca/clubs/new-club-ratification
Student Union: https://www.thessu.ca/discoverclubs
Student Union: http://ignitestudentlife.com/clubs/start-a-club/
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.