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,” or already behind a mountain of readings. But amidst the chaos, you carry the same interests and hobbies from high school—maybe you love dancing, photography, or playing soccer. And you can usually find those hobbies in a student-run club.
But what if there’s no 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 and created an archery club at school since there wasn’t one.
In high school, I practiced archery and fell in love with the sport. While some archers practiced archery on a competitive level, I treated 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. So I went straight to the student centre and asked the front desk representative if there was an archery club. There wasn’t.
My next question to her was: “How do I create a student 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 that 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. 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! And thus, the archery club was born at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. But it wasn’t quite that simple…
How to create your own club in 11 easy steps.
Step 1: Determine what type of student club 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 likely find a section that lists your membership association and fees. These fees can range from $0.50 to $200. 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 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. 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 Clubs 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
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.
- 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
- 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.
Upon approval, presidents are required to attend workshops and training on the following:
- Booking tables and rooms around campus
- Leadership workshops and networking sessions
- Orientation session
Step 5: Open a bank account
Once your club is approved, you will be asked to open a community bank account 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
- Always keep receipts after your club purchases
Step 6: Create a student club 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 accounts for TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and get as many followers as possible! Get your entire executive team to advertise your social media channels. 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 club membership database
Having a database of all your members will come in handy when you need to send out regular e-newsletters. 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 is outrageously expensive! One bow cost $200 and that was after a club discount! To get equipment, we raised a lot of funds and the easiest way was through a yearly membership fee.
Step 10: Reach out to potential club 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 your steps may differ slightly depending on your school, 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. 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.
Want to learn more about starting a student club?
Exclusive content just for students
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.