Archive:New Chapter Tips

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Starting out

  • Become policy-savvy. Research your school's official policies on clubs. What hoops are you going to have to jump through to be a recognized organization? Some schools basically just ask that you submit the club's title and purpose, while others require constitutions or a faculty sponsor or a certain number of committed members. If the requirements seem daunting, all the more reason to get started right away and delegate some of the work to interested friends.
  • Create propaganda. Go to Staples today and purchase some packs of brightly colored printer paper, black ink cartridges (if you plan to use your own printer at all for fliers), and a lot of thumbtacks. Start devising some catchy flier ideas--make a whole variety of them, some very brief and punchy and to-the-point, some cryptic yet intriguing, some detailed and informative. You can get some ideas on our Propaganda page. Figure out the date/time/place of your first meeting (make sure you've completed all the necessary bureaucratic crap and are guaranteed the space) and announce it prominently on each flier. The first day you arrive on campus, PAPER that place. Monopolize all the bulletin board space you can find.
  • Amass SWAG. Get in touch with <who's responsible for providing us with stuff from CC, PK, EFF these days?> about getting some SWAG: Free Culture, Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, EFF, or other FC-related free stuff, like bumper stickers, informative brochures, buttons, stickers, etc to use for advertising at activities fairs and club events. Free Culture also has t-shirts, 40 of which are earmarked for free giveaway to chapter leaders. Email with a request for number of shirts (limit yourself to a couple) and size (girls, S, M, L, XL). Otherwise, shirts are $20 and can be ordered here:

Spreading the word

  • Recruit your friends. If you're an upperclassman, start sending emails to your friends at school telling them about your new club. Message facebook groups which have some relation to free culture issues (e.g. groups for artists or programmers or editors of the school lit mag), target their interests, and drum up support.
  • Use the facebook. Message interested people you've met and invite them to join.
  • Make a website. It doesn't have to be fancy--it could even just be a blog, provided by some service like livejournal or blogger. But no matter what, it's important that you have a blog and aggregate it on FC.o--if you don't know how to set this up, ask me, Rebekah (AIM:vintagenoise). Advertise the website on your fliers.
  • Get support from faculty members. Email your favorite profs, look up any others who might be interested, and let them know about your new org. If they're very supportive they're likely to mention it to their classes or direct interested students your way.
  • Create a mailing list. Most schools provide mailing list services and databases of existing lists. Collect addresses for this list at your activities fair.
  • Be at your school's activities fair. Bring copies of all your fliers, plus something more detailed like a manifesto (see FC.o's official one), plus lots of SWAG. But do not give away SWAG indiscriminately; every trendy kid with a messenger bag will lunge for a free button without a thought to what it represents. Make them put their email address on a mailing list sheet and give them a button in return. Make up a good, informative spiel about free culture, and be prepared to answer questions and target your replies to the person's particular interests (e.g. do a little research/thinking beforehand about why artists/programmers/tinkerers/poets/academics/whoever should become involved in this movement).

The first meeting

  • Be advertising up to the minute your first meeting starts. Announce it to your classes on that day, and ask the profs you've contacted to announce it to theirs. Send out a reminder email the night before to your mailing list and message your facebook group. Make sure you arrange for desirable food to be provided and advertise this. Ask everyone you pass on the way to the meetingplace whether they're going.
  • Have developed some sort of introductory presentation. Powerpoint (or Presentation) works well for this. I based my presentation on Lessig's Swarthmore talk, delivered at the launch of FC.o ( Keep it pretty brief (<45 min) and keep it interesting with lots of illustrative multimedia clips, like Lessig does. Reserve time at the end for questions but MOST IMPORTANTLY leave time for a brainstorming session on club projects. Once people start offering input, they immediately begin feeling more invested and involved with the club, even if they showed up just out of curiosity and expecting to lurk. Vote on a regular meeting time/place.

Maintaining the chapter

  • Based on the feedback you get the first few meetings, start to develop an idea of your base. Are they techy? Artsy? Music downloaders with righteous indignation? Like me, you'll probably end up with a mix. I ended up with almost no geeks (very unusual for this movement), a couple of artsy types, a couple of writerly types, and some generally political types--but they were all unified by a very strong interest in academia, which is why my club experienced its greatest successes focusing on the Open Access movement. We did a number of more artsy porjects--hosting a screening of Night of the Living Dead, hosting the Free Culture tour--but in the second semester we started holding discussion sessions on the open access movement and free culture/academia with professors and library staff members. It was wildly successful, with both the students and profs impressed by the depth of conversation. Bryn Mawr is, sadly, a pretty lame place for activism, but people are very interested in rousing intellectual debate, so the discussion sessions ended up being a perfect fit. See what works for you.
  • Hold meetings regularly. This is a giant pain, but critical. The night before you have a tremendous midterm paper due which you haven't even started yet, the last thing you want to be doing is figuring out the meeting's agenda, harassing your mailing list, procuring food, and then spending an hour running the show. But you have to do it. Organizations thrive on regularity. Sometimes you'll reach a slow period and it'll seem like there's not much to discuss at a meeting--have it anyway. Your members will enjoy the cookies and company and appreciate being let out early for a change. But the best way to deal with the stress of so much responsibility is to spread it out...
  • Share the love: pass work onto others. Try breaking up jobs into small tasks and then passing them off to other people. If they're small enough, people won't complain. For example:

-You: I need someone to be responsible for sending out the weekly club meeting reminders to the mailing list. Jerry, can you do this? -Jerry: Welll...I don't have much time but I guess so... -You: Great, thank you so much. You're officially in charge of Membership Information. Titles are your friend, even ridiculous ones. If people have a title attached to their job, especially if it appears next to their name on the club website or something, they are FAR more likely to get it done. So delegate the mailing list to Jerry, food procurement to someone else, club minute-taking to someone else, build up a band of willing flier-putter-uppers, and suddenly your burden seems a lot more bearable.


You usually don't need to worry about budgeting right away. Some schools don't even let new clubs apply in the first year or semester. Make sure you know all the rules going in, however. You probably won't be getting much money at all the first year or two, but here are some tips on maximizing what you do get:

  • De-emphasize the amount spent on food. Try to be frugal anyway, but maybe ask your club members to donate money for food so that you don't have to use your budgeting money. Schools don't like paying you to eat cookies and soda.
  • Organize a largish event with campus-wide appeal. This is your best bet for bringing in money. If it looks like a club is organizing something that will benefit the campus community beyond just its club members, the college is far more likely to fund it. The Free Culture tour was what BMC used--thanks to it we got the maximum amount any new club can receive. Your event could be a concert, a poetry reading, an open mic night, an FC related speaker, a panel--anything you will advertise widely to the campus community (and maybe even the public). Such events are also really good opportunities to bring in new members midyear.
  • Emphasize the amount spent on stuff like office supplies. It's good to bulk up on supplies like printer paper, thumbtacks, staples, sharpies, CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, etc. Also propaganda material, like button making supplies. (Look for punks or DIY-type kids on campus and ask if they have a button maker in their dorm room. This is a great resource. Be their friend. Get them to join your club.)