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January 17, 2011

How to Start a Club

A step-by-step guide to starting an animal protection club

Student animal protection club tabling

J. McGuinness/The HSUS

Now that you know why you should start a club, there’s the matter of where and how. Schools, churches, and community centers are great places to form clubs, and our guidelines below can help you get going. 

1. Ask friends to help you get the club started. Tell them your ideas for club goals. Do you want to get the word out about factory farming? Help homeless pets and local animal shelters? Lobby for animal‑friendly legislation?  

If you're reading this, you're probably already aware of many of the problems facing animals. Remember that not everyone will know as much about animal issues—and they may not share your opinions on those issues. Stay receptive and open‑minded to what others have to say.  

2. Find an advisor. Most schools require that student clubs have an advisor—usually a school faculty member. Do you know a teacher interested in animal protection? New teachers may also be willing to take on a new group.  

If you don't have luck at school, don't give up. Ask a parent, church leader, or other trusted adult in the community if he or she would be willing to help. Call local animal organizations to see if they have youth clubs. If they don't, ask if someone on staff might help you form one. 

3. Find a place to hold meetings (ask your advisor for help with this), then start planning your first meeting. Decide on a time and date and start thinking about what you want to cover. (See Step 5 for ideas.)

4. Get the word out about the club and the first meeting. Make flyers or put a notice in the school newspaper. Use animal photos or artwork to grab people's attention, and make sure to include the meeting time, date, and place. List some of the goals your club hopes to accomplish.

Consider making an announcement over your school's P.A. system, and ask to be listed in the events or activities section of your school's website. You could also create a webpage for your club or make a group on Facebook or Myspace.

5. Hold your first meeting. Welcome potential members and let them know your goals and how they can be involved.

Create an agenda to help keep your first meeting on track. It could go something like this:

• Explain why you formed the club. Talk about what inspired you to start the club and what you hope to accomplish. Tell the group about current animal issues and why action is needed. Brainstorm a list of issues so you can see what people consider most important. You may have to bring them up to date on the issues. (Consider letting a video do that for you.)

• Collect the names of everyone who attends your meeting. Include columns for students to write their name, email address, phone number, and an area of interest or talent.

• Ask for club name suggestions and have everyone vote for the best one. If you decide you want a club logo, ask members to submit sample ideas at your next meeting.

• Decide how your club will be organized in terms of leadership. Do you want a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary? If yes, take time to vote for club officers during the second meeting. If you'd rather have a less formal structure, ask your advisor to take a more active role in managing the club and coordinating activities. You might want to have a different person lead each meeting so all members can play an active role. Depending on the number of people and interests, consider forming committees that work on certain issues.

• Decide how often you will meet. Keep in mind that members will be busy with other activities during the school year. If your group schedules meetings too frequently, there may only be a small turnout at each one. If you don't schedule enough meetings, members may lose enthusiasm. Try to strike the perfect balance.

• Offer animal-friendly refreshments at meetings as an incentive to get people to attend. If you do offer snacks, be sure to mention it as you get the word out! (Check our recipes page for snacks like Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Gingerbread Cookies, Fudge Brownies, and more.)  

6. Take action! There are a lot of animals out there that need your help. You might be tempted to take on too many issues at once, but you'll have the greatest effect if you work on one at a time. Get motivated and narrow your focus with our step‑by‑step actions and other club activity ideas.

7. Keep recruiting. As your club moves forward, you'll gain and lose members. In all that you do, think about getting new members. Bring sign‑up sheets to events and continue advertising your meetings.

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