Running a successful student society is hard work and lots of fun. These tips for running a college society should help you organise successful events and avoid common pitfalls.
The following tips were compiled by Colm Finlay. Colm is a member of Atheist Ireland who was secretary and chair of the Metaphysical Society and a debate and event organiser with the Hist Society in Trinity College, Dublin.
Tips for Running a College Society.
1. Inviting Guests:
- Invite lots of potential guests as the number of people who respond to invitations positively can be very low.
- Be ambitious about who you invite.
- Keep an eye out and be aware of anyone travelling to or around Ireland.
- Make lists and keep track: At the beginning of term create an excel document on Google Docs and share it with everyone on the committee of the society. Give it two tabs;
- On tab one, have columns entitled ‘Guest’ ‘Contact’ ‘Outgoing’ ‘Incoming’ ‘Date’ and ‘Other’. Under ‘Guest’ make a list of speakers you would like to invite. Under ‘Contact’ begin to collate at least one email or phone number to reach that person. ‘Outgoing’ suggests what you have sent to that address and the rest is explanatory.
- The second tab should be a calendar and every time you confirm an event it should simply be entered in.
- In emails: (I) be Polite and courteous (II) tell the guest about your society (III) tell them clearly what you would like them to do (IV) offer them freedom of topic and date when possible. (See example email below).
- Contact details can be found on the website of a guest’s academic institution, on their personal website or elsewhere on the web. Reach out to other student societies and ask for contact details for anyone you can’d find them for.
Bringing in guests can be expensive in terms of accommodation, travel and meals.
- Familiarise yourself with your mother organisation and/or central societies committee’s rules on finance, funding, money, expenses etc.
- Never promise or appear to promise your guests anything in terms of funding that you are not sure you can provide.
- If your guest is an academic, their institution will often contribute to the costs of the trip, always ask and see!
- Ascertain if people will be in Ireland, or at least the UK or Europe anyway, and won’t be flying in from the US etc.
- Investigate if outside sponsorship is possible. Ask for a small amount from a local or national business in the first year and build on that relationship. Many bodies will be interested in sponsoring specific events. Have a special officer, separate from the treasurer, tasked with seeking out sponsorship.
- Other societies, university departments and occasionally media bodies will be interested in co-hosting or also hosting some guests and might contribute to the costs of the trip
- Keep an active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and webpage.
- Invite any groups who might be interested in attending an event like Atheist Ireland as a whole or different advocacy or special interest groups.
- Invite members of Atheist or Philosophy/Political etc. societies from other universities as well as your own. Your members will probably also be welcome to attend many of their events.
- Always hold a social side to the evening after the main event such as in the college bar or a local pub. It is a good way for people to feel a part of the society and to build a solid base.
Suggested events could include:
- Guest speakers.
- Film screenings (advantage is cheap and easy to organise).
- Debate/Panel Discussion (can be with students and/or guests and can be inter-varsity or inter-society).
- Social events/pub trips.
- Society trip away for a weekend or several days to a different city either in Ireland or internationally
5. Running a committee:
- Committees can be large, ensure that everyone is active and always has a task to be carrying on with and the support so they can do it efficiently.
- Ensure that everyone knows what their duty and role is.
- Have a Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, Fundraising Officer, Events Officer, Public Relations Officer and other committee members to help out. Establish sub committees where suitable.
- Make sure everyone on committee are friends and have regular bonding sessions, dinners and trips away. Go for lunch together and be friendly.
Sample invite email:
I hope this message finds you well. It is a pleasure to write to you on behalf of the [Society] in [College].
The society was founded in [X]. Our mission is to [X]. Previous guests to have addressed the society and who will be coming over the course of the year include [X, Y and Z].
The society would like to extend an invitation to you to give a talk on a topic of your choice some time over the academic year. We traditionally meet every [X] evening in [X] location to hear a guest lecture before adjourning locally for refreshments and further informal discussion. .
We would all be most honoured and appreciative should an atheist of your esteem accept our invitation to address our society. If you would like to accept this invitation then please email me back at your nearest convenience and we can make all the necessary arrangements.
With my most sincere gratitude in advance, I look forward to hearing from you and reading your reply.