If you’re a student and want to join a group that doesn’t exist, you might wonder how to go about starting a university society. Chances are, your university will allow you to make one. Not only will this look great on your CV as it shows leadership and initiative, but you’ll likely meet people with shared interests that you otherwise wouldn’t encounter. Once you have an idea and have run it past your Student Union, it’s time to get going. But the question is; how do you actually start? Keep reading for our list of dos and don’ts for tips on what to do next.

1. DO have your committee ready

how to start a University society
Source: Pixabay

Choosing to make a society alone is likely to be much more challenging than doing it with others. So it’s a good idea to make sure that you have some friends to help you along. You’ll need a president of the society (that’s you, the one making all the decisions), a treasurer (for event funding but also paid memberships if you have them), and a secretary (to schedule meetings). Other members might include an inclusions officer, an events officer, and a social media manager.

2. DON’T tolerate abusive members

how to start a university society
Source: Pixabay

By making a society, you have to be ready for strangers you’ve never met to join. You also have to be prepared to meet people that you might not get along with. That being said, if someone is abusing other people in the society online or in person, you’re best moving forward without them. If they’ve paid for a membership, it might be tempting to allow a member to get away with things that they shouldn’t so you don’t have to reimburse them. However, as the Head of your society, you are responsible for protecting your members and team. Make it clear in your society’s rules that racial, homophobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic behaviour won’t be allowed. If it happens, you can anonymously report the incident to your University.

3. DO be active on social media

how to start a university society
Source: Pexels | Photo by Jeremy Levin

The students that want to join your society won’t if they don’t know that it exists. The best way to put yourself out there is to spread the word on social media. This could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it! Sites like Snapchat and WhatsApp work well for group chats, while Facebook and Instagram can show off pictures of your events, for example. Make an account with the name of your society, introduce your committee, and (most importantly) engage with your members. You can use Instagram story polls to vote for social events and more. By changing the content you make, like posting reels and grid posts, you’re more likely to be promoted by the algorithm; i.e. more exposure to potential members.

Remember that not everyone has access to social media, so you’ll have to advertise elsewhere as well. What’s more, not everyone uses the same social media sites, so it’s probably a good idea to be active on multiple platforms to target more people.

4. DON’T make a society just for your friends

how to start a university society
Source: Pexels

There are students out there that want to join your society, whether that’s because they want to make friends or try something new. Don’t close off avenues to new members just because you don’t know them. The whole part of starting a society is to bring people with common interests together. If you want to start a new society just to have a reason to hang out with your friends, maybe a university society isn’t the best option. Be ready to organise social events throughout the year, and encourage people to make friends with each other. Speaking of…

5. DO hold regular events for your members

how to start a University society
Source: Pixabay

This goes hand-in-hand with your social media profile. Your members likely won’t check their emails outside of university hours, so it’s good to have an instant way to announce new events taking place. With the help of your committee, and namely your events officer, if you have one, you can set up socials for your members to meet one another and have fun.

Not every student drinks or wants to go out at night. You should take this into account when organising meet-ups by hosting different types of events like film watch-longs, karaoke, and club nights. The best place to hold events typically is your very own SU building, as they will likely lend out rooms to you as a society. Another thing to remember is that students are very busy during the week, so the weekend is the best time to host a gathering. Most clubs and pubs will partner with university societies, so get in contact with your local bars for member discounts and event spaces.

The most important thing to do is to make sure everyone is safe, especially on nights out in large groups. Follow up with your members to ensure that everyone had a fun time afterwards on the group chat or individually (that bit’s up to you).

6. DON’T copy a society that already exists

how to start a University society
Source: Pexels

When you make your society, think about the ones that are already at your University. Are you making a cake-making society when a baking society already exists? Or a society about aliens when there’s already one about space? Try to make yours distinct from others. If another society does your job better, you’re less likely to get as many members. Of course, if you’re passionate about a certain topic (like Minecraft even though there’s already a video-game society), then go for it. There are bound to be students that join, just make sure that you’re engaged with your members and active in your role.

7. DO have a stall at fresher’s fairs

how to start a University society
Source: Pexels

A great way to put yourself out there is to set up a stall at the fresher’s fair. Make it eye-catching, hand out some freebies if you can, and bring plenty of water because you’ll be talking to many people. Here, you can advertise your social media account to potential members, which is good for growth. Think about the type of questions you would ask about your society, and be prepared to answer them. What events will you hold? Do you have to pay for membership? How do you join?

8. DON’T violate your university’s guidelines

how to start a University society
Source: Pixabay

Keep in mind that whatever society you decide to make, the university can always take it away. To avoid this, always read the guidelines provided by your university. In some places, political or controversial societies are forbidden. Past societies, like the Bullingdon Club at Oxford and the Wyverns at Cambridge, have been criticised for their rampant sexual assault on women and their vile hazing ceremonies (yes, that rumour about David Cameron allegedly having intercourse with a pig stems from Oxford). Don’t follow the reputations of these “societies”, and always make sure that your members are safe.

9. DO elect a new committee when you leave

how to start a University society
Source: Pixabay

At the end of your course at university, you’ll be leaving a lot behind. Make sure your society isn’t one of them. Don’t let your society fall into obscurity by electing new members. You can advertise these roles on social media and let people send their applications to you. Alternatively, you can get in contact with the head of your university and send out a university-wide email to advertise the empty slots available. This can be a great opportunity for new students to take part in something bigger than themselves, the same way that you will. Plus, it ensures that your legacy at the uni goes on after you leave, which is a neat bonus.

10. DON’T ignore feedback

how to start a University society
Source: Pixabay

Hosting regular meetings with your committee can be helpful when you need help to improve your society. If you’re spending too much money or hosting the wrong type of event, this is where feedback can help. However, if you ignore any criticisms, your society might be doomed to fail. You can ask your members how they feel about your society through Instagram/Facebook polls, a Google Form, or a survey. It’s important to consider the opinions of your committee, too. Although you’re all friends, there’s no harm in pointing out weak spots to make things better for everyone.

There are our tips on how to make a university society! If you’re looking for ideas on where to start, take a look at our list of the weirdest UK university societies (including a hummus and ginger appreciation society).