STARTING A NEW SOCIETY – THE “GUILDFORD LEOS” WAY

1 – Believe in your own idea!

Make sure you REALLY believe in your idea! Make sure that just the thought of starting the new society makes you smile. Make sure your enthusiasm and motivation are strong enough to become contagious. Because starting something from scratch is never easy and requires a lot of time and energy. Things will not always turn out as planned and, when this happens, you may feel a bit discouraged. Knowing WHY you wanted to start the society in the first place will keep you going when times are tough.

2 – Do your research!

Research the existing on-campus Clubs and Societies thoroughly – you can find the full list here: https://www.ussu.co.uk/getinvolved/sports-and-societies. Are there any societies that have the same or similar objectives as the one you are planning to bring to life? If yes, why not contact them and ask for their support? What makes your future society unique? Will it bring anything new to the student community? You need to ask yourself these questions early in the process and to have a clear understanding of what makes your soon-to-be society different. Having a convincing answer for all these questions might make the difference between your success or failure in becoming ratified later in the process, so take them seriously.

3 – Get in touch with the Activity Zone

Get in touch with the Activity Zone (ussu.vpactivity@surrey.ac.uk or ussu.socschair@surrey.ac.uk) and let them know about your idea. They will talk you through the steps you need to take before becoming a fully functioning society (i.e. framing the action plan, gathering signatures, presenting your plan etc.), as well as the deadlines for their completion. Also, meeting someone from the Activity Zone would be a great way to find out more about the support on-campus societies can or cannot receive from the Union, about the workload that goes into running a society, about your responsibilities and many more. After receiving all this information, you can decide whether starting a society is what you expected it to be and whether you are still willing to proceed with your plan.

4 – Form the nucleus

One thing is for sure: as much as you would like to believe you can do it all alone, you can’t! Find 1-2 motivated people to work with throughout the process and make sure they are willing to invest time and energy in bringing the society to life. The last thing you want is counting on someone who dumps you in the middle of the process.

Before founding Guildford Leos, a new on-campus charitable society, I mentioned the idea to most of the people I knew. Two of my closest friends smiled widely the moment they heard about it – that’s how I knew I could count on them. Since then, we distributed the tasks between us and worked together throughout the entire founding process. Honestly, I have no idea whether Guildford Leos would now exist without the ongoing support of these two.

5 – Attract prospective members and gather signatures

Tell all your friends, course mates and acquaintances about your idea and encourage them to share the message far and wide. Additionally, two great tools you could use to get in touch with people you don’t know are Social Media and short presentations during lectures. Make a list of those who are interested in becoming members and organise an introductory meeting. Talk about your aims, objectives and plans for the first year. Brainstorm suggestions and ideas. Encourage everyone to be as creative as possible and do not think about limitations at this stage. Write everything down – you don’t want to forget something that might prove valuable later. At the end of the meeting, start gathering the necessary signatures for starting a new society.

Organising an introductory meeting was very helpful before starting Guildford Leos. Not only did we gather 30 signatures (more than the required 20), but we also received some ideas for projects and fundraising events from the prospective members.

6 – Frame the action plan

When framing the action plan, be clear in terms of your aims and objectives, as well as your projects and targets for the forthcoming year. Be realistic – now it’s time to think about limitations and practicalities! What projects will you run? What type and how many events will you organise? What are the costs? How are you going to cover them? What is your target in terms of attendance? What is your financial target? How are you going to spend the money raised? Are you and your team willing to invest the time and effort required to complete all the above? Considering that you will be a new society with little exposure within the campus, are all these targets achievable? Sounds like a lot to think of, but the Activity Zone (ussu.vpactivity@surrey.ac.uk or ussu.socschair@surrey.ac.uk) and other similar societies are always there to offer you some guidelines and answer any questions you might have. They are very helpful and friendly, always greeting you with a bright smile. When you are sure that your action plan is clear, realistic and compelling, send it alongside the gathered signatures to the VP Activity.

7 – Becoming Zone ratified

You will now receive an invitation to present your idea and action plan during a Zone meeting. A short Q&A session will take place after your presentation and the Zone members will vote whether they support your society. Make sure to include all the key information in your presentation. Prove that you believe in your idea and be confident. Smile and be positive!

8 – Becoming fully ratified

The next step is attending a Society Standing and presenting your action plan to the signatories from all the current on-campus societies (lots of people!). They will have a chance to ask you questions and challenge some of the points you have made, after which voting will take place. Because nobody wants a new society just for the sake of it, be ready to answer the following questions: “Do you really need to become a society in order to achieve your aims and objectives?”, “How are you different from other societies?”, “How will students benefit from your society?”. This might sound a bit scary, but as long as you are ready to justify everything you mentioned in the action plan, you have nothing to worry about. Just be confident and show everyone how motivated you are to bring your idea to life.

After the Q&A session, you will be asked to leave the room during the voting process. If you hear everyone clapping and cheering you on once you are back in the room, it means you succeeded and are now a fully functioning society. And I’m telling you, it’s of the best feelings in the world. That’s when you know it’s all worth it.

9 – Whoooahooo!

Now the real work starts and it’s very exciting! You will have an EGM where 3 signatories will be elected. You will set up a membership and websites and… you can finally start functioning as a society!

Author: Patricia Pelea.