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This Week (Group Starting Edition) - Fun and Productive Organizational Meetings


by SSA Group Starting Specialist

Student group meetingThe first meeting of your new group is a BIG DEAL! You finally get to see the fruits of posting those flyers and other recruitment efforts. It's also the time to meet your prospective members and officers in the real world. Most of all, you can work with other passionate students to decide the direction you want your group to go. It's a lot of fun, and it's a great opportunity to really make progress on what you want your group to be.

There are two things going on in an organizational meeting. First, obviously, there's the organization and business matters. You'll have a lot of things you need to figure out and decide for your fledgling group But you also want to keep it fun! No one wants to come and sit around for hours of boring business decisions - so we'll help you blend the two to get the most of your new members without wearing them out.

Some of the business things you'll probably be talking about in these meetings:

  • Meeting times
  • Focus areas and goals for the group
  • Constitution/bylaws creation
  • Activity brainstorming and planning
  • Recruitment strategy
  • Membership system
  • If you require signatures for official campus recognition, this is a great time to get them!

Some fun things you should also consider doing:

  • Introducing everyone - nametags are a good idea, too!
  • Introduce the freethought movement, possibly including popular labels, national organizations, or movement goals.
  • Talking about how each person became a freethinker
  • Icebreakers (check out the UU website for fun secular games)
  • Board and/or card games (Apples to Apples¬†and Cards Against Humanity are classic favorites!)
  • Snacks! Pizza, chips and soft drinks will go a long way toward creating a fun, casual atmosphere.

So how do you blend the two? Basically, you'll need to admit that you can't do all the business in this one meeting (and not all of it has to happen in group meetings anyway). Then intersperse fun activities before, in between and after the business elements.

A typical meeting might look like this:

Charlie Lopez running a meetingYou have pizza, soda and snacks set out when people arrive. Everyone puts on a nametag and starts chatting. When you call the meeting to order, you talk briefly about the group and explain freethought or secularism (or any other core values you're building the group around - but keep it short!). Then you do a round of introductions and some icebreakers so that everyone gets to know one another. Once you're all more comfortable with each other, you start a brainstorming session to get an idea for what people want out of the group. (I hope you're taking notes!) Then (and secretly continuing the last thread), you can have everyone go around and talk about what label they use for themselves (atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker, etc.) and why. (Hint - this will help you learn what words to use when describing your group in the future!) For your last bit of business, you can lead a discussion on finding leaders and volunteers to help get the group started and what sorts of things it will take to make it happen. Afterwards, head to a local ice cream joint or break out some games like Apples to Apples so that everyone can hang out and enjoy the company of their new friends.

When you wrap up your meeting (and remember, you want to wrap up the "formal" part of the meeting before you head out to ice cream or start playing games so that no one feels obliged to stick around if they have stuff to do), be sure to let them know where and when the next meeting will be - or, if you don't have it set yet, how they can find out. Also, encourage everyone to bring a friend next time: word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of advertising out there.

This meeting itself might not be the time to hammer out a constitution, but it's a great time to get some volunteers to help work on it in separate, small-group gatherings (or even online with tools like Google Docs). You can do the same thing with activity planning (hopefully you got some ideas in the discussion of what people want from the group), membership systems, and recruitment. And then you can see who's consistently volunteering, involved and interested to approach them for ongoing leadership roles in the group.

So there you go! A set-for-success blend of fun and business to get your prospective members excited about the group and get things moving forward.

Of course, if you have any questions about organizational meetings or anything else, we're here to help. So don't be afraid to contact us, and we'll be back in your inbox next week!

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