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Starting a Student Group

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If your campus does not already have a student group that works for just and humane U.S. policies toward Latin America, now is the time to start one! Student organizations can host speakers, organize rallies and campaigns, and distribute information to the university community—efforts that help raise awareness and get others involved. College students also represent a significant, but often overlooked, voting base. Your group can organize visits with your members of Congress in their district or state offices, letter or email writing campaigns to representatives and senators, and other activities.

Building Your Group:

A campus group may start out with just a few dedicated individuals, but there are many opportunities to build membership. To get established on campus, you may have to register with the activities office. After that, you're ready to start organizing!

When you hold an event:

  • Have a sign-in sheet. At every event, ask attendees to sign in. You can post someone at the door of a speaking event or assign people to circulate in the crowd with clipboards at street theater performances or vigils, and have a sign-in sheet at letter-writing events and group meetings. People who have already taken some type of action with your group—whether it be attending a film or writing a letter—are more likely to participate again.
  • Follow up with newcomers. Once you have participants' e-mails or phone numbers, you can contact each new person individually, preferably within two weeks of the event. Use this time to find out about their interests and ask them to get involved. Let them know about upcoming meetings or events that may interest them.

Making your group visible:

  • Displays. In student centers, post offices, or libraries, you can post bulletin board notices with information about your group, how to get involved, and general information about the issues you work on. Remember to put visible contact information on every flyer or display! 
  • Educational Events. Organize talks, discussion forums, guest speakers, and video screenings, and advertise widely.
  • Newspaper. Have your campus newspaper write an article on your organization or an issue that you work on. If you host a speaker to your school, make sure to alert the school newspaper and invite a reporter to cover the event. And don't forget your local media-read the local paper as well as your school paper so that you can respond if a Latin America issue is covered (see Reaching the Media for tips). Invite local reporters to special events, even if they're on campus.
  • Table in your student center or in another central place on campus. Your group can publicize its current work, announce upcoming events, recruit new members, and raise funds by tabling. Make sure volunteers have the information necessary to answer general questions about the organization's work. Have banners, fliers, a sign-up sheet, and action opportunities available at the table.

Some ideas for fundraising:

  • You may be eligible for support through your college or university as an established student group. Many groups receive funds through the student government, departments, deans, or the alumni association.
  • Sales. Raise money through car washes, dog-walking, face-painting, or yard work in the community.
  • Merchandise. Design a logo for your organization, and sell T-shirts, mugs, buttons, bumper stickers, and magnets.
  • Auctions, Raffles, and Garage Sales. Ask individuals and merchants to donate goods and services that can be auctioned, raffled, or sold at a campus sale.
  • Local Businesses. See if a popular movie theater or restaurant will sponsor a night where a percentage of profits are donated to your group.
  • Sporting Events. Organize events such as bike races, marathons, tournaments, walk-a-thons, skate-a-thons, bowl-a-thons, and dance-a-thons. Charge an entrance fee and have prizes donated.