Guest post from Meagan Nijenhuis, president of Guelph Life Choice! Meagan was also our Summer 2014 Intern. Check out some great advice from this all-star campus pro-life student!
You have a pro-life club to lead. How in the world do you manage all the activism, meetings and pregnancy support components, keep all your club members posted on what’s up AND maintain good relations with your university and student union? It sounds like such a struggle. And it can be. It can become a huge, ugly, messy struggle. Communication is something Celine and I really had to focus on doing effectively with the Life Choice club and we managed to escape the year nearly gunk-free. Using various applications and programs available to us we saved so much time and were able to focus our attention where it needed to be: in showing people their value by getting to know them in person.
Your executive: Facebook and Face-to-Face!
Our executive team needed an easy way to share information throughout the week that didn’t necessarily need face-to-face contact. Our student union at Guelph requires our executive to be four people strong but coordinating the schedules of four people can be a wee bit tricky. With a meeting with our entire club each week, that left only one other time slot where we were all free during school hours. We needed a place to hash things out whenever something major came up like student unions demanding meetings with club tribunals, the school newspaper arguing about the pro-life city bus ads or a meeting with the Wellness Centre ending with dashed hopes. So we made a Facebook conversation of it. This allowed us to quickly notify our fellow exec members if there was anything of concern that couldn’t wait to be dealt with in person.
The problem with a group Facebook conversation is when one or two people miss it and they have a flood to read later on. This is why we stuck more to demanding topics here. Otherwise we’d meet up about half an hour before our weekly meetings to brainstorm and talk things out because that’s so much easier face-to-face.
Your club members: Personalized Messages, Doodle & MailChimp!
There’s more to a club than an executive. You are also responsible for leading all your club members. You want them to feel invested in from the moment they first join the club. This is a club defending the value of all humans after all. When someone signs up for our club at a table, whoever talked to them will write down all the details they learned in conversation whether it be their program, their life ambition or their favourite colour of socks. Then we have an email blitz session. Everyone takes a list and we email each person individually, “Thank you for signing up for Life Choice,” throwing in tidbits from what we’d written down to show them this is a personal email and we care about them, and “Hey, our next meeting is Thursday at [time] in [building, room number], would love to see you there!” It gives them a personal connection to the club and they’ll recognize that they won’t just be another number.
To organize any event or find a time to have your weekly meeting, www.doodle.com is your man. He will save you so much time because you won’t be planning something hardly anyone can show up to, and you’ll have a one-stop destination that visually shows you who can be there for you and when. Green is such a happy colour (you’ll understand what I mean when you start using doodle!).
Celine sends out our MailChimp newsletter early every week to keep our members posted. Our newsletter includes meeting times, other pro-life events in the vicinity and fun baby facts (of course!). Not everyone can make it to our meeting time but they may be able to come to other events or might just want to stay posted about what’s up. The day of I’ll write a post in our closed Facebook group to remind them about our “Life Chat” (general meetings), “Life Chill” (social events) or any activism we may be doing. Then I’ll spend the first bit of my bus ride to school texting everyone to see if we’ll have the pleasure of seeing them there. Even if they can’t come, we’re keeping the communication door open so we know what’s up in their lives and they’re still encouraged to join us when they can.
The other bonus about the closed Facebook group is that it can keep the conversation going through the week. We let our club members share videos, posts and articles that they come across and it makes a great place to discuss things.
Not until this past year did we even think about communicating with our university and student union more than absolutely necessary. We got accredited at the beginning of the semester and attended the mandatory meeting but that was about it. And then the head lady of Student Affairs and Counseling stopped by our bake table and arranged to meet with us. She has a broader perspective of the campus and although we didn’t always agree with what she said, she was willing to talk with us and could realize we weren’t there to judge or condemn but that we exist on campus to love and support both the woman and the child. She put us in touch with one of the guys from our student union at another meeting, opening another door for communication and also setting us up with the lady from the Wellness Centre. It’s good for them all to see that we’re willing to talk civilly and then they can associate smiling faces with the name “Life Choice.”
With communication, it’s the personal contact that has the greatest effect. Get to know people and meet them face-to-face while still using the many different apps and programs which allow you to communicate small things efficiently. Put your words where they count!