Published 21st September 2019
Image: EA University of Queensland
Some groups attribute their success to having a strong start. EA NTNU aimed to look like an established professional group from the very start by having t-shirts, posters, flyers, and banners, along with planning out their activities in advance. The idea is that people are more likely to jump on board with a club that seems like it is already lively.
So, if you have the capacity and desire for a lot of planning, this might be worth doing. But if you don’t have the ability to be very organised at the start, don’t worry, starting small has worked for many groups too.
Your university’s clubs fair (also called Freshers’ Fair, Activities Fair and Orientation) is probably the best opportunity you’ll have all year to attract members. Some universities have them at the start of each academic year, and some hold them at the start of each intake, often two times a year.
Here is a guide to make the most of clubs fairs and other tabling opportunities. This guide is mostly designed for clubs who have several people to help with the time to organise. You may wish to scale back some or all of these suggestions if you have less capacity.
Your clubs fair is your best advertisement at the start of the year, but there are also other opportunities including posters and flyers, connecting with other clubs, and getting shout-outs in lectures.
More information about advertising your group is coming soon.
The first event you have after clubs fair is a great way of converting email list signups into dedicated members. Your attendees will be trying to figure out whether your club is worth investing more of their time in, so do your best to run an attractive, exciting, and inspiring event.
Hold your first event very soon after clubs fair. After the first few weeks of classes, people will get busy and lose interest in trying out new activities.
Don’t be discouraged if not many people show up. Many thriving groups started out small and slowly built up attendance over the years. As an example, Stanford EA reported attendance of only four people at their irregular events during the first year, but this grew to a thriving group of 20-25 people attending events twice a week.
Here are some ideas for what to do during the first event:
- Give a general intro to effective altruism presentation or workshop. This might be a good idea if you have confident speakers and are expecting more than 10 or 15 people to turn up. We recommend making this interactive so that people get to think and discuss ideas. One popular activity is a giving game, where participants choose which charity to donate a pot of money to. Another is a cause-prioritization activity where participants assess a few cause areas and try to work out which one is the most pressing.
- Read, or view and discuss, an introduction to EA. Some candidates are the articles Introduction to EA and Do Unto Others, and the videos What are the Most Important Moral Problems of Our Time (by Will MacAskill), and The Why and How of Effective Altruism (by Peter Singer). Check out our resources and tips for holding discussion groups.
- Consider, if your group is ambitious and has the time available, a prestigious speaker if you have one in your area. Big speaking events take a lot of time to organise and, although the turnout is good, usually few of the attendees convert to regular club members, so you might find there are better first activities for your group. Since this will be the first introduction to effective altruism for many attendees, it would be ideal if your speaker could talk about effective altruism. See more information on hosting speakers.
People’s first impression of effective altruism is likely to stick, so if your event only covers one aspect of effective altruism, people might come away with the idea that this aspect is all there is to EA. So whatever you choose to do at your first event, make sure part of the event includes a clear explanation about what effective altruism is and a taste of the breadth of cause areas and the different ways people can effectively contribute (through their career, donations, and volunteering). This is useful to do whenever you have several new people attending. Check out these approaches to explaining effective altruism to create your own explanation.
For more guidance on how to plan and conduct events, see our events page.
At the end of your first event, invite people to any subsequent events you have planned, even if you don’t have all the details confirmed.
Your Next Event
I know, I know, you are still working out how to host your first one, but it’s probably good to have at least some information about the details of your next planned event. Many groups have found it useful to hold the events regularly at the same time and place to make it easier for regular attendees (not to mention organisers).
Try to make this within a month of the first event (or sooner, especially for bigger groups), so that you can maintain momentum. Perhaps, prepare a slide about the next event if you are giving a presentation or write it up on a flyer (check out our flyer templates). At least make sure to clearly state that there will be another event and where people can find these details.
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