As I walk down Tech Walkway (formerly known as Skiles) and through the Student Center to get to the Technique office each day, I am accosted by flyers, free swag and awkward conversation-starters from organizational representatives. It might be an attempt to convert me to Spiritual Cause A. It might be a request to purchase flowers for a charity drive. It might be a bake sale to fund a trip to the park. It might be another, entirely separate attempt to convert me, yet again, to Spiritual Cause A.
Across these dozens of requests, I might remember the organizational representative who tricked me into at least looking at a flyer by sticking it under my face and saying, “Hey, will you throw this away for me?” But otherwise, I have little recollection of what spiritual philosophy I entertained for five minutes, and I certainly cannot remember what event I partially funded with the change in my wallet.
This series of events, coupled with short-term memory loss, makes me wonder: What makes an organization memorable, unique, useful and relevant to anyone’s daily life? This question applies to all kinds of organizations, from ones that have cropped up since you started reading this editorial to ones that have existed for a century, like this paper.
When evaluating your organization, consider its original grander purpose. Does it still serve that purpose? For older organizations, you’ll often find that the purpose has evolved, but be sure that evolution is a product of time and the changing community and not an abandonment of seemingly lofty goals. You should also consider other organizations with similar goals and purposes, and avoid repeating organizations. Duplication or even triplication dilutes your ability to achieve your organization’s goals and often confuses students who are interested in your purpose.
When looking for students to join your organization or your cause, don’t just host recruitment drives. Unless those flyers involve free donuts or Taco Bell, I will likely throw them away within 30 seconds of your shoving them into my hands. Unless the emails I receive from signing up involve free donuts or Taco Bell, I will likely filter them into my Spam folder. You should instead seek to raise awareness of your purpose to everyone by hosting events and producing relevant services. If a student happens to find those events or services cool enough, not only will he be able to communicate your organization’s ideals to his friends, but he’ll also feel compelled to join. By doing this, you roll your techniques for recruitment and awareness into one.
More recently, I’ve noticed a more collaborative approach to programming and pushing initiatives on Tech’s campus. Collaboration is great because it consolidates large groups of people with similar visions, and pragmatically speaking, it generates more funding. But don’t do it for the sake of adding “collaboration” to your organization’s long list of ideals. Create your own identity first so that when organizations seek to collaborate, they know what you have to offer. Also, be selective about collaboration—join forces with the appropriate organizations on large events or major initiatives that target every demographic of the Tech community. Don’t collaborate to host an event or to push an initiative that only benefits those in your spheres of influence, which are typically only members of the involved organizations. Furthermore, collaborate with organizations with different ideas, skills and types of people to bring to the table.
From the moment you step onto campus, you are inundated with the idea of giving back to Tech before you’ve even attended a class or joined a club. Don’t get me wrong—nearly three years at the Institute have provided me with countless experiences and a priceless education, and I do want to give back to it. But take a step back when considering your organization in the context of Tech, and begin to think beyond Tech to Atlanta, to Georgia, to the U.S. and to the world.
When you graduate, you’ll begin to contribute to the greater community, and what better time is there to practice engaging with those outside of the Tech bubble than starting now?
Finally, don’t start an organization for the sake of saying you started an organization or for the satisfaction of typing that line onto your résumé. Your organization will never be particularly sustainable or long lived if you can’t transfer its ideals or your passions to its next generations of leaders or if you don’t consider its longevity in planning.