Are you passionate about a cause or nonprofit? Then, consider starting a chapter of an organization at your college.
While plenty is needed to get a student chapter up and running, the rewards are worth the effort. Whether you’re a member of a nonprofit organization looking to branch out or interested in bringing an organization’s work to the community, this guide will help you get started.
What is a Chapter Organization?
Chapter organizations are branches of a parent organization with a shared mission. Organizations could include nonprofits, professional associations and sororities, ranging from local, statewide or nationally. Examples of student chapters include the following:
- Action Network
- Association for Women in Science
- Habitat for Humanity
- Animal Legal Defense Fund
- The Wildlife Society
- Boys and Girls Club
A chapter organization is somewhat like a franchise — the parent organization owns the name and maintains an agreement for its operation. College-based chapters typically have their own board of directors, activities and structure, although many parent organizations will want to have some say in management.
Benefits of Starting a Chapter Organization
Aside from helping a nonprofit continue making a difference in their communities, students can gain exceptional leadership skills when starting a nonprofit student chapter.
According to a Center for Creative Leadership report, student leadership development results in higher educational engagement, collaboration and communication skills and greater adaptability. Additionally, nonprofit student chapters have the following benefits:
- Ability to learn about oneself
- Fosters teamwork
- Provides networking opportunities
- Engages with diverse people
- Grows your personal, academic and professional interests
- Improves your resume
In a tough job market, it’s necessary to demonstrate soft and hard skills to future employers. A nonprofit chapter is especially eye-catching as it highlights your ability to organize, lead and execute effectively.
For instance, perhaps hold a fundraiser where students can set donation goals online to contribute to the organization’s mission. The person with the highest amount could be recognized or rewarded afterward, while the funds could go toward research or special projects.
7 Steps for Starting a Nonprofit Chapter Organization at Your School
Are you ready to start working with a nonprofit organization? Once you’ve decided on an organization, these seven steps will help you get your chapter off the ground.
1. Prepare an Affiliation Agreement
Every nonprofit organization will have different requirements for branching out. However, most will require an affiliation agreement outlining the expectations for your chapter. Typically, affiliation agreements detail the legal requirements, trademarks, location, fees and dues, activity permissions and training.
The agreement isn’t necessarily meant to restrict your chapter but to ensure that your mission remains ethical and aligned with the parent organization.
2. Obtain an Employee Identification Number
All business entities must have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify themselves for tax purposes — this also allows you to pay employees or open a bank account for your chapter.
The parent organization will already maintain tax-free status with the IRS so you don’t have to. Nevertheless, you must still file for exemption status under the group.
3. Recruit Board Members
Recruiting board members will propel your chapter within the college community. With a board of directors at the helm, your chapter will run more smoothly and effectively than if you were to govern by yourself.
You can look for board members by contacting the parent organization, your town’s chamber of commerce or nearby organizations with like-minded missions. Leveraging social media pages and board-matching websites may be other useful ways to recruit interested members.
4. Hire Employees
Establishing a chapter organization at your college takes effort, so consider hiring student employees or volunteers to fill essential roles.
Assuming you’re the Executive Director, typical jobs you might post online or in your campus-wide newsletter include:
- Fundraising manager
- Communications specialist
- Volunteer coordinator
- Finance manager
- Events manager or coordinator
- Development officer
- Membership manager
At this point, you should set up a separate email address for the chapter organization. One user could have 150 online accounts for which they use their email address — therefore, a separate email will make it easier to organize incoming inquiries and applications.
5. Set Up Website and Social Media
Create a buzz about your campus-based chapter organization with a website and social media platform. A recent Pew Research Center study found that Youtube and Facebook are the most popular social media apps among 81% and 69% of users, respectively. Regarding young people under 30, about 76% use Instagram, 75% use Snapchat and 55% use TikTok.
Decide which channels will benefit your chapter the most and have the greatest reach among students at your school.
6. Find a Location
College students likely will have few resources to lease an office downtown for their chapter. Don’t worry if you begin operations out of your dorm or a vacant classroom — as long as you can meet up with fellow members and carry out the mission, you’re good.
It’s crucial to consider what supplies you need, though. Do you require a laptop or special software? How about notebooks and writing utensils? Eventually, you may need furniture for a small office.
Check with board members to find out if anyone can donate office space — this is also an opportunity to connect with people and businesses in the community and on campus.
7. Seek Members
Finally, what’s a chapter nonprofit without its members? Once you’ve squared away the details of your organization, you’ll want to find students to join the cause.
Suppose your chapter revolves around wildlife conservation — then post flyers and speak to students in the environmental science department. Reaching out to friends, hanging posters, speaking to an advisor and promoting the chapter through the school’s channels are other ways to find members to join.
Make a Difference With a College Chapter of a Nonprofit Organization
Who says you must wait until college is over before changing the world? You can begin making a difference in your community and gain leadership experience by starting a chapter of a nonprofit organization at your college.