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How to Navigate Not Being an Official Student Organization on Your Campus

Sanctioned or not, you are still legit.

Nothing is worse than working your tail off to build a strong chapter or student organization only to find out your school won't recognize you as an official student group affiliation. Believe me, I would know. 

Here at the University of Iowa, if a group wants to become a sanctioned student organization, they have to produce a constitution, then present it to members of CSIL (Center for Student Involvement and Life), and have a certain number of students already interested in the group. Well, we have tried more than once and still end up with the same answer: No.  

I'm not going to lie, it's more than frustrating to be denied access to certain benefits when our objective is to make resources available for other students and give them the opportunity to get more involved. 

So from firsthand experience, here are some tips and tricks we have learned at Spoon Iowa that might help your chapter establish a bigger presence on campus if you are unofficial too.  

Pair up with local businesses for events 

pizza, cheese, bacon
Carly Koemptgen

Here in Iowa City, local businesses are huge and respect teaming up with school groups for the betterment of both sides. For example, last year we teamed up with Order Up, a food delivery service, to deliver boxes of pizza the week before finals. 

We pitched to Order Up that if we advertised them on our social media and wrote an article about the event, then in return they could sponsor the event with food. We asked students to Snapchat their favorite study spot and winners would receive a box of pizza.

In the end, it was a huge success and Order Up and our chapter received recognition. I would suggest keeping in contact after events like this, because the opportunity to collaborate again next semester could always come up!  

#SpoonTip: Check out the article here to see how it all went down. 

Build relationships with other student orgs

cake, beer, grass
Ashleigh Monaco

Don't be afraid to reach out to other student organizations to team up for events; they are your friends and sometimes best allies. Our chapter has found that the easiest way to team up with other groups was by filtering what orgs have the same values and interests as Spoon. 

Last spring, we teamed up with CHAARG, an athletic and heath-inspired student org, to produce a yoga event. We each promoted the event on social media and reached out on student Facebook pages. 

The advantages of pairing up with them was that they had access to reserve rooms on campus and their target audience was much bigger which drove more traffic to our sites. 

#SpoonTip: Read this article to find out what happened.  

Utilize downtown locations for advertisement

Emily Weaver

More than likely, your campus shares space in a part of a city on your campus where you grab a bite to eat, use as a study spot, or  quickly pick up an ugly Christmas sweater for that holiday party. 

Our chapter's best advice? Use these places to your best advantage. Several places (usually food-related) have community boards where you can hang flyers for an event or to join your chapter. Look out for coffee shops, a public library, or even light or bulletin posts throughout the area that you can use pins. 

Post everything and anything to social media

Not being able to spread the word of how awesome your chapter is can be beyond frustrating when you're not allowed to go to the student fair, pin things up in the dorms or library, or use student org resources in the student center. 

Luckily, our generation doesn't know how to put down their phone for a hot second so we can advertise the heck on there. Make a Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Twitter account.

Here's the thing I have learned: just because Becky follows you on Instagram and likes all your pics, doesn't mean she follows you on Facebook. In other words, by having numerous platforms, you are reaching different audiences. My mom likes every single of my Facebook posts but she doesn't have an Instagram (at least not yet). 

When we first do our information meeting, we ask how everyone heard about the meeting. One girl said that she randomly follows one of our members because of her blog and found out through there. You never know how someone might find out about your chapter so trying everything might not be such a bad idea. 

Since I have joined Spoon Iowa, we have doubled our size, our social media presence is poppin', and we are busting out articles right and left. This doesn't mean that we don't face any obstacles or hiccups along the way, but if we can do it, then you can too. Sanctioned or not, your chapter is legit and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!