School is in session again, and that can only mean one thing: MUN season. The Model UN season is in high-gear as clubs begin organizing the first interest meetings and conference trips. For some clubs, it may be difficult to get members and even more difficult to get these members to continue coming to your meetings.
What can Model UN clubs do to have that solid foundation in the beginning of the year last for the whole school year?
- Utilize Advertisements
Prior to your first meeting, members of your club should go around your school or campus with flyers that advertise your club with the first meeting date, time, and location. When putting up these advertisements, try to put them in places that you know people will be able to see them. Bulletin boards, doors, residence halls, and classrooms are always good places to put these advertisements for public view. In most colleges, you can also advertise by asking a department, usually the history or political science department, to send your club information along with their student newsletter. This will get broadcasted to any student involved in that field of study who would also most likely be interested in Model UN.
- Present the Organization
One advertisement strategy that helps when promoting your club is showing a quick PowerPoint in history- or international relations-related classes. Ask your teachers and professors if you can make an announcement about the club’s meeting date and basic information in front of their classes. This can help promote interest for the club as well as allow students to ask questions of members of the club.
- Participate in Involvement Fairs/Parents’ Nights
If your school or university hosts an involvement fair for clubs, set up a table with flyers and UN-themed decorations that students can visit. For ambitious clubs, have a game or quiz at the table to get students to stop. After this activity, you can even hand out baked goods or candy with your meeting information on it. In most high schools, they often hold a parents’ night for parents to see their children’s schedule and school activities. This is a good way to explain to parents what Model UN is and what skills the club offers members. You can even hand flyers out or have an activity for the parents much like the involvement fair.
Now that you have promoted your club, what do you do at the meeting to engage them?
The point of the first meeting is really to introduce yourselves to the members and find out more about them. If it’s a small- to medium-sized group, ask them to introduce themselves with their name, year, major (if university), and Model UN background. For larger meetings, you can always divide people into groups for an activity, and they can introduce themselves to their respective groups.
After introductions, prepare a presentation for the members to see what the club is about, what your club has done in the past, and what you plan to do in the future. This gives the new members a foundation for what the club entails and allows them to anticipate what is to come during the school year.
Once you discuss the workings of the club, have an activity ready for them to get involved. Your club can try games, such as UN Pictionary, Country 20 Questions, Family Feud, or UN Jeopardy. You can also show the new members how debate works with a universal, engaging topic (i.e. Harry Potter, Student Tuition Rates, Pirates vs. Ninjas, and Zombies vs. Unicorns). Mock debate works as an exercise for regular club meetings as well. The mock debate also gets the members to speak and gives the elected board/Secretariat members an opportunity to see the skills of new members.
Now that your first meeting is over, how do you get these new members to stay?
- Thank You Message
The day after the first meeting is an excellent time to thank everyone who came to the meeting in order to show your appreciation of their attendance. You can do this by asking them for their emails during sign-in at the first meeting. Getting their emails allows you to contact potential members regarding future meetings, conferences, and other club events. Acknowledge that you look forward to working with them and attending conferences with them in the months to come as well. Also, let your members know that if they ever have any questions about any aspect of the club, your entire elected board/Secretariat is open to them.
If you see students from the meeting around campus or as you walk the hallways, make sure you say hello and acknowledge them. The new members now feel welcomed into the club because you have remembered who they are after just one meeting. Also, now you have a common interest to build upon, which will encourage the new members to come back for the next meeting.
- Form Committees/Organize Events Together
An important way to engage new members is to get them involved in the club directly. Ask the general body at meetings if they would like to help organize fundraising or issue awareness events with current and elected board/Secretariat members. These events allow members to get to know each other and build not just a debate club, but also a community around the club. Forming committees can promote further interest among members because they may be interested in something else besides just international relations and debate. Forming committees that members can be involved in, such as finance, membership, public relations, and logistics, also gives members experience in the club so they will be capable of running the club once the current elected board/Secretariat members graduate.