peta2 Guide to Starting an Animal Rights Club at School
Whether you’re in high school or college, you’re in a great environment to connect with others who have similar values and ideals. Joining a club is a fun way to socialize with others and bond with them over common interests. Hundreds of schools already have animal rights clubs, but if yours is a little behind the times, don’t worry: peta2 can help you start one!
Step 1: Research your school’s rules regarding starting a club. You may be able to start one without getting permission, but you should try to get your club registered with your school so you can reserve space on campus for your meetings and other events. You should also be able to apply for school funding to get flyers printed or to have your club’s events catered (with delicious vegan food, of course).
- Many colleges have an annual deadline for the submission of applications for new student groups. Find out when that is. If you just missed it, don’t worry—you can still start your club. (It just won’t be officially recognized yet.) You can hold meetings off campus and organize protests or outreach events in “free-speech zones” on campus without making a reservation ahead of time. Just set a reminder to get your club registered before the next deadline.
- You or another board member may have to take an online training course on running a club on your campus.
- At some schools, clubs are required to reapply each school year. Find out whether this is the case at your school, and set a reminder if needed.
- Look into your school’s policy regarding funding for student organizations, which might involve a separate application process after your club has been registered. You should definitely take advantage of such an opportunity. To do so, you’ll need a detailed plan of all your events for the upcoming year as well as an estimate of what you’ll need, why you’ll need it, and what everything costs. This can involve a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it. Your club could be the one that becomes famous on campus for giving out free vegan Chipotle burritos!
Step 2: Find a teacher, a professor, or another staff member to sponsor your club. Some schools require a staff sponsor and some don’t, but it can be helpful to have one either way. Consider asking your favorite teacher or any other staff member you might already have a connection with, or find out if any teachers focus on animal rights, ethics, environmental sustainability, or plant-based nutrition in their courses.
Step 3: Create an Instagram account for your club, and consider setting up a TikTok account as well. You can find tons of tips on using social media to promote clubs effectively in the Students Opposing Speciesism (SOS) campaign guide.
Step 4: Find out if your school requires clubs to have officers or board members, like a president, vice president, treasurer, or social media officer. Another possibility is that it might want you to list 10 members’ names and e-mail addresses. If you don’t have any members yet, ask some of your friends if you could list them as officers or members until the club gets up and running. (They wouldn’t be under any obligation, but they might decide to get more involved as they learn more about your club.)
Step 5: Check to see if your school has a student involvement fair. Most schools have one at the start of each semester or at least at the start of the fall semester. Once your club is registered, reserve table space at the event ASAP. If you already missed the fair, find out what big event your school will be hosting next—maybe a fall festival, a spring fair, or an environmental festival. It’s common for student organizations to be able to have a table for free at large events like these. They offer great opportunities for recruiting members and getting the word out about your club and your campaigns.
- When hosting a recruitment table, offer some fun freebies. We can send you free sticker sheets, copies of our “Guide to Going Vegan,” and various leaflets and cards.
- Consider offering vegan cupcakes, cookies, or other small treats to everyone who signs up with your club or follows it on Instagram.
- Either have a pen and a sign-up sheet (you can download an example on page 7 of the SOS campaign guide) or keep a laptop or tablet on your table with an Excel spreadsheet for people to type in their name and e-mail address along with any other information you might want to collect from them.
Step 6: Schedule your club’s first general meeting before the club involvement fair. Then host it for a few days after the fair. That way, you’ll have a chance to ask fair attendees to come to the meeting to learn more about your club.
- Plan to have free food at the meeting, and prepare a short presentation discussing who you and your officers and board members are, why you started the club, and which issues or campaigns you plan to focus on.
- Don’t forget to reserve a meeting space! At a lot of schools, popular meeting and event spaces can be booked up months in advance, so try to reserve the space you need as far ahead of time as possible.
- Plan an icebreaker activity or two for everyone to participate in, and have attendees introduce themselves. Find out why they came to the meeting and what specific animal rights issues they’re interested in. This step is important, because although you should have some ideas about what you want the club to accomplish, ultimately your fellow members should help guide the direction of your club with regard to events and campaigns.
- Brainstorm about future events and campaigns, and have someone take notes. Let attendees know that board member positions are available and that these are great leadership opportunities that look awesome on college applications or résumés.
- Don’t be shy—as the founder and president of the club, you should talk to everyone who attends your meeting and thank them for coming.
- Don’t forget to snap a few good photos to post on your club’s social media accounts!
Step 7: Look up clubs at your school that might share some of your club’s values. Let their presidents know that you’re starting a new club; that you admire their mission, goals, or events; and that you hope you can collaborate with them in the future.
- Clubs that address feminism, ethics, social justice, the environment, nutrition, or community gardens might want to collaborate with yours.
- If you’re already a member of any other clubs, consider collaborating with them as well, even if you think it’s a stretch (like a water polo club or a theatre group). You never know! It helps to have other clubs backing yours up. Ask them to announce your general meeting at their next meeting, in their e-mail newsletter, or via social media. And ask if they’d like to cosponsor one of your events.
- Consider planning a vegan cooking demo cosponsored by a nutrition club, a community garden, or one of your school’s sports teams or club sports. Or perhaps screen a vegan documentary with the film club or the environmental club.
- Don’t push too hard for a partnership, especially with a club you aren’t a member of. Ideally, you’d already have established a connection before asking. And remember that a partnership is a two-way street!
Step 8: Plan weekly or biweekly board meetings. Board members should be expected to attend regularly, and it’s a good idea to have a policy in place about letting you know if they can’t make it. You can also invite active members who aren’t board members. Consider booking a meeting space on campus, bring food and snacks, and create an agenda to send to your attendees ahead of time!
Step 9: Plan events and meetings for your entire semester, ideally before the semester even starts! That way, you can book the most popular and high-traffic areas at optimal times for your protests and outreach events.
- Think of a big campaign you want to push at your school, like getting rid of animal dissection in biology classes, getting an all-vegan dining station in your dining hall, banning petting zoos from your campus, or having your school retire its live-animal mascot. Consider which campaign your members are most passionate about, but also look for low-hanging fruit: Which victory is most achievable right now? Starting with that one might well give you a quick win, which would build momentum for your club. The SOS campaign guide can help you get started.
- Have the list of events, including dates and times, on a Google document that’s shared with your board members. (Ideally, they will have participated in the planning!)
Step 10: Continue to expand your board. The bigger the board, the more members who can be held accountable for showing up and helping to organize the club’s protests and other events.
- Consider creating a brief application form (like a simple Google form) for prospective board members, and ask what board positions they’d like to hold. Maybe someone is a talented graphic designer and wants to create the club’s marketing materials. Great! This person can make a club logo and create cool designs to help promote your events online and on flyers that you can put up around campus.
- Continue to assign each board member specific tasks and responsibilities and clearly communicate them. People enjoy feeling that they’re part of something important and integral to the team’s success, so don’t try to do everything yourself or forget to communicate and delegate effectively.
Step 11: Create a tight-knit team environment for your board and general members.
- Use group texting, GroupMe, or Discord to allow your board members to communicate with each other on a regular basis. Choose whatever platform is already most familiar to them to encourage ongoing activity.
- Consider having T-shirts or hoodies featuring your club’s name or logo made.
- Plan social time after your weekly board meetings, or schedule a special social night. You could have a potluck and ask everyone to bring their favorite vegan food—and perhaps watch a lighthearted animal rights movie like Finding Nemo or Happy Feet.
- Plan a field trip to a reputable animal sanctuary, or volunteer with a local open-admission animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation clinic. These types of experiences help everyone bond, making your club stronger.
- Take pictures at all your events, including the social ones, to let others know that your club is full of not only great activists but also great friends who work together to get the job done. Post the pics on your club’s social media outlets to show people how fun standing up for animals can be!
Have questions or need more personalized help getting your animal rights club up and running? E-mail us at [email protected]. And if you’re in high school, be sure to check out our guide to starting and running a high school club.