Want to get involved on campus? Here’s how to start your own student organization
When Cameron Brown came to IU, he couldn’t believe that out of the hundreds of organizations on campus, there was no magic club.
He’d been interested in magic for years, but no student groups were practicing it. Brown, an IU alum, knew he couldn’t be the only one searching.
“I was like, man, I know there’s got to be some other people at this 40,000-person school who are also interested in magic,” Brown said.
At the start of his sophomore year in 2019, Brown went to the Indiana Memorial Union to watch a comedy improv show where he met two other people who also loved magic. The three of them agreed to form a team, and Indiana University’s first magic club, Paradigm Shift, was born.
“It made me realize that it’s not as difficult as it seems sometimes to do what you want to do,” Brown said. “If you think something’s a good idea, just try it.”
IU’s student organizations, which span a multitude of topics, provide an opportunity for students to find new hobbies and participate in causes they care about.
While there are hundreds of existing student groups, some students still may have trouble finding what they’re looking for. One solution is to start a new organization on campus. While it may seem daunting, creating an official organization can be done with the right people and materials. Here’s what you need to know.
Forming and registering your organization
The first step in starting your own organization is to make sure the organization is actually new. With hundreds of organizations at IU, there may be a group already doing the work or activities you’re interested in. You can browse these groups on beINvolved, IU’s database of student organizations.
Once you’re sure your organization hasn’t been established, you can register it on beINvolved, where you can post events, keep a roster, update your profile and more.
To be a registered student organization, your organization must have five enrolled IU Bloomington student members. It must also have at least one faculty or staff advisor listed on your beINvolved roster, and it must write a constitution.
There are two types of registered student organizations at IU: Self-Governed Student Organizations and University Student Organizations.
Most student organizations are Self-Governed Student Organizations. While Self-Governed Student Organizations can operate on campus and involve IU students, staff and faculty, they are independent of the university and are not departments or administrative units of IU. This means they cannot use IU’s trademarks, symbols or logos except as approved by the university.
Self-Governed Student Organizations can complete a form online to register. The form is available from the start of the fall semester until March 1.
Some organizations, such as student government, are University Student Organizations. These are treated as operating units of the university. They can access administrative services and use the IU name and branding. University Student Organizations work more closely with the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, who oversee their bank account and provide advising.
Students wishing to create a USO must ask a faculty or staff advisor to fill out a form requesting USO status.
After you register
After you submit the required form to register, you’ll receive an invitation to set up an advising appointment or your advisor will be contacted for further information.
There are several benefits that come with being a registered organization at IU. Student organizations can reserve space on campus for free, request a table at the Student Involvement Fair and apply for office space in the IMU. They can also request a network ID and email address, and access leadership development programs and advising with Student Involvement and Leadership staff to help run the organization effectively.
Registered student organizations can apply for funding to support their activities. Alison Miron, Senior Assistant Director for Leadership at the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, said that organizations can request money to fund event expenses like venue, decorations and food costs.
Maintaining your organization
To maintain access to benefits such as space reservations, organizations must re-register on beINvolved each year. If an organization does not re-register, their access to benefits will expire. Organizations must also maintain their constitution each year.
Miron said students often face challenges keeping their organization consistent. A student will be excited to start the organization, she said, but if no one else is prepared to take over once that student graduates, the organization can run into problems. She said organizations, especially founding members, should not only focus on their own leadership but also on developing other student leaders within the group.
“If you’re getting people invested and making people feel like they’re a part of the organization, they’re much more likely to want to continue that after people leave,” Miron said.
Student organizations are incredibly important for campus life, Miron said, and give students an opportunity to pursue new activities and become civically and politically engaged.
“They're of course coming to start an education, but also they're coming to learn about themselves, about the world around them, and to explore their interests, maybe meet new people, and learn something new,” Miron said.