15 Steps to Get Your Chapter Started
1. Determine your motivation and your goals
Creating a CCL chapter or campaign is a big undertaking. Why do you want to do it? Do you have the time to do it? What do you hope to accomplish? Outline some initial goals that you’d like to pursue, such as:
- Starting a chapter or campaign
- Getting the president’s endorsement
- Lobby your member of Congress
- Publish an op-ed
- Attend a CCL conference
- Support a state carbon price campaign
2. Register your Student Organization
Even though you don’t need to be an official student organization in order to meet as a group and run your campaign, being official on campus will help you get resources like funding, priority in booking rooms, and access to the student activities fair. Check out your school website for information about becoming a club, likely under Student Affairs, Student Activities, or Campus Life. If you can’t find the information, contact your Student Activities Coordinator directly. Then be sure to fill out the paperwork and other requirements for becoming a club. These requirements will vary depending on your school. For example, New York University requires club leaders to fill out a thorough club questionnaire, constitution, and get 100 student signatures on a petition. After being approved, club leaders must take two semesters of a New Club in Development program before they can be officially approved to be a school club. Knowing the extent of requirements will help you plan your semester goals.
3. Find a faculty or staff mentor
A faculty or staff mentor is often required for starting a student organization, and is extremely useful as an advisor who can point you to resources you need at the school. Someone concerned about climate change is a natural fit, such as an environmental studies professor or the sustainability director. Meet with this person early on to talk about your goals and strategies.
4. Register as a CCL Chapter
Have the CCL regional coordinator or higher ed coordinator fill out a CCL group update form so that you can also be an official CCL chapter.
Research your school’s past actions and positions on climate change related issues to help make your plans. Does the school have a climate action plan? Who is the sustainability director? Is there a sustainability committee? Has the president signed the Second Nature Presidents’ Climate Commitment? What are the other environmental groups on campus? Knowing your President’s position on climate change enables you to shape the dialogue about carbon pricing with a focus on their concerns, as well as to commend them on the efforts they have made. Additionally, knowing if there are other groups on campus working on climate chtange provides you with potential resources for support and members. These groups might also have information to give you about the President’s personal stance on climate change.
6. Meet with the sustainability director
Your sustainability director is the source of all things sustainability related on campus. It is important that you develop a positive relationship with this person who is an important resource both for getting involved on campus and for starting your path to the President’s endorsement. Questions your sustainability director may have answers to include: What has the school accomplished on climate change? What are its plans? Is the president likely to endorse? How should you pursue the endorsement? What planned sustainability events and activities can you be a part of? Who are potential allies among the faculty, staff, and students?
7. Meet with leaders of other campus groups
There are likely many groups on campus already that can help you grow your presence on campus. These groups are primarily environmental groups and, potentially, political groups. Make connections with students leading these groups early! If your school has a club database, such as OrgSync, you can find clubs and contacts there. These groups might be good resources and allies for campus environmental events, and likely have a community of students who would be interested in your group. These connections can help your find your core members, and give you a start to your member roster.
8. Talk to your local CCL leaders
Get in touch with the group leader of the local CCL chapter as well as the regional coordinator. They will be thrilled that you are starting a group on campus and do anything to help you. They can give you information about your member of Congress, the lobbying efforts they have already done, as well as potential resources and support as you develop your campus chapter. As they have more experience, they may be able to help you with lobbying workshops or tabling events!
9. Review your goals
Once you have gathered information, review your goals and figure out what’s realistic. If there is strong evidence that your President might never endorse carbon pricing, you may want to focus your efforts in other directions, such as faculty endorsements or lobbying. What will you be able to accomplish in a semester or two? Having too many goals can be overwhelming, and even after setting your goals, you may find that some things are currently out of reach.
10. Create an action plan
Use the Action Plan Template to create a timeline of steps you’ll need to take in order to reach your goals. Planning for events in advance will make things much less stressful! Create a month-by-month plan of major events and actions, then a week-by-week plan of your group’s meetings. Make note of important dates like the first day of class, holidays, last day of class, and exams and plan your meetings around those.
Plugging into existing campus events is an easy way to start your plan. Examples might be Campus Sustainability Day, or Earth Day in the Spring. Such events are great times to table, host a presentation or film showing, or organize actions like a rally. Talk to your sustainability director a semester in advance to be part of the planning process.
You can also plan around CCL’s events, such as Congressional Education Day. This occurs in the Fall after midterm elections, when CCL returns to Capitol Hill to lobby to all representatives, new and old. A good idea would be to plan to lobby to your representatives around this time! CCL also hosts regional conferences throughout the fall and spring, and the national conference in Washington DC in June.
Another option is local and state events. Just because you are a campus CCL chapter, doesn’t mean you can’t go beyond CCL and your campus! Encourage your chapter members and community to vote during upcoming elections. Stay in touch with other environmental groups in your community, such as 350.org, League of Conservation Voters, or Sierra Club. If you have an environmental studies department, participate in their events and opportunities. Attending events of other groups will help you build a coalition and make it easier to get support for your events!
11. Create a website or Facebook page
A Facebook page is an easy (and free) platform to create a virtual home for your new group. This provides potential members with a place to learn more about your chapter, as well as to keep updated on group meetings and events. As you tell people about your group, be sure to invite them to like your Facebook page or join your Facebook group. Also, don't forget to join the Higher Education Facebook group! This helps you stay connected with other campus leaders and events around the country.
12. Build a membership roster
As you find people to join your group, create a mailing list to keep in touch with everyone. If you’re an officially registered CCL chapter, you can use the roster tool in Community. Google groups or MailChimp are great tools for sending mass emails. You may also wish to use an app like GroupMe to send group text messages.
13. Hold an initial outreach event
Have a tabling event at the beginning of the semester to get your chapter on student’s minds before they settle into other plans. A great place to do this is at a Student Activities fair. This is also a great time to start an email list, or to ask people to like your Facebook page. Have something that draws students in, such as food! Always have sign-up sheets at tablings and events. Using a laptop and spreadsheet to do this makes it easier to add email addresses to a list quickly and without having to decipher potentially confusing handwriting!
14. Conduct outreach for your first meeting
Now that you’ve done all your learning and planning, you are ready to have your first meeting! Figure out when and where you are going to have this meeting, and create a Facebook event and a flyer. Contact the students who signed up at your initial outreach event to see if they can help you put up flyers, make announcements, and invite their friends! Use email, social media, the school calendar, and department newsletters to get the word out about your first meeting. You can also look into writing an op-ed for your school or local newspaper.
15. Have your first meeting
Your first meeting is the most important one! Your first meeting should achieve three goals: 1) establish the group’s trust in you as the group leader, 2) build a sense of comraderie as a group, 3) educate everyone about the mission, goals, and strategy of the group. Use the meeting plan template to plan your meeting, and the presentations to give an introduction to CCL and Carbon Fee and Dividend. Facilitate an icebreaker or getting-to-know-you game.
Consider having a co-leader for the first meeting. If you can’t find another student to co-lead the first meeting, ask your local CCL chapter group leader or your faculty/staff mentor. It’s also never a bad idea to provide food! Create and share an agenda to keep the meeting on track. A well-run first meeting will go a long way to establish that you are a capable and organized leader. A friendly and inclusive atmosphere will help the group be one that people want to be a part of. And having a strong plan of action will inspire others to your mission.
In your first meeting, you may also want to delegate roles to students who want to be more involved, such as Treasurer, or Social Media Manager. You can tailor roles and responsibilities to the needs of you chapter and members.
CCL Community has a lot of resources, webinars, and presentations (in addition to the Higher Ed presentations) that can help you and your members learn and organize as you progress through your meetings.
Finally, remember that things don’t always go according to plan! Don’t be discouraged if you feel you’ve fallen behind schedule. Every step you take towards your goal is an accomplishment in itself!