At the end of 2017, halfway through my sophomore year of college, I was elected the president of Bama Students for Life, the pro-life club on my campus. I had already served for a year as secretary and gotten very involved with helping the president with anything she needed, but I still felt under-qualified and overwhelmed. Reflecting back on my term as president, I know I did many things well, but there are also several things that I wish I had done differently, to serve more effectively in my role. If you have recently been elected to serve your pro-life organization, or you have plans to run for an officer position of your club in the future, learn from my mistakes so you can run your group as effectively as possible and save as many babies and mamas as possible.
Not learning how to delegate sooner
I’m a huge control freak, Most people that find themselves in charge of a campus club are too. But after a few months of exhausting myself, I realized I had a vice president, secretary, treasurer, fundraising chair, tabling chair, director of outreach and director of social media who were there for the club, just as much as I was. They wanted to use their skills, talents and passion for the pro-life movement to further our cause. All they needed was directions from me. Once I started delegating responsibilities to my friends, I learned that things could get done just as well, if not better, when I let them take the reins.
Putting it on the back burner
It’s not realistic to spend every waking second planning the organization you lead, but I had too many weeks where I would wait until the day of a meeting to even decide what the topic of the meeting would be and put together a slideshow for it. This was unfair to the members of my club who devoted an hour of their week to learning about the pro-life movement from me. My members and the people our group supported deserved better than half-hearted meetings.
As much as education and involvement are important in a club, at the end of the day, the purpose of a pro-life club is to help save babies and help moms take on unplanned pregnancies. I would often encourage my club members to get involved by sidewalk counseling at the abortion clinic, or volunteering to help out at the pregnancy center, but I could have arranged for us to go to the abortion clinic together every Saturday. This would have given us consistency. It also would have helped newer members learn how to sidewalk counsel from those who had been doing it for a long time. By making it optional, sporadic, and not always going myself, it signaled to my members that it was only of semi-importance.
Focusing on recruitment rather than retention
I spent hours figuring out how to table for our school’s Get On Board Day at the beginning of the year. I sent flyers and pamphlets to Greek organizations, churches and other clubs on campus, telling them to attend our meetings. This external recruiting was great. We had over 150 people attend at least one meeting during the year that I was president. However, the issues I had were with retention, not recruitment. Over 150 people attended one meeting, but only about 15 attended meetings every week. Can you imagine if I had focused on keeping the members I had and getting them to come back, rather than seeking out more people to attend one meeting and letting them slip through my fingers?
Comparing my club to other clubs
I was fortunate to be involved with a Fellowship program through Students for Life of America during the year that I was the president of my organization. This Fellowship program connected me to several other high school and college aged students that were officers of their pro-life organizations at their respective schools. This fellowship provided a great toolkit and abundant resources for my organization, but I would often get wrapped up in the details of what other organizations were doing. When I learned that one of my friends raised thousands of dollars for the pregnancy clinic, I felt insufficient. In fact, I felt that I wasn’t doing enough as a president to make measurable changes like this. This, in turn, caused me to spread myself and my club’s resources too thin. We planned for too many things that ended up falling through.