Ashley Delacruz, left, and Shayla Gramajo, right, hold Operation Smile friendship bracelets created by Stephanie Fandino for the “Beloved Bracelets” fundraiser at Manhattan College. (Photo courtesy of Shayla Gramajo)

Engage and Sustain Your Club With These Four Tips 

Engaging and maintaining your clubs are great ways to encourage member participation in this new hybrid world. We share these tips to help you effectively share your passions for Operation Smile over a larger audience through awareness and fundraisers!

By Shayla Gramajo, Social Media Intern and College Leadership Council ambassador

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to work together and take initiative whenever possible to support Operation Smile and its mission. We can all become our own leaders, and for you Marvel and “WandaVision” fans out there, just know “You were born for it.”

To many, Wanda Maximoff represents being true to yourself and embracing your natural abilities. Your integrity and unique capabilities will help guide you to represent Operation Smile through your own creative styles. Whether you are starting up a new club, gaining new members, or preparing for another successful year, each of you have the potential to become empowering leaders within your Operation Smile clubs.

By staying true to your remarkable abilities, here are the four steps to engaging — and sustaining — your Operation Smile clubs:

Find your passion. We strongly recommend taking some time to focus on what Operation Smile means to you. It can be one word, a short sentence, or a quote that defines your passion for the nonprofit organization. Once you have that idea fresh in your mind, use that definition to help you lead your clubs the way you aspire to. This is essential because your members will notice your enthusiasm, and they will resonate with that. All of us share a close connection with the mission of Operation Smile, so feel free to share that same feeling with your club members!

Aim to recruit members (and remember, everyone is welcome!) As a club leader advocating for Operation Smile, it is crucial to raise awareness about your clubs and encourage students to join in the wonderful cause. The most effective way to advertise your club is by creating a Google Form where students can sign up to join. Each time a new member signs up, you can add them into a Google Contacts label which will allow leaders to send out emails to the entire club simultaneously. Be sure to share your club’s Google Form to your school or college department chairperson to promote awareness!

As always, share the mission of Operation Smile so that members know exactly what the club stands for. By recruiting new members, you can provide important roles, such as treasurer, vice president, fundraising chair, and more. They will be your main team and are there to help you along the way. A strong team is one that works together!

Shayla, left, recommends that club leaders share every fundraising and project milestone with their members. It helps to keep members engaged and involved with the club. (Photo courtesy of Shayla Gramajo)

Motivate and engage your members. Expressing your enthusiasm about Operation Smile will inspire and engage your club members! There are many ways to achieve this. For example, student leaders can create biweekly or monthly club meetings with icebreakers at the beginning of each meeting. (Bonus points if you have a member help create an eye-catching Google Slides presentation with your club’s upcoming events!) Some great starter icebreaker questions include “What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?” or “What is the best gift you have ever received or given?” Most importantly, these icebreaker questions can be about anything! The point is to “break” the silence and learn more about your new members!

Another successful way to energize members is by using Icebreaker.video, which was implemented at the 2021 Step Up Symposium! This website will create the icebreaker questions for you, or you can even create your own unique questions! A great feature about this website is the one-on-one or small group interactions it forms to get the conversation started. For each timed round, the website will randomly place members into groups, and then a flashcard will show up on the screen. Everyone will be able to contribute their stories and share their personalities based on the given prompt. A wonderful way to incorporate our passion for Operation Smile is by including the questions, “What do you love most about Operation Smile?” or “What do you want to learn more about Operation Smile?”

Lastly, you can create a group chat through GroupMe (or another communication app) to keep your Operation Smile community together. With a group chat, you can share updates, events and the latest news with your members even faster than email. Just be sure to message at a reasonable time and avoid spamming.

Reward your members. This is the key to sustaining your clubs! As student leaders, we want to make sure that we are acknowledging the efforts of our members. Whether you are addressing your members by name when they show up for a meeting or they took time to volunteer with a fundraising event, we want to make sure they know that we appreciate their time and hard work.

At the end of every event, you must share how much your club raised toward impacting Operation Smile and praise everyone for their volunteerism and dedication! Creating these events involve a team effort, so it is imperative to share every milestone!

Pro tip! Seek out members who will maintain an active club. Consider holding club spring elections for new executive board positions. As student leaders, we need to ensure that there is a mixed representation of graduating years on our boards to sustain our clubs for the following year. Once you decide on who will take over club leadership the next year, be sure to introduce them to your Student Programs regional associate! As a result, you are ensuring that the legacy of Operation Smile remains in your schools or universities and that your clubs continue to receive the support they need. Learn more about your Operation Smile regional associate.

Shayla is a Student Programs’ Social Media Intern and College Leadership Council ambassador for New York. She is the current president of her Operation Smile chapter at Manhattan College, @mc.operationsmile. She learned more about the organization her freshman year of college and has gained experience throughout the years, where she has found a passion in sharing her insights with other student leaders. She is more than willing to answer any questions you have regarding club sustainability!

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