How to Create Engaging AAUW Campus Programming

One of the most exciting parts about being in an AAUW student organization is creating programs on your campus that make a difference for women and girls. Campus programming is a great way to recruit potential members and to engage and empower your current members. Whether you plan a visual campaign or bring a feminist speaker to campus, lots of programs can help you change your campus climate.  AAUW is committed to diversity and inclusion, and your campus events should reflect that. Follow the steps below to plan diverse and engaging events on your campus.

Check out the AAUW student organization Tool Kit for more resources and to learn how to make the most of your organization.

AAUW wants to highlight your great events! E-mail coll-univ@aauw.org to let us know what you have planned.

Know Your Campus

Every college/university has different policies and guidelines. Make sure you know your schools’ rules for booking event space, tabling, and promoting your programs. Successful programs address issues important to your campus community. Topics should appeal to a diverse range of students — not just your current members. The easiest way to figure out what topics will interest your community is to ask them. Talk to students, read your school’s newspaper, and follow what’s trending on social media.

Pick Your AAUW Issues

AAUW advocates for a number of public policy priorities that advance equity for women and girls. Your organization can help take action on everything from fighting for fair pay, to demanding reproductive justice, to raising awareness about campus sexual assault.

When deciding which issues to tackle with your student organization, always ask:

  • What issues best relate to our campus?
  • What issues are we most interested in addressing?
  • How would our campus react to this programming?
  • What are the benefits of hosting this program on campus?
  • Which resources do we have to tackle this issue?
  • Are related programs already taking place on campus?
  • Which other organizations can we collaborate with?

Make sure to think about the needs of your specific campus. For instance, if your institution has a large population of veteran women, you might pick a program that educates other students on the unique challenges and experiences of women in the military. If your campus has a lot of commuter students, host a work-life balance workshop to help students handle school while working.

 Check out all the policy issues AAUW works on here.

Ask the Right Questions

Ask yourself the following questions to make sure that your event appeals to potential members, while also engaging current members.

Is the program mission-based?

AAUW student affiliates, members, and supporters share a mission to empower and advance women and girls. AAUW’s issues are intersectional — from the gender pay gap for women of color to the underreporting of domestic violence within marginalized communities. Holding mission-based programs can help you reach more diverse audiences.

How will you fund your event?

Check out the budgeting and fundraising resource to help your student organization get the necessary funds to take your programs to the next level. Consider working with your local AAUW branch, Younger Women’s Task Force (YWTF) chapter, or other community organizations with similar missions to share costs. Don’t forget that AAUW student organizations are eligible for AAUW Campus Action Project grants and Campus Outreach Program grants.

 Apply for up to $750 with a Campus Outreach Program grant today.

Will the event recruit potential members?

Planning mission-based programs is key to growing your student organization. As you plan your event, consider whether it will attract individuals from various demographic groups, such as ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexuality.

Will the program engage current members?

Your AAUW programs should also engage and inspire your current members. The right kind of event may encourage current members to consider leadership positions. Serving on a program planning committee or as a greeter at an event can be a stepping stone to future leadership.

Choose Your Program Format

Here are just some potential formats your campus programming can take.

  • Panel or speaker. Once you’ve thought about your audience, look into a wide range of speakers. Consider inviting faculty members, local AAUW branch members, or AAUW fellows who are knowledgeable on your topic to speak on an issue your organization is passionate about. Hosting a panel of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences will broaden the scope of your event, make it more inclusive, and — ultimately — more interesting.
  • Workshop. This format lends itself to high engagement and interaction, which helps participants learn something new. Think back to the workshops you attended at NCCWSL, or look into hosting an Elect Her or Start Smart workshop on your campus.
  • Visual campaign. Create eye-catching visuals to highlight an issue and engage your community in-person or through social media. Posters, videos, and photo shoots are great ways to visually tell stories. If your campaign features people, choose a variety of people from different backgrounds and identities.
  • Campus rally. Fire up the activists on your campus! Gather community members to hear passionate speakers or march across campus for something you believe in. Collaborate with like-minded student organizations to get as many different types of people to support your event as possible.
  • Mentoring program. Mentorship and networking opportunities are great ways to break barriers for women and girls. Think about which populations in your campus community could benefit from this type of program, and be intentional about the mentors and mentees you choose — they should reflect different personalities and backgrounds.
  • Speaker’s series or a book club. This reoccurring event is a great way to keep your members engaged. Remember to be thoughtful about the speakers or books chosen so that they reflect different topics, backgrounds, and points of view.
  • Coffee and convos: Form bi-weekly or monthly discussion groups and talk about your favorite issues. Start a dialogue on how to start changing your campus climate!

Set Numeric Goals

Always start by creating goals for your programs.

First, ask your group a few questions to help brainstorm the goals and intended takeaways from your event.

  • Who is our target population?
  • What do we want to accomplish with this program?
  • What will be the takeaways from our program?
  • How many attendees/participants do we expect?
  • How do we hope to raise awareness and/or provide a discourse around a specific issue?
  • Are we trying to influence policy makers in our community?

Then, finalize your goals using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) format.

  • SpecificYour program should focus on a specific topic with a clear, intended outcome. What do you want to accomplish? Why is this important? How will you make it happen?
  • MeasurableSet goals regarding how many people you want to attend, and quantify other results you want to achieve during the event. For example, how many supporters (organizations, co-sponsors) will you have? Measurable goals help you determine whether or not you’re on track during planning and give your team something to rally around.
  • Achievable. Can your goals can be achieved based on the resources, capacity, and time you have to plan the program? Consider how your whole group can pitch in to make your program achievable.
  • Relevant. Articulate why holding this program is worthwhile, especially when compared to the many other ways your group could spend its time. How will it help you achieve your student org’s vision and mission?
  • Time-bound. Set a realistic date for the program and plan backwards from there so that you have enough time to prepare.

Collaboration Is Key

Collaborating with other student groups and academic departments not only helps keep costs down, it will also raise attendance and participation. Recruit other organizations that will broaden your audience to endorse or co-sponsor the event. These potential partners can share some of the workload and make it easier to manage the planning process.

Collaborate with different groups to elevate the voices of diverse communities and to bring in an intersectional perspective on important AAUW issues. Other groups can work with you to identify relevant topics, arrange speakers, and market to students you wouldn’t otherwise reach.

Plan Inclusive Event Logistics

As you plan your event logistics, it’s important that your event appeal to a wide range of students.

Dates, days, and times. Consider the date and time of your program and how it might be inaccessible for those you’re trying to attract. When could the majority of students attend? Are weeknights or weekends better attended? Or during the day? Remember, evening and weekend programs may present a challenge for individuals caring for young children. Some caretakers might arrange for child care in advance, or you can advertise that attendees can bring children.

Pick your dates early. If your school has a campus-wide events calendar, reference it to be aware of any conflicting campus events. Avoid conflicts with religious and cultural holidays, and once you have a topic, find out if an awareness month, week, or day exists for the issue.

Event location. Every institution is different, so always check your university’s policies and procedures. Choose spaces that are neutral and nonreligious to ensure that people of different backgrounds and religions feel comfortable.

Choose a location that is inclusive to everyone and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in terms of parking, entrances, restrooms, lighting, and other requirements.

Lastly, the price of the event space is also something to consider if you’re on a tight budget. Are there spaces on campus that you can rent for free?

Food and refreshments. If you’re going to have free refreshments at your program, offer options that meet various religious, dietary, and personal preferences. If your program includes a meal, ask for dietary restrictions ahead of time.

Promote Your Program

  • Start early. Getting the word out early about your program will allow others to save the date. Starting early will also help you reserve an ideal venue.
  • Reach out to other student organizations and diversify your marketing strategy. Promote programs through multiple channels to reach more people. Try partnering with identity-based organizations or your diversity/multicultural affairs office. Don’t forget to reach out to commuter students!
  • Work with your faculty and administration. Reaching out to your student activities office could land your program on listservs and on larger university events calendars. You can also identify professors who are teaching courses on a topic related to your program and ask them to promote it in their classes.
  • Utilize social media. Social media is a powerful way to promote your program. Promote the program regularly, but not so much that you annoy your followers.
  • Don’t forget e-mail. E-mail your current student org members and other people you know in the community who may be interested in participating. Encourage everyone you contact to pass the message on to other people or groups.
  • Do on-the-ground legwork. Traditional communication can go a long way in promoting your program. Hang up flyers. Consider tabling to give people an opportunity to ask face-to-face questions. Ask a professor if you can make a class announcement.
  • Contact the media. Your school’s blog or newspaper is the perfect place to advertise your program. Send copies of your flyers to your school newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and TV stations, as well as to local and regional publications.

Tips to Remember During the Program

  1. Support attendees. Whether or not you received any accommodation requests ahead of time, be ready at the event to address any needs that come up.
  2. Present program content accessibly for participants with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities.
  3.  Interact respectfully.
  1. Use inclusive and inviting language. For example, say “hey all” or “hey folks” instead of “hey guys” or “hey ladies.”
  2. Ask for feedback. Your programs can’t improve unless you find out what you can do better next time.

Questions? Contact AAUW staff for additional student organization assistance at coll-univ@aauw.org.


Related

Student Organization FAQ

Answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about AAUW student organizations.

A woman standing at a table type on a laptop.

6 Reasons Why You Should Become an E-Student Affiliate!

Here are our top six reasons to join AAUW as an e-student affiliate.

Group of college women standing outside a university building

Student Organization Leaders Tool Kit

Check out this tool kit for resources and materials to improve your AAUW student organization’s recruitment, retention, and engagement.