Your Student Organization Programming Questions, Answered

A group of eight young stand with posters, one reading "Equal Pay 4 Equal Work I am not worth LESS."

One of the most exciting parts of being in an AAUW student organization is creating events on your campus that make a difference for women and girls. But picking and planning an event can be daunting. Luckily, we have answers (and plenty of supplementary materials) for all of your on-campus needs. Below are some of our most frequently asked questions about campus programming for AAUW student organizations.


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What are some of the issues AAUW tackles?

AAUW’s mission is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Here are some current issues you might consider working on as part of that mission:

How do I pick the right issue for my campus and community?

When deciding what issues to tackle with your student organization, always ask the group:

  • 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? What may be some of the consequences?
  • What resources do we have to tackle this issue?
  • Are there related programs already taking place on campus?
  • Which other organizations can I partner with?

Think about the needs and resources of your 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 veteran women. If your campus is a commuter campus, perhaps your organization would host a work-life balance workshop to help students handle working while attending school.

How do I start planning an event?

Always start with your goals for the event. Your goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-targeted).

  • Specific: Set goals in terms of how many people you want and expect to attend. How many supporters (organizations, co-sponsors) will you have? Be specific about the timing of the event; break it down minute by minute. Lastly, set goals for the number and types of achievements you want to take away from your event.
  • Measurable: List the goals of your program and revisit them after your event. Did you meet your requirements? Did your program add value to the work of your organization? Measurable goals are a clear-cut way to demonstrate the success of the event to your organization and outside partners.
  • Attainable: Make sure your goals can be achieved in the span of time you have to plan the event.
  • Realistic: Be realistic about your time, workload, and the atmosphere on campus and within your coalition of co-sponsors. Make sure to delegate work when appropriate.
  • Time-targeted: Your event should have a clear start time (including preparation) and end time.

Ask your group a few questions to focus your mission, goals, and takeaways from your event.

  • Who is our target population?
  • What do we want to accomplish with this event?
  • What will be the takeaways from our event?
  • How many attendees do we expect?
  • 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?

Who should I contact on campus about planning an event?

Every institution is different, so always check your university’s policies and procedures. The most common procedure is to ask your student activities center about securing a space for your event.Also consider recruiting other organizations that might increase your audience size and scope by endorsing or co-sponsoring the event. These potential partners can shoulder some of the workload or price and make it easier to juggle all aspects of the planning process. Think of possible organizations that align with your mission and goals. Attend these other organization’s meetings in order to learn what they are about and to discuss your program. If you are forming a coalition, keep in mind that other organizations that help you with this program may need your help in the future. Also consider reaching out to faculty members if you want the event to have an academic aspect.

When should I host my event?

Once you have a topic, find out if there is an awareness month, week, or day for the issue. For example, March is Women’s History Month. You can host open meetings to educate students on AAUW’s long history and strong influence in the women’s movement.Another example is April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This would be an excellent time to host a sexual assault prevention activity, either as an organization or in partnership with your campus counseling center or a local rape crisis center. Don’t forget to take a look at your university’s events calendar and be aware of any conflicting events.

Who should we bring on campus as a guest speaker?

Be conscious of your targeted audience and how they might perceive your speaker(s). Can the audience relate to the speaker(s)? Once you’ve thought about your audience, look into a wide range of speakers for your event. Consider inviting faculty members who are knowledgeable on your topic, local branch members, or AAUW fellows. Hosting a panel of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences can broaden the scope of your event, make it more inclusive, and make it more interesting. (No one wants to listen to four speakers agreeing with each other for an hour.)

How do I get publicity for my event?

Your outreach efforts will determine the scope of the event, so devoting time and energy to outreach is essential.

  • Start early. Getting the word out early about your event will allow others to save the date. College students are busy; notify them early to ensure high attendance. Starting early will also help you reserve an ideal venue. Don’t wait until the last minute to book your room. Meet with your student organization adviser to brainstorm methods for promoting your event.
  • Reach out to student and community organizations. Notify other organizations, provide them with paper and digital flyers for your event, attend their meetings to discuss your event, and make it applicable to their mission.
  • Reach out to faculty and administration. Reaching out to the student activities office could land your event on listservs and the larger university events calendar. You can also research which professors are teaching a course that is applicable to your event, then ask them to promote your event in their class.
  • Use social media. Whether you make an official Facebook event or simply post on your personal Twitter or Instagram account, social media is a powerful way to promote your event to a college audience. Make sure you consider your audience when you choose your social platform (i.e., do students at your college prefer Facebook event invites?) Promote the event more than once, but without annoying your followers.
  • Do on-the-ground legwork. Old-school communication can go a long way in promoting your event. 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. Send copies of your flyers to your school newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and TV stations, as well as to local and regional publications.

Does AAUW have marketing materials that can help me?

Visit ShopAAUW to find brochures, pens, buttons, and more materials that you can request or buy.

How can I make my events more inclusive?

The feeling of being “considered” for, invited to, and welcome at an event begins long before the event starts. Outreach to include more people can begin with your first planning meeting.Collaborate between organizations, departments, and social circles that represent different student demographics to broaden your scope. The name, language, and images you use to promote your event will need to be extra-conscious of all your prospective audiences. Secure a sign language interpreter or offer assistive listening devices for participants if needed. Additionally, make sure the space of your event is easily accessible for those with limited physical abilities.

Who can I contact at AAUW for more information on programming?

Contact AAUW’s college/university program associate for additional student organization assistance at coll-univ@aauw.org.

 

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