How To Start a Group
- Start a Group
- Grow Your Group
- What Your Group Can Do
- Students For Life HQ
- Leadership Programs
Take action now. Your school needs a pro-life voice. Contact [email protected] for your free Activism Kit.
Starting a Students for Life group will allow you to…
- Request Students for Life's free in-person trainings,
- Receive one-on-one mentorship from your local Regional Coordinator,
- Access resources to participate in national pro-life events,
- Join unique leadership development opportunities,
- Participate in group competitions and scholarships,
- Be in the know about community events,
- Volunteer at local pregnancy resource centers,
- Build a pro-life culture,
- Save lives,
- Serve local women,
- Change minds,
- And so much more!
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Starting a New Group 101
Learning about abortion, the biggest human rights injustice of our time, is the first step to making a difference. No single disease, event, war, or act takes more human life every year than abortion. But it can be hard to talk about.
You know abortion is violence towards innocent people. But conversations about abortion are infinitely easier when you also know the facts, figures, and apologetics (pro-life arguments) to make your case and change the hearts and minds of pro-choice peers.
Becoming an expert on abortion, the abortion industry, pro-life alternatives, and answers to the tough questions will not only help you have effective individual dialogues, but will kick-start your activism and propel your Students for Life group to accomplish BIG things.
Our generation will abolish abortion – and that starts by changing one heart at a time. We’ll help you learn how. Click "LEARN" on the main menu to explore our extensive collection of facts, figures, arguments, and other educational resources about abortion.
As always, let us know if you have questions by emailing your SFLA Regional Coordinator at [yourstate]@studentsforlife.org, sending us a DM, or visiting Students for Life HQ.
Before you can successfully start your pro-life group, you have to get the lay of the land at your school. Find out if your school is generally friendly to the pro-life message or not. Research any pro-life faculty or staff, what the most effective organizing and recruiting methods are at your school, and who your opposition may be.
1. Know the Power Structure
Talk to other active students about the influential people at school. Figure out which people hold power and leadership in student government, school organizing, and school administration. Introduce yourselves to these people and become friendly with them. Having personal relationships with key people can make a big difference for your group and help you get things done more quickly.
If possible, find out who is pro-life within that power structure. While many student and administration leaders will treat you fairly regardless of your group’s mission, knowing which people are pro-life can be very helpful. If you are constantly meeting roadblocks, and think it may be because you are pro-life, finding allies in faculty and administration can help grease the wheels. Of course, if you feel like you are being discriminated against because of your pro-life values, contact SFLA for free legal help.
2. Assess School Environment
Look for other organizations at school that may be friendly to your pro-life group. Usually, these are conservative and Christian groups, but don’t be afraid to go beyond that. There may be heads of cultural groups, or other special interest groups, who are pro-life and willing to work with you. You don’t have to formally partner with other groups, but having a network with them may come in handy at times. Ask around and try to ascertain the mood at school regarding abortion. Are most people pro-life, pro-choice, or apathetic? You may want to try conducting an informal poll at your school to know where you’ll be starting from.
3. Scout the Opposition
Check out any opposing groups at your school. If your school did not have a pro-abortion group before your group was founded, then prepare for one to spring up in opposition to your group (Christian schools typically don’t have to worry about this). It is a good idea to monitor the pro-abortion activity at your school but remember not to get too wrapped up to the point where your group’s activity falters. Have one of your members attend one of their meetings (to observe). Check out their webpage and social media accounts. By knowing your opposition, you will be able to focus on specific issues and arguments.
4. Contact Us
Students for Life of America has full-time field staff who are here to help you! Email your Regional Coordinator at [yourstate]@studentsforlife.org for personalized help. You can also visit Students for Life HQ to see the resources we have available for student groups. This free HQ portal is constantly being added to.
You don’t have to start a pro-life group on your own. While you have probably identified some like-minded students while assessing your school’s environment, now is the time to form your core group of leaders. Remember, your leadership capacity will grow exponentially if you can surround yourself with other leaders who can take on some responsibility.
Start with the low-hanging fruit. Speak to students in other groups at your school, or whom you know from class, who you know are pro-life and would be good leaders. Share your vision for the pro-life group with them and talk to them about how they can contribute to changing hearts and minds. Create a Facebook group and email account to contact and stay in touch with other students. Having these from the beginning will create a sense of organization and identity for your group.
Stay open-minded while recruiting. While it may be easy to just recruit your friends or people who look like they “fit the bill,” remember that pro-life students come from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious affiliations. Other students will not join the group if they think they won’t fit in, so show them that all types of people are welcome and involved in your organization. All groups are different, but consider keeping your group secular in order to further expand your recruitment pool and keep the pro-life cause the #1 mission on your agenda.
For more help with recruiting and retaining members, email [yourstate]@studentsforlife.org to request a free training from your Regional Coordinator.
Remember, each school is different, as are each school’s policies for becoming an officially recognized group. Check out your Student Activities, Student Life, or Student Government office for details on becoming officially recognized. They will be able to help you navigate the approval process.
1. Become an Official Group
Look up your school’s policies on becoming an official school organization. There are usually forms to fill out which you can get from your Student Affairs Office (or other administrative entity). Most schools require a minimum number of interested students, a faculty advisor, and a group constitution.
We have a sample constitution & mission statement available – save yourself some time and request these from your SFLA Regional Coordinator at [yourstate]@studentsforlife.org. Be sure to ask about all of the requirements so you can become recognized as quickly as possible.
You can usually start hosting activities such as meetings, prayer vigils, and volunteer efforts as you’re waiting for approval, but you will be able to do so much more when your group becomes “official.” Most schools make free resources available to official organizations such as funding from student activities, office space, an email account, printing and copying, or supplies and space. You also have greater freedom and ability to recruit, hold meetings, and advertise.
2. Finding a Faculty Advisor
If you’re not sure where to start, ask your classmates if they have been in a class with a teacher who is pro-life. Go to local pro-life organizations and churches and ask if they know any teachers at the school. If you know a teacher who is friendly, but unable to be the advisor, he or she may know other pro-life faculty. Don’t get discouraged. There are more pro-life faculty than you think. If you are unable to find an advisor, ask your SFLA Regional Coordinator ([yourstate]@studentsforlife.org). You may still be able to become an official school organization without one.
Watch this video for more tips on how to work with your school administration.
There are a lot of ways to recruit new members to join your group. Every school is different, so the most effective ways to recruit vary from school to school. You and your co-leaders, group officers, and advisor should discuss what seems to work best on your campus. Ask yourselves what other successful groups are doing to recruit and consider following that example.
1. Gather Your Materials
At the very least, you’ll probably need pens, a sign-up sheet, and a clipboard. You should also have a flyer about your group to distribute at ALL group events. Remember – every single event your group does is a recruitment opportunity.
Group flyers should include at least three pieces of information: the group’s mission statement, contact information, and details of the next meeting and event. Delegate the creation of this flyer to the most artistically-inclined leader. If you plan to have a table, you may want to use posters, give-aways, (such as key chains or pens), and candy.
2. Clipboarding, Tabling, and Word of Mouth
Tabling involves setting up a table in a busy area at your school or at an event. Use your posters, candy, and give-aways here. Do not stand behind the table, and don’t sit down. Actively approach students to sign them up for your group.
Clipboarding is like tabling but without the table! You are more free to move around and don’t have to worry about watching your table. It is almost always the better, more effective, and time-efficient recruitment method. As the word implies, you walk your school with your clipboard getting people to sign up for your group. Cafeterias and lounges are great places to do clipboarding.
Word of mouth is an effective recruitment tool, but don’t rely on it exclusively. It’s the least deliberate method, and should only be done to supplement formal recruitment efforts. Network with religious, political, or other like-minded groups at school and invite them to join your pro-life group.
3. Be Proactive, Friendly, and Focused
However you decide to go about recruiting, DO NOT wait for people to approach you. It rarely happens. Walk up, smile, and say “Hi, are you pro-life?” Sign up the pro-lifers and move on quickly from pro-choice students (not because you don’t want to change their mind, but because that isn’t the goal of your recruitment effort). Be interested in the people you meet. Introduce yourself, tell them briefly what your group is about, give them a flyer, and get their information. Stay focused. It’s helpful to have a set goal for names recruited to help keep you on track. It is a good idea to have a partner who can distract people who just want to argue with you while you continue to recruit.
4. Get as Much Information as Possible
Your sign up sheet should have at least four columns: name, phone number, email address, and graduation year. It’s very important to get phone numbers, and if you put it last, people tend to skip it. Fill in the first few lines of the sign-up sheet with friends’ contact information so that when people sign up, they see they are not the first. They will also be much more likely to fill in the phone number box if they see that others already have. If you notice students not filling in their phone number, ask them for it. If they refuse, fill in your number after they leave so that the next student doesn’t see that box left empty. It seems like a silly psychological game, but trust us – it works!
5. FOLLOW UP!
After you sign up a new person, write down a few notes on him or her on the back of your sign up sheet. Maybe they said they were pro-life because they were adopted or because doctors recommended abortion for their cousin who has Down Syndrome. Did they mention a sibling or parent being involved in politics, pro-life, or religious work? Write down these details. Contact your list of new recruits WITHIN 24 HOURS, thank them for signing up, and ask if they are coming to your next meeting or event. Ask for their involvement right away, even if it’s something small. For example, “Hey Sarah, we have a couple people working on posting flyers up tomorrow, could you help out with that?”
6. Retention is Just as Important
Many groups are good at getting new signups, but have a hard time retaining members and keeping them active. Delegate tasks to new members and form personal relationships. Have tasks ready to assign to members to get them involved right away. This can be as simple as putting up a flyer on/in their locker. It tends to go against our instinct to ask people for things. But assigning small tasks gives people a sense of ownership & responsibility, making them feel more invested in the group.
Organizing and activating a pro-life group can at times be a daunting task. Even in a conservative community, you will face challenges to the truth that you share. You may even find that it is the simplest tasks that you struggle with the most, such as running a meeting or delegating responsibilities.
Have a meeting schedule and stick to it. Many successful groups meet as frequently as weekly or bi-weekly. You want your group to develop a reputation for being consistent and reliable. For example, set the times and location of your meetings as a regular, unchanging event. Do not simply call a meeting every time you feel like it! These meetings should be predictable so that your members are prepared to attend.
Your group should not be relying on two or three people to do all the work. If your group has many members, create committees to handle certain responsibilities and events. If your numbers are smaller, assign persons to specific tasks. By delegating these responsibilities, there will be less burden on just a few members, and people will be less apt to forget the details! More importantly, everyone will feel like they are invested in your group and its mission.
In order to attract more members and to further spread your message, people need to know that you exist! Flyer your school on a regular basis with meeting details, educational information, or event information. Set up a table once a week to share information about your group and about the pro-life cause. Organize bold displays that get your group noticed. Whether it be a “Cemetery of the Innocents” or an SFLA Tabletop, be bold in showing your message to your community. This will attract the attention of your peers- and maybe even the media!
You want your group members and the community to be aware of what your pro-life group is doing. Use social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to share pictures, videos, event information, and event details. Tech savvy? Create a website or blog about your group’s work. Regularly update your group members on changes to the schedule, and always alert the public of upcoming events.
Contact your SFLA Regional Coordinator by emailing [yourstate]@studentsforlife.org for more training on how to effectively lead a Students for Life group.
If no one at your school takes that first step to start a group, the pro-life students there will have nowhere to go. They can absolutely do pro-life work on their own. But we are so much stronger together than we are apart. When you come together with the other pro-life students at your school, you can accomplish BIG things.
Starting a Students for Life group on your college campus is easier than you think. Watch the video below for expert advice on how to start a movement at your school.