NACA BLOG - Connecting Uninvolved Students to Student Organizations - 5/28/2020
Connecting Uninvolved Students to Student Organizations

May 28, 2020
Adam Ryen Daniels
University of California Riverside

When we think about matching students up with clubs that fit their interests, you'd think that this sort of technology would already exist. Spoiler alert: It doesn't. But at the University of California Riverside, we've managed to figure out a way to make this process incredibly simple.

We call it the "Involvement Calculator" and we created this tool just shy of five years ago and have seen exponential success each year. In a nutshell, we send out a survey to all incoming students prior to the school year beginning and they're able to self-identify their interests, demographic information, possible major, all sorts of information that might connect to what sorts of clubs and opportunities they'd be interested in.

See, with 500+ clubs at UC Riverside, just pointing students to our database (on our campus we use Engage) isn't the best answer. It's daunting and students may not always know the magic keywords to get them to the right pages.

So instead, we do the work. Our professional staff receive these Involvement Calculator submissions and personally create a report for each student that fills it out. If a student says they're going a pre-med route with an interest in helping others, we easily know nearly a dozen organizations that fit the bill. In just a few days, the student will receive an email outlining each group's purpose and a link to their official page on our Engage platform. We're also able to emphasize groups that may tick a few boxes for them. If they selected 'Catholic' and 'Interested in Community Service,' they may be especially interested in our Catholic service organization.

By just filling out the survey, an incoming student now can easily see the top picks for them that they might've missed otherwise. In one single email, they now have can see a group tied to their cultural identity, a few political organizations, some academic clubs for their major, and even a recreational club to help them stay fit. All of the information they'd ever want, is right there for their reference.

For a sense of scale… With about 4,000 incoming students each fall, we typically receive about 300-400 responses to the Involvement Calculator each summer.

This sounds like a lot of work, right? It's not an automatic process. We've managed to make it work by prioritizing this as a summer project and creating a master sheet of all organizations and their purposes that we can copy and paste from with incredible ease. In just a few minutes, I can grab all the info I need from the spreadsheet and place into our email template. If your professional staff don't have the time, this is also something that student staff or even student volunteers could facilitate easily. The advantage to having professional staff complete it that we know these organizations backwards and forwards, so we hardly need to browse our database for ideas. A student volunteer may need to search the database thoroughly to find recommendations for a student.

Over the past few years, we've seen some great data come back. A majority of students who complete the Involvement Calculator later report that they ended up joining at least one of those organizations. If the goal is to encourage the uninvolved to become involved, this is a step that we can easily implement (especially in an era when traditional tabling and recruitment opportunities might be limited for student organizations).

When we're able to reintegrate actual tabling opportunities, the Involvement Calculator also might serve as a useful tool for students to complete before these events. Now as a student walks an involvement fair, they'll already have a list of organizations they're looking for.

To see the form itself, see it and you can type 'Test' to get through the multiple pages. We'd ask that you not submit your entry on the final page, for obvious reasons.

If you'd like to discuss the Involvement Calculator and see examples of the final reports that we send to students, you can contact me and I'd love to send you all sorts of material you can use to craft your own Involvement Calculator.

Adam Ryen Daniels is the Interim Senior Coordinator in the Student Life office at the University of California Riverside. For over 12 years, he has been advising student organizations and pushing traditional programming to online spaces.

Related Professional Competencies: Recruitment and Retention, Technology

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