15 Ways For High School Groups To Grow Their Names List

by Matt Mattson

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with high school student clubs and student organizations. Most high school student leaders who want to grow their groups understand that “You can’t recruit who you don’t know,” but they get stuck coming up with creative ways to meet non-members in their school. Most group’s current strategies seem to include:

1. Hang posters around the school.
2. Have events (advertised on the posters) and hope people come.
3. Tell people about it in the garbled school announcements.
4. Mostly just invite their current friends, because that’s comfortable.

Well, here are 20 specific strategies to meet non-members, and grow your organization’s Names List!

1. REFERRALS! This one is no surprise to most student leaders, but for high school groups in particular, this is your bread and butter. Becoming excellent at requesting referrals might be the most important way to connect with non-members. “I’m trying to connect with the best of the best students at this school. Who do you recommend I know?” Ask that question to teachers, counselors, administrators, coaches, cafeteria workers, local religious leaders, community business people, the librarian, student government leaders, captains of athletic teams, etc. etc.

2. SOCIAL/SERVICE EVENTS! This is another common one, but so many student groups put on events for non-members as a way to “get their name out there.” You don’t need to “get your name out there,” you need to “get names on to your list.” Do cool service events, fundraisers, social events, dances, etc., and make sure you collect the names and contact information of the people who come. You can’t recruit who you don’t know… and have contact information for.

3. PARENT SOLICITATIONS! Get word out to parents of all your high school classmates (letter, newsletter, newsletter, via counselors, etc.) that your club is giving out an award for the top 3 most “service minded,” “leadership oriented,” “potential for entrepreneurial success,” “values-guided” students at your school to celebrate teens who perform well outside of the classroom. Request nominations. Conduct interviews of the students. Get to know them… you know the rest.

4. 3-TO-7! Write “3-to-7” on the back of your hand. Tell your whole club to as well. We want everyone to promise to do this in their classes tomorrow: 1) Show up 3-7 minutes early for every class, 2) Sit in rows 3-7 in the class, and 3) Make 3-7 new friends in those classes this week. Here’s why this works: Arriving at that time makes you not too early, but also with enough time to pick your seat strategically. Research shows that top academic performers sit in the rows closest to the front of the room, but not the first 2 rows. You just showed up right on time and sat down next to the highest performers. Start a conversation with them… Try #10 below!

5. DOOR HOLDING CAMPAIGN! Picture this. Every entryway to the school in the morning and in the afternoon after school is manned by a member of your club. They’re dressed in their best. Their holding the doors with a big smile on their face. The share a kind greeting with every passerby. As the person who walks through the door inevitably says “Thank you,” the door holder hands the person a small index card. On the front of the card it says “KINDNESS LIVES.” On the back of the card it says something like this, “You thought society was crumbling and people were getting meaner to each other. We’re here to prove that’s not happening at all. Would you help us find more people who are simply kind to others. We’re giving away an award to the top 10 kindest, socially engaging, warm, friendly, inclusive students at this school. Nominate someone you know below.” [Lines for name and contact information].

6. MARCH MADNESS! Host a March Madness bracket competition. Maybe even do it for charity. Distribute brackets, collect people’s predictions, compile data, and most importantly, get everyone’s name and contact information. We don’t recommend you encourage gambling, but people will gladly donate $1 or $2 to a charity, and you can reward top brackets with small prizes. Be the club that organizes the March Madness hysteria in your school. Do something similar for The World Cup, The Super Bowl, The World Series, etc.

7. INFORMATION TABLES! Lots of times groups set up tables around the school or campus to hand out brochures, tell people about their cool club, and the like. Fine, but information tables aren’t for you to hand out information — they’re to collect names and contact information about non-members!!! Always stand in front of the table. Engage passersby with kindness, a smile, and SOMETHING OF VALUE TO THEM. This isn’t about advertising your club, it’s about engaging people in a fun/interesting way, and having a reason to collect their information so you can reconnect sometime soon (Try the March Madness/Score Guessing idea above). Here are a couple other fun ways to work a table…

8. ROCK PAPER SCISSORS! Make a sign on a piec of posterboard that reads, “Rock Paper Scissors Challenge: If you win you get candy and a high 5! If we win we get 30 seconds of your time to tell you about some cool stuff.” Everytime someone walks past, step in front of them with a smile and your fist in your hand, saying, “Rock Paper Scissors?” After they’re done playing, ask if you can get their name and contact information to let them know about your next event, etc.

9. SURVEY/PETITION! Find a controversial issue (more parking spaces, longer lunches, more vending machines, changing the mascot, etc.) and do a survey of random students. Ask respondents to put their name and contact information on the back so that you can contact them about cool stuff your club has going on in the coming weeks. Or have them fill out a petition! Make sure to remind them that you might text, e-mail, or call them about upcoming stuff that they’d like.

10. COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP! Turn to that kid sitting next to you in class you’ve never talked to before (or any non-member anywhere ever) and say, “I’m a part of a club here at school that celebrates students with good character. We’re giving away a college scholarship — even to young students — to kids who live a good life, try to do the right thing, and want to make a positive impact on the world. Would you and your parents be interested in a $500 college scholarship?” Hand her a 1 page scholarship application. Tell her you’re doing interviews after school and during lunch over the next few weeks, and you want to schedule a time to do the 15 minute interview. Ask if you can text her to set up a time, and also send your contact information to her in case her parents have questions. Give away the scholarship to whoever deserves it, but enjoy the new relationships you build with great classmates along the way.

11. STUDY GROUPS! Hand out sign-up cards (index cards are perfectly sized) for students to write down their names, contact information, and the 3 classes they’ll need to study most for at mid-term and final exam time. Organize study group times/locations at your school or in your community.

12. SCOUTING! Top corporations and sports teams do not wait for their best players to call them. They actively scout talent in their sector and approach talented individuals to help lead their team. The same should be true of top performing high school groups. Do you have a scouting report that lists the top leaders, servants, performers, volunteers at your school?

13. 5-FOR-5 CHALLENGE! We know that not every member will take a leadership role when it comes to recruiting new members. But, we can inspire small groups of members to put in some productive effort over a short amount of time if we just make it a game! If you and 4 fellow members made a 5 day committment to meeting 5 non-members every day, your Names List would grow by 125 names this week! 5 new names x 5 members x 5 days = 125 new names!

14. PRESENTATIONS! Request permission to give a short 5-9 minute presentation in Home Rooms, “Access Classes,” Athlete Meetings, Assemblies, other student club meetings, etc. Talk about how you’re doing good at your school and in your community. Ask all the students to text you their name, email address, and an answer to a question like this, “What are 2 words to describe the way you want to look back at your high school career.” Or really any other question that allows for a short response.

15. POSITIVE ABSURDITY! Sometimes engaging non-members just takes a little weirdness, some surprise-factor, or doing something absurd (but positive and not dumb). Here are a few ideas. A) Don’t buy pizzas and have a meeting in a meeting room. Buy pizzas and hand out free slices in exchange for good conversation. B) Don’t hang up fliers on bulletin boards. Ask people if you can tape fliers to their backpacks for a day (and shake their hands). C) Don’t say “I’ll meet students in my classes,” give high fives to everyon who walks into your class today (do that with a high 5 buddy). D) Don’t have an info meeting about your organization. Quietly arrange a secret meeting by personal invite only.. with a secret password to get in. E) Don’t put fliers on car windshields in the parking lot. Get your club out on a snowy afternoon and brush/scrape cars off and start a snowball fight. Some of these are just for fun, but the trick is to ask people “Can I get your contact information?”

These are just 15 fun ideas we came up with through some creative conversations and work we’ve done with lots of student groups. What other ideas do you have? E-mail them to Info@Social-Excellence.com!