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  1. Starting a Student Chapter
  2. Options for Student Organizations within SWCS
  3. Registering as a Student Organization
  4. Gaining Official SWCS Affiliation
  5. Advisors
  6. Governing Options
  7. Outreach
  8. Officer Roles and Elections
  9. Meeting Resources

1. Starting a Student Chapter

Are you interested in launching a conservation or environmental club at your school? Starting an SWCS student chapter opens up incredible opportunities for meaningful conversations and impactful contributions to local conservation challenges on your campus. Joining or initiating a student chapter is a seamless process that offers numerous advantages, including resume-building skills, leadership development, and valuable career connections!

Benefits of Starting a Student Organization
  • Explore Your Interests. Delve deeper into your passion for conservation and environmental causes.
  • Discover Career Tracks. Gain insights into potential career paths in the conservation field.
  • Impact Your Environment. Actively contribute to improving your campus environment and addressing local conservation challenges.
  • Educate Others. Share knowledge about the environment and raise awareness among your peers and community.
  • Build a Network. Establish valuable connections with like-minded individuals and professionals within the industry.
  • Forge Connections. Build lasting friendships and establish a network of professional contacts within the industry.
  • Collaborate with Other Organizations. Engage in meaningful collaborations with like-minded student organizations.
  • Develop Leadership Skills. Develop and hone your leadership skills through hands-on experiences.
  • Engage with Stakeholders. Get involved in conversations with politicians, peers, educators, and conservation stakeholders.
  • Participate in Events and Field Trips. Enjoy the opportunities to participate in exciting events and enriching field trips.
  • Have Fun! Embrace a sense of fellowship and joy while making a positive impact on your campus community.

Learn More

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2. Options for Student Organizations within SWCS

If you're passionate about environmental conservation and want to make a difference on your campus, we have two structure options for you to consider:

Option 1: Start an Official SWCS Chapter

Whether you're starting from scratch or revitalizing an existing group, becoming an official SWCS student chapter offers a wealth of opportunities. Through your school, you can establish a recognized organization that focuses on soil and water conservation efforts. Dive deeper into the world of student chapter governance below to learn more about the rewarding experience that awaits you.

Option 2: Add SWCS Affiliation to Your Existing Student Organization

Are you already a member of a club on your campus that aligns with SWCS’s goals? Get SWCS benefits for your current student organization by applying for affiliation. Your group can benefit from SWCS opportunities while maintaining your current organization structure. Examples include environmental clubs, agricultural clubs, and chapters of partner organizations.

For both options, we encourage you to explore the steps listed in "Gaining Official SWCS Affiliation" to receive all the incredible benefits that SWCS offers. By affiliating with SWCS, you'll be part of a vibrant community committed to advancing soil and water conservation efforts.

Join us today and be a driving force for positive change in your campus community!

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3. Registering as a Student Organization 

To ensure a smooth and official journey for your student chapter, SWCS recommends that student chapters and affiliate organizations register with their university or college as a registered student organization. This step offers several advantages that may vary depending on your school. 

Benefits of Registering as a Student Organization
  • Access to a dedicated advisor, school services, and/or office space
  • Ability to book meeting space on campus for your chapter's events
  • Use of school funding and/or grants to support your initiatives
  • Official recognition by your school, with your group listed on their website
  • Participation in campus fairs and recruitment events to expand your membership

Keep in mind that each college and university sets its own criteria for student group recognition, so details may differ. For further information, refer to your school's website or relevant student affairs department.

Typically, to kickstart a registered student organization, you'll need the following:

  • A dedicated advisor who works for your school and supports your group's mission
  • A certain number of members, typically at least 5, to be the founding members of your group

If your group is already part of a registered student organization that aligns with SWCS goals, you can take your involvement to the next level by applying for Official SWCS Affiliation!

Note: Some schools require registered student organizations to re-apply at least once a year, others do so once per semester. Stay informed about your school's requirements to maintain your status.

Need any assistance or guidance throughout this process? Don't hesitate to reach out to us at memberservices@swcs.org. We're here to support you on your journey toward building an impactful student chapter or affiliated group!

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4. Gaining Official SWCS Affiliation

Become an officially affiliated SWCS student chapter or affiliate partner organization by completing the following steps. Affiliation comes with a host of benefits, including

  • Listing on the SWCS website
  • Use of the SWCS Student Chapter Logo/Affiliate Logo
  • A swag package from SWCS headquarters
  • A chapter feature on SWCS social media platforms
  • Resume building tools and support
  • $150 reimbursement for meeting/event expenses (must complete the end-of-year survey)
Affiliation Checklist
  1. By November 1: One member or an advisor must fill out the primary contact form for your chapter or affiliate club. The person completing this form and co-leaders listed will receive leadership and planning resources from SWCS monthly. We recommend having an advisor fill out the form.
  2. At each meeting/event: Ask attendees to fill out the digital sign-in form. This form is not an SWCS membership form; it is only used to track event attendance. To be eligible for affiliation, at least ten students must fill out this sign-in form. Alternatively, you can have attendees sign in with their names and emails on paper and provide that information to headquarters staff via email at renee.bouldin@swcs.org.
  3. (Optional) Obtain official student organization standing at your school. Refer to the governance resources to learn more about this process.
  4. (Optional) After your event: Send in photos and a brief description of your event to renee.bouldin@swcs.org for a chance to be featured on SWCS social media platforms.
  5. By May 15: Take the end-of-year survey to provide feedback on your year with SWCS. Include basic details of any meetings or events held and your thoughts on the chapter program. Also, provide a primary contact for the 2024-2025 school year.

Organizations that complete the first two steps by November 1, 2023, will receive official affiliation resources by December 1, 2023. To receive a $150 reimbursement for meeting/event expenses, groups must also complete the end of year survey by May 15, 2024.

Please note that group affiliation is different from SWCS membership. To access full SWCS member benefits, including scholarships and Journal of Soil and Water Conservation access, become an SWCS member. Start your journey with SWCS today!

View the checklist as a PDF

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5. Advisors

Having an advisor from your school is often essential for student organizations, and academic advisors or teachers of relevant classes make excellent options. Ideally, advisors should be personable, energetic, and willing to serve for an extended period to provide stability and help the organization build a strong foundation.

Benefits for Academic Advisors
  • Support Student Career Goals. Assist students in identifying and pursuing their career aspirations in the conservation field.
  • Develop Student Leadership and Professional Skills. Mentor and guide students to enhance their leadership abilities and professional competencies.
  • Gain Access to a Network of Volunteers. Engage with this network of student volunteers to aid in projects and expand opportunities for collaboration.
  • Participate in Field Trips. Join students on enriching field trips and experiential learning activities.
  • Connect Classroom Lessons with Practical Applications. Bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world applications, fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
  • Access SWCS Tools and Resources. Utilize resources from SWCS to enrich the academic experience.

To inquire about the availability of existing SWCS members on your campus who could potentially serve as advisors, please reach out to us at memberservices@swcs.org. We are here to support you and ensure that your student organization thrives with expert guidance and mentorship!

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6. Governing Options

Establishing a clear governing structure is crucial for collegiate organizations due to the high turnover. Below are descriptions of two general styles of governing that could enable your chapter to thrive.

1. Traditional Governance. Traditionally, our chapters have adopted a highly organized governance structure that includes elections for key positions like president, treasurer, etc. To learn more about officer roles and governing within this structure, refer to Officer Roles and Elections section below.


  • Clear structure leading to detailed and direct roles and responsibilities.
  • Well-defined leadership positions fostering efficient decision-making.


  • Possibility of being burdensome and tedious while managing the governance structure.
  • Focus on maintaining the structure could divert attention from other essential tasks.

2. Community of Practice (Cooperative) Governance. Communities of practice opt for a more informal approach, allowing members to organize according to their preferences. Typically, instead of a set leader, members collaborate to achieve common goals. For chapters choosing this option, it is crucial to establish clear objectives and rely on dependable members to accomplish those goals.


  • Encourages community organizing and fosters collaboration among members.
  • Provides flexibility, enabling members to work on projects aligned with their strengths and interests.


  • May present challenges in achieving consensus among members due to the informal nature.
  • Lack of a rigid structure might lead to confusion if roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined.

At SWCS, we value the autonomy of each chapter and support you in choosing the governance style that best suits your organization's needs and objectives. Both governing approaches offer unique advantages, and it's essential to consider your chapter's dynamics while making this decision. With the right governance in place, your chapter can make a lasting impact and create a vibrant community of conservation enthusiasts!

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7. Outreach

Finding enthusiastic members to participate in your organization is essential for its success! Below are some effective options to spread the word about your chapter and attract new members.

  • Put Up Flyers. Create eye-catching flyers (see a template here) and display them strategically around campus to grab attention and generate interest.
  • Participate in Student Activities Fairs. Engage with your school's student activities fair to showcase your organization and attract potential members.
  • Make Verbal Announcements. Seek permission from teachers and make brief announcements at the beginning of relevant classes to inform students about your chapter and upcoming events.
  • Collaborate with Other Organizations. Reach out to other organizations with similar interests and explore collaboration opportunities to expand your reach and impact.
  • Share on Social Media. Leverage the power of social media platforms to share information about your meetings, events, and initiatives. Utilize engaging content and visuals to captivate the audience.
  • Word of Mouth: The MOST Effective Approach. Encourage members to personally recommend and invite their friends and peers to join. People are more likely to participate when someone they trust recommends the group.

Be Sure To...

  1. Highlight Fun Opportunities and Benefits. Emphasize the exciting opportunities your club offers, such as field trips, events, networking, and skill development. Explain the benefits of being part of the organization to entice potential members.
  2. Comply with School Guidelines. Always adhere to your school's guidelines and policies for signage and outreach activities to maintain a positive relationship with the institution.
  3. Offer Food. A Surefire Way to Attract Participants - Providing food at meetings and events is a great incentive to attract participants and create a welcoming atmosphere.

By implementing these outreach strategies, you can effectively promote your chapter, expand your network, and create a vibrant community of conservation advocates. Your passion for soil and water conservation will undoubtedly inspire others to join your cause!

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8. Officer Roles and Elections

As your student chapter gains momentum, it becomes essential to establish a governing structure with dedicated officers leading the way. Below are the traditional officer positions and their respective responsibilities to ensure smooth functioning and impactful conservation initiatives.

Officer Positions

1.    President
  • Oversee all student chapter activities and initiatives.
  • Attend and lead all meetings to ensure effective communication.
  • Create an organized agenda for each meeting to keep discussions focused.
  • Collaborate with the Secretary to handle necessary forms for your school and SWCS headquarters.
  • Delegate additional responsibilities among chapter members to foster teamwork and efficiency.
2.    Vice President
  • Assume the President's responsibilities in their absence, ensuring continuity in operations.
  • Take the lead in inviting and securing special speakers for club meetings, enhancing engagement.
  • Collaborate with other members to plan and organize events that leave a lasting impact.
3.    Secretary
  • Take accurate minutes and keep records of all chapter activities, facilitating smooth documentation.
  • Maintain and manage items belonging to the student chapter to support events and initiatives.
  • Assist the President in filling out necessary forms for your school and SWCS headquarters.
4.    Treasurer
  • Oversee all chapter funds, ensuring financial transparency.
  • Provide regular financial statements during meetings.
  • Lead the drafting of the annual budget while collaborating with other board members.
5.    Outreach/Publicity Coordinator
  • Spearhead all advertising efforts for club meetings and events, maximizing attendance.
  • Manage and curate engaging content for the group’s social media accounts, expanding its reach.
  • Send timely email reminders for meetings, events, or other items as directed by the President.

If these roles don't align with your group's dynamics, consider exploring communities of practice as described in the “Governing Options” section, where members collectively organize and work towards shared goal.

Electing Officers Timeline

  • Request nominations for roles, allowing individuals to nominate themselves or others.
  • Have candidates write or deliver a short speech showcasing their suitability for the positions.
  • Conduct virtual elections using free voting software options (like Google Forms or Survey Monkey), or conduct anonymous in-person elections at your meeting.
  • Organize an additional meeting for outgoing and incoming officers to discuss expectations, responsibilities, and set goals for the club in the next year.

Remember, clarifying roles and duties plays a vital role in shaping the future of your SWCS student chapter. Through collaborative and efficient leadership, your organization can make a lasting impact on soil and water conservation efforts at your school and beyond!

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9. Meeting Resources

Here you'll find a comprehensive collection of tools, templates, and guidelines to enhance the planning, organization, and execution of your chapter's gatherings. We’ve curated a range of resources to help you create impactful and memorable meetings that foster collaboration, learning, and a strong sense of community within your student group.

Feel free to download, adapt, and utilize these materials to tailor your meetings to the unique needs and goals of your SWCS student organization. 

  • SWCS Presentation Template (.pptx)
  • Meeting Flyer Template (.pptx)
  • Meeting Flyer Example (PDF)
Meeting Agenda Best Practices

Maintaining a well-structured agenda is key to keeping your group focused and productive! Utilize these components as a foundation:

  1. Opening Remarks and Goals. Commence the meeting by introducing your group and outlining the objectives for the session.
  2. Attendance. Ensure all participants sign in using the provided sign-in form or QR code, ensuring accurate record-keeping (contact renee.bouldin@swcs.org for access to these records).
  3. Task Assignments. Allocate specific tasks to members, setting clear expectations for their completion.
  4. Upcoming Meeting Details. Share essential information about the next meeting's schedule and location, ensuring everyone is informed and prepared.

With this agenda framework, your meetings will be streamlined and effective, maximizing your group's impact and collaboration.

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Your dedication to soil and water conservation is vital, and we're here to ensure your chapter thrives and makes a lasting impact. Need another resource? Reach out to memberservices@swcs.org to request assistance.