15 Queer Ideas for Increasing Attendance at Campus Events

by Nicky Rohrkemper and Jess McDonald

It’s time to Recruit. At the beginning of the year, you may be just getting things going again, or getting started from scratch. Attracting new members and creating visibility on campus are very important.

  1. Get creative with advertising. Explore policies on posting flyers, chalking sidewalks, and adding your event information to your college’s online calendar. Find out if you can hang large, colorful banners on the sides of buildings or from balconies. Pass out candy along with information about meeting times. Consider using table tents in dining halls to reach a broader audience. You may also want to send out “personal invitations” to active, open-minded students on campus. Careful wording about needing the support of both GLBT and allied, heterosexual students on campus can get more folks involved.
  2. Utilize email reminders. Build a contact list by having a table at orientation or another well-attended event early in the school year. Consider getting in touch with other political activism groups and progressive groups on campus (Amnesty International, Young Democrats, Women’s/Gender Studies Department) to see if they will send an email out for you.
  3. Reconsider meeting times. The folks at the Auburn University of Montgomery increased the attendance at their weekly meetings by changing the time they met. They changed the time from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 and got more people. You could also alternate the times of the meetings, 3:00 p.m. one week and 7:00 p.m. the next – it might get complicated, but different times work for different people.
  4. Think about the name of your group. There are pros and cons associated with how GLBT student groups are named. Whatever your organization is called, advertise to increase name recognition. The “Lambda Club” doesn’t bring an image to most people’s minds (although this can sometimes be an advantage when dealing with preconceived notions!) They have to associate it with something!
  5. Partner with other organizations. This is one of the easiest ways to increase your attendance! Find common ground and plan an event such as a voting drive with a political organization or a panel on the experiences of queer people of color with the Black Student Union or similar group. Reach out to community groups such as PFLAG to pool your resources and reach a broader audience when hosting speakers or other events. You can also plan social outings or service days with other organizations to create new connections.
  6. Create and maintain a fabulous Facebook and Twitter pages. Make sure you update them regularly and include the web addresses on your fliers, signs, mailings, etc. Also try to get URLs that are easy to remember or find.
  7. Hold a Drag Ball, Show or Contest. I am surprised how many people get into this, GLBT and straight! The “contest” aspect and/or prizes give people an excuse to dress up (as in “I would never do this but so-and-so dared me,” or “I’m not gay, but I have to have a better costume than Jim!”) Some students get involved in amateur Drag King and Queen competitions and really know how to pull this kind of thing off. Kalamazoo College in Michigan holds a “Crystal Ball” every semester and invites professional drag queens! Each fall, the University of Southern Maine crowns a King and a Queen at their Royal Majesty Drag Competition and Show.
  8. Show “Live Homosexual Acts” on campus or create a “Queer Zoo.” Rope off an area, chalk the sidewalks (get permission!), and show queer students going about their daily business. Have out members of your group do homework, eat lunch, chat in this little viewing area, to show that they’re not so shockingly different after all. This suggestion came from Molly and Wright State’s Lambda Union. She says to expect verbal confrontations, so I say at the meeting before this event, do “skits” or something to simulate what people might say and how students might respond–and reduce tensions.
  9. Do charity work with traditionally GLBT related causes AND NON-GBLT related charities. Show you care about all the members of your community, and human rights for all people, not just GLBT rights.
  10. Organize a show of support on campus (wear jeans day, wear purple day, rainbow pins – something to increase visibility on campus). This may work better later in a term when people are more secure and have had contact with the group to feel supported enough to be open/out in this manner.
  11. Set up a table wherever your campus allows (on the quad, in the cafeteria, the lobby of classroom buildings, during the Welcome Fest or Student Organization Fair, etc.) and pass out rainbow ribbon pins (like the red AIDS ribbon, only rainbow). They are cheap to make and many people, GLBT or straight, can feel comfortable wearing this small token of support around campus (and I know people who have a collection on their backpacks from every time this was done during their 4 years!). At Elon University, the student group got creative with beads and safety pins, passing out pins with beaded rainbow flags and transgender pride flags that people could wear or put on their backpacks. Seeings these pins around campus makes GLBT people and allies, as well as your campus group, more visible.
  12. Hold a Film Festival! You can show both serious dramas and campy classics: The Big Eden, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Claire of the Moon, Better Than Chocolate, Lost and Delirious, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, If These Walls Could Talk 2, Broken Hearts Club, a Queer as Folk marathon, etc. There are also lots of foreign language films dealing with GLBT issues (Ma Vie En Rose is a perfect example). Each campus has different rules and regulations about showing films on campus – be sure you don’t violate copyright laws! Check with your campus activities office. Our campus has facilities (a projector and screen) that allow us to show films outside. Other campuses have weekly film nights in a member’s residence hall room, and others work with faculty to show films in classroom and educational settings. Organizing a film festival is one way of raising money for your group or for a local charity.
  13. The Pride Group at one college selects a topic in advance of each meeting and someone, usually an officer of the group, makes an informative introduction to the topic, goes over some key issues, and then they open it up for a sharing of personal experiences, discussion, etc. The same group also has specific nights when they get together into groups and make posters about different queer issues to put up on campus. Another time they made sock puppets and did skits that dealt with their experiences of discrimination in a light-hearted manner.
  14. Speak with your Dean of Student Affairs, or even the President of you college (if s/he is approachable, I go to a small college, so I can speak with her any time!) to feel them out on the issues. You may find unexpected support (or unfortunate lack of it…). Often these people have decades of experience on college campuses, tap their knowledge of what has worked in the past. See if they remember any memorable awareness-raising “stunts” on any of the campuses they have worked on! Find out where you will get support/what you are up against in the upper echelons of administration at your college!
  15. Alfred University in NY sets up a large “closet door” on a frame in the middle of the campus center. The group decorates the door (pink, purple triangles, rainbows, etc.) and has people “come out of the closet” by walking through their door. They are then congratulated, given a rainbow sticker, etc. You could also take their picture as they emerge from the closet. The folks at Alfred also set up a table with information about coming out and local organizations.


Source: Nicky Rohrkemper (Alma College Pride, Alma Michigan) and Jess McDonald, Campus Pride, 2012.

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