What is a student organization?
How to start and run a student organization
What is a student organization?
Many students volunteer with a student organisation during their studies. This gives them the opportunity to gain professional experience and make new friends. But what is a student association?
A student organisation is established and operated by student members on a voluntary basis. These organisations are typically run by their members and generally are not profit driven. Their sole purpose is to provide an arena for students from a similar field of study or with similar interests to meet and learn together alongside their studies.
So what do these organisations do? They do pretty much anything and everything, from music, beer brewing, tennis, to knitting. Can’t find a group that covers your interest? Then you’ve already got a good idea to get your own organisation going!
This document will take you through the fundamentals of starting and running your own student organisation.
How do you start a student association?
When starting a new student organisation, you’ll probably come across the following terms:
Foundation meeting (Norwegian: Stiftelsesmøte): All those who are interested in starting a new organisation meet at a foundation meeting to determine what the purpose of the organisation is and what the different roles within the organisation are. This is usually also when the board is elected and the bylaws (regulations) are written. It’s good idea to have suggestions for the purpose and regulations of the organisation ready before the meeting.
The board (Norwegian: Styre): The board is a group of people who lead the organisation. The are usually elected by the association’s members. The board comprises a head/leader, an assistant head, and at least one board member. The board members can also have specific roles, such as the economic responsible, event responsible, or public relations (PR) responsible.
Bylaws (Norwegian: Vedtekter): Bylaws are rules that regulate an organisation and are decided by the organisation itself at a foundation meeting. These bylaws can include what the organisation will do, who can be members, as well as any membership fees. The bylaws should also include details of how many members are in the board, the role of these board members, and voting procedures within the board. Visit betteriet.no for example bylaws here (Norwegian).
Membership fees (Norwegian: Medlemskontingent): Membership fees can give an organisation a stable income. It is not common for student organisations to have a membership fee, but some student organisations (such as the linjeforeninger, or fraternities) benefit greatly from having an annual membership that allows them to hold frequent and/or large events for their members. Some organisations also provide member discounts for events or in collaboration with partner organisations (such as shops and cafes).
Meeting minutes (Norwegian: Møtereferat): Meeting minutes are a written report of a meeting. The minutes can be always written by a specific person, or can be decided upon prior to each meeting. This role is typically filled by a secretary or the assistant head.
Protocol (Norwegian: Protokoll): Protocols are the written minutes from a foundation meeting or a general meeting that are signed by two members of the organisation.
Marketing and Recruiting
When you are marketing to recruit members to your organisation, there are many different methods you can use to raise awareness and create interest. Below you will find some examples of the most common methods used.
- Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Linkedin
- Stands around campus
- Announcements in lectures
- Printed material (flyers, posters, etc.)
- Screens around campus (contact [email protected])
- Blackboard (internal, online learning system at NTNU)
Recruiting board members
When trying to recruit board members, it is a good idea to have an informal coffee meeting with potential candidates prior to a formal interview. You will be working closely with this person over a long period of time and it’s important learn a little more about their interests and motivations. In addition, you can provide them with more information about the position and your expectations of them. In advance of a formal interview, you should prepare a list of questions or topics you wish to discuss with candidates.
Some organisations recruit members and maintain member lists. It is also possible to define a group of students as members; for example, all masters students in some fields of study are automatically recruited as members when they begin their studies. Each organisation must decide what requirements they have for their active members.
When you are recruiting new members, it is a good idea to think about about who it is you want to recruit. Here are six questions you can ask yourself when looking for members:
- What is the target group?
- What can my organisation offer its members?
- What expectations does my organisation have of its members?
- What does my organisation know about the target group it wants to recruit?
- Who do I want to recruit?
- What does my organisation know about those who choose to not get involved?
Want to know more?
Sit offers courses of recruiting and interview methods. You can find more information here.
Brønnøysund Register Center
Brønnøysund is a town in Norway and the register center there maintains an electronic database of individuals and businesses. In order to open a bank account for a student organisation, you will need to register your organisation with the Brønnøysund Register Center so that you can receive an organisation number. In order to register, you need to provide the following: the name an ID number for each board member, the bylaws, and the annual general meeting protocols. These must be updated regularly.
The Brønnøysund Registration Center has created a form to register a new organisation here.
A well-functioning and effective organisation depends on good economic management. This involves appropriate management of accounting, budgets, invoices, and vouchers. Below are some templates to get you started:
- Budget template
- Accounting template
- Reimbursement of expenses template
Organisations can be structured in different ways depending on their size and purpose. For example, Studentersamfundet i Trondheim (the Student Union in Trondheim) is registered as a limited company/Ltd (Norwegian: Aksjeselskap/AS) with taxable assets and several full-time employees. Conversely, many linjeforeninger are run entirely by volunteers and without large assets.
There are numerous funding opportunities that student organisations can benefit from.
- Sponsorship deals: a sponsorship deal can give an organisation additional financial income or the provision of required materials and equipment. Student organisations usually enter into sponsorship deals with companies who can benefit from the organisation as a recruitment channel for potential employees.
- Funding from institutes or faculties: if an organisation is associated with an institute or faculty at the university, there may be opportunities to apply for funding on a one-off basis, or as part of a permanent, annual payment. Recruiting of new students, research seminars, and company presentations are all excellent ways of getting the attention of an institute or faculty.
- Crowdfunding: several organisations make use of crowdfunding, whereby small amounts of money are collected from a large number of people, usually over the internet. Your organisation can present their ideas and the public can decide if they would like to provide funding to your project. For more information, visit https://folkeinvest.no/ and https://startskudd.no/
- Voluntary work (Norwegian: dugnad): in Norway, a dugnad is work that you do for another business, but for which your organisation receives payment. Essentially, you are volunteering your time so that your organisation can receive funding. Examples of a typical dugnad include selling and stock-taking, or cleaning and rigging for events. Check with your institution or faculty to see if they have any opportunities. Also visit, https://dugnaden.no/ for more information.
- Self-generated income: income can also be generated through membership fees, waffle sales, or ticket sales to events. This type of income gives an organisation more autonomy because the money does not have any restrictions associated with its use, as external funding and support often does.
Is it possible to register a board member in the Brønnøysund Register Center without a Norwegian ID-number?
Students who study in Norway for less than 6 months receive a D-number. If a student decides to remain in Norway for more than 6 months, they must apply to change over to a ID-number. All board members must be recorded in the Brønnøysund Register Center correctly, with both their roll and D-number or ID-number, in order to make changes.
How much is the average membership fee?
Student organisations handle their membership fees in different ways. Some have an annual payment of 200-300 kr, while others have a one-off payment for lifetime membership. The most important this is that the fees are set so that the accounting is balanced.
What can be done about suspected theft/corruption?
Allegations of theft or misuse of finances should be an issue raised by the leader with the individual or individuals concerned. If the individual admits to the allegations, it is generally not necessary to report it to authorities, but rather write up a repayment contract that is agreed to and signed by both parties. The contract should include repayment terms as well as consequences in the event of a breach of these terms, which can include the involvement of the police or other relevant authorities.
What is a voucher?
A voucher is an attachment to financial statements that documents how you have used money or where you have received money from. This can include invoices and receipts. A voucher should also include the name, address and ID-number or organisation number of the person who has delivered the service.
Want to learn more?
Sit offers courses in accounting where you can get a basic introduction to accounting and budgeting. Visit here to get in contact with Sit and arrange a course in English.
Questions about value added tax, VAT (Norwegian: merverdiomsetningsavgift, moms)? If your organisation’s taxable sales exceed 50,000 kr annually, you must be registered
VAT-registered. Sit arranges evenings in Trondheim for “VAT in Volunteer Organisations” (Norwegian: Moms i frivillige organisasjoner). Visit here for information about the course (Norwegian) and to get in contact with Sit.
Every year, Sit awards funding to numerous sports teams and student associations, with up to 1.5-million NOK being allocated to groups in Gjøvik, Ålesund, and Trondheim. The deadline is 1 March (Spring semester) and 1 October (Autumn semester). Applications are assessed by the Culture Board of the student Welfare Council (Velferdstinget), who then make recommendations to Sit. Please contact the Culture Board at [email protected] if you have questions regarding the application process. Guidelines for applications can be found here (Norwegian. Contact the Welfare Council for clarification in English).
To be eligible for support, activities must be run by students and for the benefit of students at educational institutions affiliated with Sit. For example, linjeforeninger, cultural groups, international student groups and sports teams are all associations that typically receive funding. A guide on how to apply for sponsorship funds can be found here (Norwegian. Contact the Welfare Council for clarification in English).
When is the deadline for applying for sponsorship from Sit?
All organisations can apply before the 1st of March (Spring semester), which new organisations can apply before the 1st of October (Autumn semester).
Are we guaranteed to receive money when we apply for money from Sit/Culture Board?
Sponsorship is not guaranteed for all applicants. Sit prioritises groups that it believes will have difficulty receiving financial support from other sources. Groups that receive funding from other organisations or are already receiving support from Sit do not usually receive additional sponsorship. Parties and study-related events do not receive funding.
What is the Culture Board?
The Culture Board (Norwegian: Kulturstyret) is a group of students appointed by the student Welfare Council (Norwegian: Velferdstinget) who assess applications and then make recommendations to Sit. Contact details: [email protected]
Can we apply for sponsorship for expenses that have already been made?
No, unfortunately you cannot apply for sponsorship on expenses that have already been incurred. If you are unsure, contact [email protected]
How do you run a student organization?
At the annual meeting, all members are welcome to attend and vote on cases that are relevant to them. Generally, there is a deadline for submitting cases that will be discussed at the annual meeting. This is important so that information regarding the cases can be communicated to members in a timely manner so that they can make informed decisions when voting. At the annual meeting, it is normal to discuss: accounts and annual reports from the previous year, as well a budgets and plans for the next year. Here you can also choose a new board and roles in addition to reviewing (and possibly changing) the association's bylaws.
Annual meeting protocols
During the annual meeting, a protocol is written and sent to Brønnøysundregisteret. The leader of the organisation must have the personal ID number of all board members in this document.
Visit https://www.altinn.no/en/forms-overview/bronnoysund-register-centre/coordinated-register-notification--registering-a-new-entity-or-changing-information-regarding-an-existing-entity-/ and click on “Coordinated register notification”
The leader should log in with “MinID”
This will provide you with options about what you want to report. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this service is only available in Norwegian. These instructions will continue using the Norwegian terms. Select “Endre eller legge til nye opplysninger"
Write in the organisation number of your group (organisasjonsnummeret)
Continue to fill in the new information ie. name and personal ID number of the leader, deputy leader and board members, in addition to submitting the annual meeting protocols as well as any changes to the bylaws.
Two people from the board must use their digital signature. Register these two people and they will receive an SMS detailing when and how they can sign the documents.
An annual cycle is a planning tool that gives your organisation an overview of the various milestones and what needs to be done, when. Write down the dates of the various events and deadlines so that you are able to plan well in advance and not leave things until the last minute. In an annual cycle, you can note down: annual meetings, social events, as well as budget and accounting deadlines.
Many student organisations have their own venue to run their activities out of (ie. an office), but this is not always the case. Here is an overview of the various venues you can hold meetings:
- Group rooms on campus - here you have access to whiteboards, data projectors, and desks which can be configured to accommodate the style of the meeting (ie. horseshoe, long table, group tables, etc.)
- Cafes - perfect for informal meetings
Being a leader in a student organisation often brings with it experiences and responsibilities that most do not encounter until well into their working lives. You have responsibility for maintaining an overview of the organization's activities and finances, and for building a good working environment for your volunteers. We recommend that all leaders establish clear and reasonable expectations in collaboration with their new volunteers as well as regular formal and informal conversations with them to review progress and receive feedback.
Do you want to learn more about leadership? Sit offers:
- Courses in leadership, communication, and working environments for student organisations. Read more here (Norwegian. Contact Sit for English options).
- Leader seminars for students with leadership positions. Read more here (Norwegian. Contact Sit for English options).
- Courses on alcohol and drug policy. Read more here (Norwegian. Contact Sit for English options).
- Facilitation of expectation and feedback sessions for volunteers. Read more here (Norwegian. Contact Sit for English options).
We are constantly under pressure to balance our studies, volunteering, and everything else in our lives, so it’s important that we don’t waste time with ineffective and unnecessary meetings. Here are eight tips on how you as a leader can hold effective and constructive meetings.
1. Goals: Write down what the goal of the meeting is, then set the agenda on what will be discussed to achieve this. Send out the agenda to those who are attending the meeting in good time so they will have adequate time to prepare. What do you and your team want to achieve? Is it to plan an event? Discuss a case? Motivate each other?
2. Check-in: Get everyone present to “tune in” to the meeting by welcoming them. Give them an introduction to the goal of the meeting, as well as the rules and your expectations of them.
3. Minutes: Always have someone writing minutes for the meeting, which will detail who took part in the meeting, what you discussed, and what you decided upon. This is not only useful as a record, but also as an overview for those who were not present at the meeting.
4. Role model: As the leader of a meeting, you are a role model. Be interested, engaged, and kind. Create a safe environment and give everyone at the table space to participate. You should ensure the meeting does not stray off topic and at the same time, handle any challenges that may arise, such disagreements, distractions and dominant personalities.
5. Facilitation: Facilitation involves managing teamwork and discussions to make the most effective use of time and to produce the best outcomes. This involves using an appropriate meeting room, perhaps also providing coffee, tea, and snacks. Set a goal, write the agenda, and provide relevant documentation to those attending the meeting beforehand.
6. Activate and engage: Have a clear agenda and ensure this is made available to all participants. In discussions, try to let those attending the meeting talk in groups before discussing in plenary.
7. Decisions: Once a decision is made, it is important to clarify who will do what and by when it will be done. Make sure that those who carry out the tasks have enough resources to do so effectively. Don’t just assign a task and forget about it.
8. Closing the meeting: Here you summarize what you have discussed and what you have decided. Repeat responsibilities and ensure that everyone agrees on the way forward. Thank everyone for attending and remain afterwards in case someone wants to discuss something with you.
Do you want to learn more? Sit offers:
Courses in meeting leadership and facilitation. Read more here (Norwegian. Contact Sit for English options).
The workplace environment includes both physical and mental factors. Here are five tips that you as a leader can use to ensure that everyone in your organisation will thrive:
1. Expectations: How should we work and talk with each other? When putting together a team, it is a good idea to clarify your expectations of the organisation, of yourself, and of others in the team.
2. Motivation: Respect the fact that people have different motivations for joining a student organisation. Some are looking for social engagement, some are thinking about their careers, while others are just looking to lend a helping hand. This is wonderful! The most important thing is that are accepted in and feel a part of the group.
3. Ownership: When making decisions, it is important that everyone in the group feels ownership of this. This means that managers and volunteers should make every effort to share their ideas before making a decision. This helps to prevent anyone from feeling left out . A good way to make sure everyone is heard is to let people talk in smaller groups before discussing the issue in plenary.
4. Recognition: Recognition of accomplishments should be concrete and given when it is earned. What has this person done to deserve praise? Create a culture of positive feedback and compliments.
5. Disagreement and conflict: It is perfectly normal that there are disagreements when working in a group - indeed it is a healthy sign of a diverse group when everyone doesn’t always agree all the time. However, it is important to ensure that this disagreement does not develop into conflict and that the a distinction is made between the issue causing disagreement and the people involved. At the end of the day, everyone should still be friends.
Do you want to learn more? Sit offers:
Courses in Leadership, Workplace Environment, and Communication. Read more here (Norwegian. Contact Sit for English options).
Experience and Mentoring
When a new board is elected, information in Brønnøysundregisteret must be updated, in addition to access to bank accounts, email addresses, and social media accounts. We suggest that everyone with leadership positions in the organisation write a report that details their experiences with a description of their job and the annual cycle of the organisation which they can give to their successors. It might be necessary to write this gradually through your time in the position, as it is common to forget things that would have been useful to know in the beginning.
Set aside a weekend with the new and old boards where you can show them the ropes and where the ingoing and outgoing volunteers can speak one-on-one, as well as in a group, to discuss tips and tricks and ask questions. Also take them through the annual cycle, budgets, and accounts.
Where can you get help and advice to master your leadership position?
Courses and Guidance with Sit Råd
Sit has its own councillors who work full time to support student associations in Gjøvik, Ålesund and Trondheim. All courses are developed in cooperation with student volunteers.
What courses does Sit Rås provide?
- Smalltalk and Networking
- Time Management
- Stress Management
- Presentation and Debate techniques
- Meeting Leadership and Facilitation
- Leadership, Workplace Environment, and Communication
- Norwegian Tax Law and Volunteer Organisations
- Leadership Seminar (Spring semester only)
- Media Handling (Spring semester only)
Note: Send us an email for courses in Ålesund og Gjøvik, or for courses that can be provided in English.
In addition to those courses listed above, we also assist in the facilitation of expectation and feedback sessions.
If you would like a different course from those listed above, contact us and we will do our best to accommodate you. We also provide tailored guidance and coaching for students with leadership positions, boards, and management groups. Read more at sit.no/en/organizations or contact [email protected].
Courses and guidance with the Optimal Buzz project
The Optimal Buzz is a responsible alcohol use project aimed at students. The goal of the Optimal Buzz is to reduce the negative impacts of alcohol on the student community.
What can the Optimal Buzz help with?
- Provision of Optimal Buzz promotional material (posters, cards, self testing)
- Courses and seminars
- Workshops on alcohol and drug use policies
- Courses on "the necessary conversation"
- Assistance if you are concerned about your own or others substance abuse
Read more at lykkepromille.no (Norwegian). For questions or advice, contact Anette Sivertstøl by email at: [email protected]