Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

Motivating Fellow Students to Get Involved Politically and Take Action

Posted by Tony Listi on February 28, 2010

Students are notoriously apathetic. We Campus Services Coordinators experience this a lot and hear it often from student leaders who we assist. But a good leader knows how to inspire and motivate, how to create and develop new leaders. 

There are many ways to recruit and motivate students to be more politically active and become future leaders for your group:

  1. Find their hot button issue! Like most Americans generally, most students are not political junkies with an opinion on everything or strictly philosophically consistent. But many have at least one particular issue that fires them up! Don’t be afraid to ask individual students questions about their background and beliefs. A person may have a hot button issue without even knowing it. Get to know the membership of your group, especially if it is a general conservative group. It’s easy to motivate people when you know what they care about and why. Just press the button and press it in the right way.
  2. Seize the moral high ground and show moral outrage! The left is very good at doing this. They create or find victims of real or perceived injustice and rally students to take action to supposedly set things right. Of course, we know that leftist policies do nothing but create even more victims. Make sure your members especially (as well as everyone else) know who these victims of leftist abuse, bias, and policy are. Challenge your fellow activists to fight on their behalf! As Morton says, “Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.” Students will react powerfully to what they perceive as unfair.
  3. Use the left as a foil! Tell your members what the other side is doing and what they are accomplishing. Tell them, “We can’t let them get away with this. If we don’t provide opposition, no one will!” Another way to motivate members is to throw them to the wolves: arrange for them confront the opposition on their own. If they succeed, they will be proud, confident, and eager for the next battle. If they fail, then they will be motivated to learn how to be more effective and knowledgeable.
  4. Create a sense of urgency! You may have found a person’s hot button issue and stirred up moral outrage, but you’re competing with the student’s other responsibilities and interests (e.g. schoolwork, boyfriend/girlfriend, leisure, gym, etc.). If you let them, students will procrastinate doing the necessary legwork and preparation for activism to occur. Emphasize the natural urgency of your situation or create an artificial timetable that will create a sense of urgency. Let your body language and tone of voice communicate urgency!
  5. Teach and train them how! Your membership may be ready to take on the world without delay, but they may quickly become hesistant if they don’t know what to do exactly and how to do it. Provide a plan of action and teach them how to execute their part in it. People feel confident and motivated when they know what they’re doing. Organize and host Leadership Institute trainings on your campus!
  6. Show and tell them the benefits and success stories! Inspiration comes from others doing what was once thought impossible. You must develop a winning psychology among your fellow patriots, and inspiring them with the daring feats of other student activists, past and present, is the way to do it. The Reformer’s Blog and your Campus Services Coordinator are a treasure trove of success stories. Invite your membership to join CampusReform.org! Be sure to explain to your members the many benefits of activism for them and the group in general.
  7. Make your activities fun and creative! The thrill of a good fight for a worthy cause will hopefully be enough for your core membership. But some activism ideas are more entertaining than others (my advice: you can never go wrong with a costume). Satire is a powerful weapon that amuses your side, infuriates and disarms the left, and cuts sharply to the point for those in the mushy middle. Use it whenever possible! Turn more laborious tasks into a competition or host social events after the job is done.
  8. Say thank you! Gratitude and appreciation, both publicly and privately, go a long way to maintaining motivation. Always give credit where credit is due. Reward those who work hard with praise and other creative perks (e.g. dinner or face time with a speaker you are hosting).
  9. Appeal to their self-interest! When all else fails, appeal to students’ interest in fame, fortune, and future opportunities. Some students enjoy attention and being in the media spotlight; let them bask in it without hurting your cause. Some students like material rewards; give them those rewards if they perform and if your budget allows it. Some students need to know how activism will impact their future; tell them that activism leads to a good resume, networkinginternships, summer jobs, and a job after college.

With these tips and insights, you should be able to attract a following and achieve great things on your campus!

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