Club Starter Kit

Anime Club Starter Kit

Anyone can start an anime club. All you need is the passion, the time and the know how. This document will help you with the “know how” part. The rest is up to you. Latasha James, Club President of Delaware Anime Fans (DAF),and Min’ko, Club President of Richmond Anime Club, and Jenn Gedonius of Japanese Anime People of Chicago(JAPC) are sharing their advice from experience with you.

Communication:
Tasha: Staying in touch and keeping your members informed is very important as far as maintaining and keeping an anime club. I recommend creating a mailing list, page and/or forum. Some anime clubs use these instead of having web pages. They work just as well. Most people prefer mailing lists because they check their mail every day. This is what people usually get on the Internet for. Some don’t surf, go to chat rooms or do things like that. The down side is mailing lists sometimes flood your inbox. Others prefer forums, which you can keep organized by having sub forms for various topics. Typically, there is no email in your inbox unless someone replies to your posts. The down fall is with them is that you have to keep checking it to see if there are any updates (like new posts.) It’s more of a preference choice as to which you use; there’s also the option of just using both as well, but it can lead to misinformation due to the two mediums not syncing up. For mailing lists, I recommend Yahoo.

Min’ko: Communication is key, in just about anything you do in life. I started and ran a club when I was in high school, and am in the process of starting up a community-based one now. Making your objective clear, in either situation (high school or community-based) is essential. If you’re submitting to your supervisors at a high school forms on what your club is going to be about, and why you think it’d be a good addition to your school be sure to include some educational sides. You could take one meeting a month to focus on a cultural aspect of Japan, or have guest speakers or students host panels teaching your members how-to (insert whatever you’d like to “how-to” here), etc. I met no resistance when submitting my papers, and since my graduation the anime club at my old high school is the largest extra curricular on campus.
Just getting things going aside, communication is vital to keep your club running. Once you’ve got a set of rules, or guidelines, in place make absolutely sure that everyone in your club is aware of them. Who wants to deal with a messy situation that could have been avoided all together if only someone had been aware of the rules?

Jenn: I recommend creating a Facebook page or Google + profile for your club.  In the past few years, both of those social networking websites have been growing in popularity, and people seem to read their activity pretty regularly. Also, if your club plans on having a website, social integration can be achieved with a WordPress installation on your web host.  My anime club website, JAPC runs on WordPress, as does this website.

As for forums, I would recommend (all of which are free) bbpress, a WordPress plugin, or for stand alone options you have Vanilla Forums, or Simple Machines Forum.  PHPBB is also a viable option, but it can be very cumbersome to use if your not PHP savvy.

Locations:
Tasha: There are many places for an anime club to meet up. Most businesses are more than happy to have you. You, the anime club, bring the people, which in turn is an increased opportunity for the hosting store to make a sale. There’s also the option of public libraries, cyber cafes and schools. High Schools and Colleges are great places to not only hold meetings, but to also recruit new members. Not only do they often have the equipment you will need, but if you can manage to establish your club as a respectable and legitimate club, there’s also the possibility of school funding. I myself have never been in a school run anime club so I’ll turn leave that to one of the others. Hotels have also been used in the past, but tend to be rather expensive for the average club to afford on a regular basis.
One thing that I’ve learned is that if your club makes a profit from anything, it’s usually a good idea to make a donation to the hosting location. Not only does it show that you’re thankful for the use of their space, but also that you’re considerate of the electricity and other resources you’re using. This has actually lead to our club receiving special discounts in the past, thus proving that one good turn deserves another.

Min’ko: While you’re in either high school or college, those are definitely the places to go for first. As Tasha mentioned, not only would you have space, you’d probably have the necessary equipment to run your club. However, if school facilities are not available to you, there are plenty of other options. The more popular of the “other options” are anime/comic bookstores, and libraries. Some of the anime club support programs require your meetings to be held in a public library in order to receive their materials. (I doubt this is the case with all of them, but it’s the impression I got from several of them.) You’ll find each location has its perks. Just take your time in picking one and chose wisely.

Jenn: I run an independent anime club in a major metropolitan area, and free/low cost public meeting venues are few in far between.  I have found that there are not many libraries that will support an anime club because of it’s not-so-family-friendly content, and meeting rooms are not always available.  In the 12 years I have been running my club, I have found that meetings in members’  homes work best for a small to medium sized club. We also meet in restaurants and entertainment venues. We do try to keep all of our meetups within public transit proximity, and if there is a meetup outside the reaches of public transit, we arrange carpools.

Viewings:
Tasha: When it comes to anime clubs, viewings are important. Make sure you show a variety of things; don’t just show one genre of anime. In addition to anime, show things such as Live Action Asian Cinema (a big hit in my club). As far as choosing what titles to show, some clubs choose to let their members decide what to show while others have officials choose what to play. Either way works, but again, be sure to show a variety of things to try to please as many people as possible, but still expose them to new things.
It’s important to obtain permission when doing public viewing. If your meeting only draws twenty people or less, it’s considered a private viewing. If it draws more, you’re going to need permission from the vendor distributing whatever title you plan to show. Below in the resource section is a contact list from Anime Clubs Unite (ACU) where you can find information to obtain viewing permission. Never charge for viewings. (It’s illegal.) In addition, there are programs that help anime clubs. These programs will mail your club DVDs to show at your club meetings and do not require viewing permission. You will find those links under the resource section as well.

Min’ko: Variation is key. You can’t expect to keep everyone happy if all you show is sappy girly anime. (Or bloody action overly-fan serviced anime, for that matter.) Create a “library” of sorts; get a list of the titles and formats of the anime that your club members have at their disposal. (Example: Violinist of Hamelin, DVD, fan subbed. Shamanic Princess, VHS, dubbed.) Creating a library is not only beneficial to your club, but is also another way to get your members involved and interacting with one another. Never show a title licensed in the U.S. (or any country outside Japan) without obtaining permission from that title’s distributor. It’s against the law!

Jenn: Usually we have a set playlist of two shows at the beginning of each meeting.  These two shows were decided from polls taken of members suggestions. After the set playlist, we show something new (as in recently airing in Japan or newly released on DVD). Members usually bring a few shows to share with the group, and we vote on what we want to watch with a show of hands out of the shows members bring to the meetings.

Activities:

Tasha: There is so much your anime club can do. Marathons, Video Game Days and Tournaments, Mini Conventions, Various Other Contests, Educational Panels, Guest Speakers, and Trips to conventions and other locations are all great ideas. Remember, your group’s goal should not only be to just watch anime; but also to develop friendship and educate as well. Don’t be afraid to do things together! These are also great fundraising possibilities, but can also be a great use of funds themselves as a show of appreciation for the club’s hard work and dedication.

Min’ko: There’re so many options! Cookouts at parks with plenty of silly games to play are a fun way to get to know your fellow club members. (Not to mention a fairly cheap way; make it a potluck, everybody brings one dish and there’ll soon be enough to feed an army!) Field trips to the movie theatre, museums, amusement parks, laser tag – the sky’s the limit here, folks. Picture yourself doing something fun you love with your friends, and try that something fun with your club members.

Jenn: Just as an example, our club has hosted bowling and mini golf outings, meetups at Japanese culture events, meetups at movies,   BBQ’s, tea parties, Halloween parties,  and shopping trips to Asian markets..

Fundraising and Dues:
Tasha: Nothing is free. It’s unlikely that you’re willing to pay out of your own pocket for everything your club needs. The question is how do you bring in money? Donations, fundraising, and dues are the answer. There are many ways to fund raise. You can raffle off items, hold anime auctions and even simple things like a car wash will help bring in those much-needed funds.
Some clubs implement a dues system. This is a topic of debate for most as you’re not allowed to collect dues for viewings.    It’s illegal. You can, however, offer discounts to members who do pay dues and implement other bonuses such as discounts on club merchandise, possibly a free raffle ticket for raffles or even dues exclusive raffles such as a ticket to a con. In addition they are used to maintain the equipment, pay the establishment, and fund the event planning. Consider it a VIP pass.
The third option I mentioned is donations. I’m not recommending that you pass around an offering plate or anything, but a little blurb about the donation tin by the door or the club’s PayPal account may help bring in those much needed funds as well. It’s a little harder to get money for nothing in return, but you could be surprised at how your members see your efforts and would like to give out of the kindness of their hearts.

Min’ko: Fundraising… There’re a multitude of things you could do, it’s really more a matter of what you know you can get your club to actually do. Not everyone’s into the “manual labor” involved in having a car wash, or bake sale. While I’m sure you can always find ways to spend money for your club, consider doing a fundraiser for a charity, or organization now and again. Maybe for the facility you use to meet in. It’d be a really nice way to give back, and show you really do appreciate the privilege of having a sound place for your club to meet at. For a list of ideas to try out fundraiser-wise, check the database files on the Anime Clubs Unite YahooGroups page. J

Advertising and Recruiting:
Tasha: An anime club wouldn’t be any fun if it was just you. There are many ways you can get the word out and recruit members. Word of mouth has to be one of the cheapest and most effective ways to bring in and keep more members for your club. Consider a free raffle ticket or some other incentive for members who bring in new people to sweeten the deal.
Flyers are a good place to start. Other than the obvious places, like conventions, and gaming/comic bookshops, it’s also a great idea to post a few at the local libraries, schools and even gas stations. I honestly think that the bulk of our new members have cited the ad at the local WaWa for how they found out about us. Be sure to ask the owner of the establishment before you lay out flyers, it’s a common courtesy. Another thing to be aware of is the area’s litter law.
In addition, the web is your friend. Create a web page, it doesn’t have to be the greatest thing in the world or have it’s own domain. There are many sites who offer free web space and service, though if you can afford it, paid web service tends to offer better options, bandwidth and a few other perks. Also consider creating a group on sites such as Yahoo, MySpace or one of the various Blog Journals.

Min’ko: Flyers, flyers, flyers. Word of mouth aside, flyers are just about as cheap as it gets. You can also pack a lot of information on them. (Club contact info, website, meeting place, agenda, goals, etc.) They’re easy to distribute, and if you check with most local bookshops, coffee houses, and retailers, many if not all are normally willing to let you leave a stack for people to shuffle through. Great way to spread the word!

Club Officers and Staff:

Tasha: Having officers and staff in your club is very important. This helps to take some of the burden off of you. The first thing is to make sure you have reliable people. Ask around about your member’s talents and jobs. Having an accountant as Treasurer is definitely a plus. Officials can either be elected by members or chosen by the President. As always, the members will feel more ownership in the club if their voices make a difference, but also use common sense. Using the example above, it might be best to choose someone who you know isn’t going to take the money and run.

Min’ko: Some folks are very independent and feel they can run things “all by themselves”. That’s just fine and dandy, so long as you do it right. You’re a club leader, not a club dictator. Listen to what your members say they want to do, see, and try. Don’t ever just tell people “how things are going to be”. Smaller clubs can be run by one person – if it’s done right. If your club is growing rather large, chances are it’ll be a nice break to let someone else help you out with all that needs to be done. I would recommend holding elections. It’s a sure-fire way to assure members that there were no bias opinions in office appointment, and everyone feels involved because they were able to vote.

Cross / Inter Club Rivalries:
Tasha: Although it should never come to it, rivalries between clubs can become a serious problem if it’s allowed to get out of control. Remember that the whole point of creating a club in the first place is to make friends, not enemies. Try talking to the leaders of the other club to come up with resolutions to any problems. If it comes to it, I’ve implemented penalties for cases where I find one of my members harassing or otherwise causing unneeded problems between the other clubs in our area. If it continues to be a problem beyond that, which hopefully it shouldn’t, you may have to remove the offending member from the club.
In situations where there are issues between the club’s leaders, it’s probably in your best interest to avoid them all together. There’s nothing worse than having your members get involved with a disagreement between leaders; keep it behind closed doors. Remember that there’s a possibility that you share members with the same club. Don’t make them choose sides.
Above all else, avoid feuding between the clubs. Never promote anything that would fuel continued disagreements and or squabbling.

Min’ko: Hopefully this is one I never have to deal with. So long as your club has a set of rules, understands their importance, and follows them accordingly, I really see no reason why this would be an issue. Don’t let yourself get caught up in a situation where you could find yourself thinking, “Oooh, I’m gonna get so n so for this…”. Remember the golden rule, folks: do unto others as you’d have other do unto you. Should problems arise, handle them with care. Address the involved parties as adults, not children; condensation helps no one when the situation is already tense. Use your best levelheaded judgment, and try to reach an agreement. If one cannot be reached, it may be in the club’s best interest for you to ask the trouble-making member not to come back.

Jenn: I have had to deal with a lot of drama because I run a club in a rather large metro area where there is an overall mentality of “my club is better than yours”. This kind of thinking needs to stop, and people need to get over it, and realize that the community would be stronger if we all just worked together. It’s sad when other local clubs refuse to network with you, because they feel you are a threat to them for whatever reason. There is enough drama in everyone’s life already, and running and participating in an anime club should be fun, and not more drama. Whatever you do, always be the bigger person and never slander other clubs, no matter what, and NEVER EVER let a disagreement between another club or members become a public display.  That’s bad press for both your club and theirs.

Common Problems:
Tasha: One I’ve encountered is dealing with parents. Your best bet with parents is to keep them informed. Don’t just post the play list on the site and in your ads, include the age ratings and content as well. Permission slips are another great idea. Some parents are ok with certain types of content and won’t mind “little Timmy” seeing some mild violence and language, others may not. Be sure to greet every parent when possible, go over the content of the viewing, and talk about the club – don’t just let them blindly sign the slip.
Another issue is the possibility of members with mental disabilities. Be sure to meet the parents/caretakers and if possible have them attend the first few meetings. While it’s understandable that there may be some difficulties at first after a while there should be little to no problems. Just be sure to get contact information if the parents/caretakers wish to leave them unattended should they need to be reached before they return.

Min’ko: Communication. Other people can’t read your mind. If any changes are made about anything, (meeting location/time, anime line-up, special events, etc.), you need to let your members know. Don’t assume anything; the last thing you need to do is hurt someone’s feelings or upset them because you failed to pass the word along. (I’m speaking from experience, unfortunately.) As long as you keep your information current and detailed enough to satisfy curious newcomers and parents alike, you should be good to go!

Jenn: Don’t feed the trolls! Remember that your members are people with a variety of temperaments, feelings, and emotions and come from a variety of different backgrounds. Agree to disagree.

Participation:  There is no magic solution as to how to increase/encourage participation in your club. You just have to try things until you find something that works. you also have to accept that your not going to be able to please everyone 100% of the time. I have found that asking for member feedback doesn’t always work out the way you think it will, as suggestions seem to go to the wayside after a while.