How to Start a DDR Organization

by xequar, 13 October 04

So here's the thing. You and a couple of friends love playing DDR, you've seen some other people that seem interested, and you would just like to meet more people to play with. Then the idea hits you. Why not start a club!?! Oh, but that'd be hard, and I don't really know where to begin. Well, truth be told, it seems harder than it is. Read this. As an added note, I will be making reference to Ferris State University, in Big Rapids, MI, as that is where I went to college.

Ok, I want to start a DDR club. What do I need to consider?

The first thing I recommend is that, if you want to start an organization, that you have at least five people that are going to be just as dedicated to it as you are. Those couple of friends you play DDR with all the time are excellent for playing DDR, but to make an organization come into existence, stay in existence, and grow, you will need a decent base to start with, not to mention that some places require a certain number of members to serve in leadership roles at all times.

Next, consider where this organization is going to exist within the community at large. Most likely, you are planning to have it at your university/college/school. This sounds like a simple, no-brainer type of detail, but in most cases, if you are going to have it at anywhere that's not your basement, there is going to be paperwork and other details to tend to.

Also consider actual locations to meet at, and the availability thereof. Nothing will kill an organization faster than making the meetings hard to find or having them in a bad space. High traffic, high visibility areas with plenty of space are the big red-letter winners here. Your space will also need seating to accommodate everyone, and proximity to food, water, and restrooms is a most valid consideration. Oh, and there MUST be power. The trouble with DDR is that it doesn't work unless it's plugged in, and this is actually really easy to overlook!

Ok, I am really going to do this thing! I have people, and I think we can do it here. Now what?

Now that you have most assuredly gotten some people on board, now is the time to bring this baby into existence. The FIRST thing you will want to do is ask someone in the know about what is needed to make it happen. If you are going to either have your meetings somewhere not in your basement or are going to be a part of a larger entity (i.e. a university/college/school), you will have to deal with their rules and regulations. Your best sources of information are going to be the President of an existing organization, the Student Activities office or whatever office would govern organizations at your entity, or a teacher/group sponsor.

Pretty much anywhere that's not your basement is going to have a certain amount of paperwork associated with it. Most universities, colleges, etc. require anyone wanting to start an organization to file paperwork, typically with a Student Activities office of some sort. Generally, the paperwork serves to gain your organization official recognition from whatever entity you will exist under (university, college, etc.) and the simple right to exist. It will most likely also serve a number of legal issues, blah, blah, blah…

They will also have other requirements, as well. For instance, Ferris State University requires at least five members to fill the roles of President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Public Relations. Those roles are mandates for every organization at Ferris State, and you must have at least enough members to fill those roles before you can even start an organization there. These will be specific to your governing entity, so check into them and adhere to them.

Phew, I finally got all the paperwork done! Am I done?

Ok, you have TURNED IN (no, it's not enough just to get it…) all of your paperwork and jumped through the official hoops. Now comes the legwork of making your organization into something.

First, you are going to want to delegate some duties that will come up, especially since most universities, etc. want official leaders for organizations. Of course, there will be a president, who should really take charge and run things. If you are going to get/raise money, you should have a treasurer. The president also serving in the role of treasure is grossly inappropriate, as it is a conflict of interests, and if any money disappears, the entire organization is suddenly in very hot water. You might also want to have a secretary that can handle taking care of official paperwork and help organize events. These roles can, of course, be shaped to fit your organization's needs. One note for the president: You will want to have someone in the organization that is as completely dedicated to it as you are. Keep that person involved with everything that happens. That way, if you (the president) need to take a night off or simply get too busy to run the organization, there will be someone ready to take over and keep the thing going. Believe me, I have seen too many good ideas and good organizations die because the president got too busy and no one was able to take over.

Some would say that this should have been mentioned earlier, and perhaps they're correct. By this, I mean equipment. Any good DDR organization is going to want to play DDR, and in order to do that, you are going to need stuff to play on. At Ferris State, the members of DDRSO (Dance Dance Revolution Student Organization) donated use of their personal equipment, such as metal pads, import and American PS2s, and if necessary, televisions, etc., and this is most likely the easiest, fastest solution. However, if that, for whatever reason, doesn't present itself as an option, you're not sunk yet. You can try to find official money to purchase equipment with, and/or utilize official property. Many universities have funds that they set aside for use by student organizations. Some schools might have this, as well. The office you went through to become an organization should have more information on whether this money is available and how to get it. If finding official money falls through, you can always do fundraising, in whatever form suits you, to try and raise the money. If none of those options work, be inventive, but legal.

I have goods, paperwork turned in, and someone's even taking charge. Let's rock!

Let's! And to do that, you should set up regular meetings. Honestly, it's not enough just to exist. You need to have regular meetings. These help to keep the current members interested in the organization, recruit new members, allow you the chance to complete official organization business, and of course, play DDR! Weekly has worked well for many socially minded organizations, and DDR is no exception, but whatever standard you decide upon, stick with it. If current or potential members don't know when you're going to meet (or where), they're not going to bother trying again. Here again I will mention the importance of having a backup for the president. If you stop holding your meetings regularly, people will notice, and they will quit coming if they are not certain you will be at the meeting place.

Additionally, as an organization, you are in an excellent position to hold events. These can serve a myriad of functions, such as recruiting new members, soliciting money, and simply spreading the gospel of DDR. These can be anything from simply having a special long meeting to only play DDR to hosting/organizing a tournament to doing a 24-hour DDR marathon that is a fundraiser for charity. When holding an event, be creative with your ideas, and be very organized, because bad execution will haunt you and future events.

Perhaps the biggest element to growing an infant organization is to ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE! People can't come to your meetings and events if they don't know when or where to go. Post signs. Put a message up on your university or school's channel if you can. Tell all your friends and have them tell all of their friends. Pass out stuff. Your advertisement should tell the people at least what is going on (for DDR, a brief description might help snipe some newbs that you can then train properly…), where it is, and when it is.

Oh, and don't forget to keep up with your paperwork. It's really easy to forget about once you are up and running, but you will need to keep that paperwork current if you want to continue to exist as an official organization. Some entities are stricter than others, but if you fall behind, you're screwed!

Yay! I did it! There's now a DDR organization! Anything else I should know or think about?

One of the biggest things I can think of is money. DDRSO at Ferris State University never really needed to deal with it much, since members donated equipment. However, you might want to have a group treasury to buy pizza, hold a tournament, or whatever.

Membership dues are one way of raising money. However, I can't say one way or the other on whether you should charge member dues. On the upside, it's an easy way to earn money for the organization that can be used for a myriad of things. On the downside, I have seen some organizations' membership suffer because they began to charge dues. Whatever your decision is, make sure you have a separate treasurer to handle the funds and keep tabulation of who has and has not paid. It is inappropriate for the president to also handle the organization's money.

Another method to gain money is fundraising. We all know what it's about, and it can come in many different sizes, shapes, and forms. Be creative and organized if you're going to do it. And again, have a separate treasurer to handle the organization's funds.

And last, but certainly not least, as the name organization implies, you must be ORGANIZED about this. Keep track of where the appropriate paperwork goes. Keep track of when that paperwork is due. If you have business to conduct at your meeting (besides playing DDR), have notes prepared so you can simply walk in and run the meeting. If you are holding an event, make sure everything is ready in advance. If you are unorganized, chaos and disaster WILL result.

The final word?

Sure, it takes some legwork to get an organization up and running, but it can be totally worth it, too. Don't be scared by what seems like an intimidating amount of paperwork or even the length of this FAQ. Speaking from personal experience, it seems harder than it actually is. Feel free to contact me with your experiences, comments, etc., as I am always looking to borrow ideas. Good luck. I hope you all get AAAs. I really mean that.