Since time immemorial, clubs have helped students stave off stress, loneliness, and the many pressures of higher education. There’s almost nothing college can throw at you that you can’t weather if you’ve got a solid group of friends to fall back on.
To help student organizations get even more organized, we’ve recruited dozens of Discord Ambassadors whose goal is to help assist hundreds of clubs in creating Discord servers to hang out in, plan events, and keep in touch with one another.
It’s hard work keeping social clubs alive in an age of remote learning — but our ambassadors are up to the job.
An officer in several clubs at UC Berkeley, Christina Ji was already familiar with what student organizations needed. In fact, she was already friends with a lot of their leaders. “From there,” she explains, “it was a process of narrowing down the types of clubs I knew had the most consistent and complex needs for messaging.”
The clubs that most need to stay in touch are the ones who have the most need for a server. And as Christina learned, they were also some of the wariest of change. It’s understandable — every club has its own needs when looking for a new place to call home, so if a club is considering moving to a new platform, they need to make sure it’s a great fit.
Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Christina took the time to truly understand what clubs needed in order to run successfully and found each of them the perfect solution.
“Creating these new communities structured around a club’s needs provided me with a lot of insight towards how there’s so many different ways to connect with people. I found that, as I continued to onboard new organizations, I was also constantly learning how to make my own leadership more effective and efficient!”
Every server had a favorite new feature. But what did Christina enjoy most? “Seeing community reactions to voice channels! Being able to speak and even share music with one another so seamlessly always surprised people.” Which just goes to show: no matter how seriously you take your organization, there’s always time for a little Traditional Polka Loops (10 Hours).
When Thomas Yee set out to get UC Irvine’s clubs hooked up on Discord, he got the word out every way he could: Facebook and Reddit posts, networking through his clubs and his major, and even a few recommendations from friends. It was only a matter of time before the fifteen clubs that Thomas helped were hitting the ground running.
His successes spoke for themselves — literally. “Eventually, leaders were talking among themselves and sharing the efficacy of Discord with one another.”
Of course, getting a club’s officers on board is only half the journey of bringing student organizations to Discord. Making sure your club’s new Discord server fosters a lasting community is just as important — you wouldn’t want to go through all the effort of moving just for the server to stay quiet.
So how do you keep your community intact while making the jump to a new platform? Thomas says it varied:
“The most straightforward method was simply telling their users about the switch. However, others would host game nights, meetings, speaker panels or workshops exclusively over Discord to take advantage of the all-in-one text, video and voice call features. Others would onboard a portion of their members (e.g. leadership or members that were part of a mentorship program) and have that focus group spread the word to the rest of the club. Some clubs even incorporated giveaways that featured official Discord merch to bring awareness to the new platform!”
After a few months of hard work, Thomas is justifiably proud of his success. “I found it very rewarding to help so many communities maintain their sense of culture during the pandemic! I take pride in the fact that I was able to succeed in this new program and provide tangible value to many people in such a short few months.”
On behalf of all the Anteaters who don’t have to miss out on friends and fellowship during these tough times, we say: great job, Thomas!
Right off the bat, UC Santa Barbara student Kayla Kim had plenty of friends involved in campus clubs that could benefit from their own Discord server. Once she helped her existing friends and clubs get set up, Kayla realized she needed to break out of her shell and find others who may need help.
“This ambassadorship definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone when it came to connecting with people and being proactive in assisting [a] club’s needs,” Kayla explains. “It also pushed me to become more creative and tailor each club’s Discord server to their unique purposes.”
While Kayla says most organizations found Discord’s interface easy to pick up and teach their members, her greatest challenges — and opportunities — were groups who had very specific technical needs. Getting them hooked up with the tools they wanted was an intriguing challenge.
“The most interesting group I helped onboard was our Associated Students Program Board (ASPB), more so because the features they needed were very unique from other clubs. Their organization organizes school concerts, film viewings, special lectures, and cultural events. With online learning, they needed a way to host office hours on a new platform that could keep track of each board member’s activity during their scheduled office hours slot.
All the other clubs I worked with had a link for their members to join and stay permanently, whereas ASPB needed a space where students could join temporarily and be removed after their meetings were over. I was able to integrate a bot that would log every time a board member joins and leaves their respective office hours voice channel and then organizes it into a private text channel.”
Kayla makes sure to check back in with the communities she’s onboarded and get their feedback. “All of it has been very positive. Having leaders message me about how helpful Discord has been in keeping their members engaged and connected during remote learning was very fulfilling!” You can have our feedback too: great work, Kayla!
When Ananya Gupta set out to spread Discord across UC Berkeley’s clubs and organizations, she sized up her prospects carefully. Rather than randomly approaching everyone along campus to tell ’em about Discord, she figured out what kind of clubs would benefit most from a server. This way, explaining the usefulness of a server to begin with becomes much easier.
“I tried to target clubs that had various committees, tiers of leadership, or was overall a larger organization. The reason for this is because I thought clubs like these would benefit the most from Discord’s platform that provides multiple channels — text and voice — has built-in roles that the server moderator can create/assign, and has other features that could help provide a new method of organization and communication!”
In a world where most students and organizations connect digitally, Ananya says the hardest part was simply letting people know you’re there to help. “It was just challenging being in a virtual setting and getting people you don’t know to be interested in what you’re offering,” she explains. “But I think once I started reaching out in more direct and personal ways it became a lot easier.”
Getting personal meant learning more about the campus communities she was pitching to, and that in and of itself turned out to be a rewarding experience. Making her way through the list of student organizations felt like a digital club week. “UC Berkeley has so many clubs and people, so it’s always nice to feel like you know a little more than you did before,” she says. “It was definitely super exciting getting to connect so many people with discord and meet new people while doing it! Especially since being in quarantine made it hard to feel connected with my campus community, I loved being able to do so by being a Discord Ambassador.”
Helping Others Create a New Home
Whether you know an existing club of your own that could benefit from a nicely-organized Discord server, or you just want to help your group of friends stay close, we’ve got a good amount of resources to help you or your club get off the ground running.
For those looking for the best tips to run a college Discord community, check out one of our recent Community Spotlights called How a UC Berkely Student Helps Recreate a Campus Experience on Discord and take a page from Berkeley student James Nguyen’s playbook. In addition, you can share our special College page that quickly runs down the basics and includes a special server template to get started with.
For larger communities on the road to Partnership, we’ve also released Fostering a Thriving, Partner-Worthy Community on Discord, a list of recommendations and ideas for how to keep your server going strong, no matter the size. If you’re at this level, the Discord Moderator Academy will also prove beneficial for your mod team.
And if you’re still just trying to get off the ground and seeing if it’s even worth starting up a server, keep an eye out on this blog — we’re working on a piece for those who want to start their first server ever, no matter what it’s about.
A Discord Ambassador isn’t just a snazzy title you show off with your friends. It’s someone who helps communities of all sizes, including those both on and off-campus, find a new home on Discord. Just as Christina, Thomas, Kayla, and Ananya have done, Ambassadors help bring communities together, no matter what everyone’s unique interest is.
You, too, can help the world. Tell us about a server you’ve helped start that became something special by tweeting us at @discord. We’d love to hear about it.
How Discord’s College Ambassadors Helped Clubs Stay Close was originally published in Discord Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.