Every Model UN club leader is aware of the annual push to recruit as many new members as possible. High participation is an essential aspect of any club’s success, and for Model UN in particular. Recruitment strategies, however, tend to focus highly on one specific type of student, those who fit the stereotype of the classic Model UN nerd. These types of strategies, though, massively stunt the capacity of club leadership to boost student participation.
Model UN has the potential to attract students from radically different backgrounds, interests, and personality types; it’s just a matter of how you choose to market the activity.
1. Individuals with a fear of public speaking.
Surprisingly enough, among the most common reasons that delegates cite as their central motivation for joining Model UN was a fear of public speaking. Being a young teenager who is terrified of delivering a speech in front of a crowd is not necessarily an uncommon fear, but it is one that is easily fixed. To recruit these individuals, market Model UN as a means to develop skills like public speaking, debate, speech-writing, articulation, and confidence in group settings. Model UN is an activity that will yield substantive progress and personal growth for everyone involved, regardless of their competitiveness.
2. Global affairs or politics nerds.
Perhaps the most obvious commonality between most Model UN delegates is a passion or interest for geopolitics, international relations, and global affairs. To dedicate countless hours to researching and solving nuanced international issues on top of a regular course load and spending weekends debating with other teenagers, there must be some degree of genuine interest, right? So, for the students who consistently read the news, who love to spark up conversations during class about current events, who take world map labeling quizzes when they are bored, or who spend the vast majority of their high school career in the foreign language and social studies department, Model UN is a very attractive activity. Leverage these students’ genuine interest and natural passion to recruit them to your club.
3. Travel junkies.
Model UN differs from many other clubs available at traditional high schools because it provides students with the opportunity to travel to different conferences, usually more than once per year. Whether it’s taking a bus for a few hours to a local high school’s conference, or flying out-of-state for a larger, college-run conference, traveling with your friends on the weekend is fun for everybody involved. For students who are looking to join clubs along with a group of their friends, recruit them by marketing Model UN as a way to take trips with peers and explore new cities (with the added bonus of missing a few days of school, too).
4. Grade-driven students.
Every high school, regardless of caliber, has its own group of highly-motivated, academically driven students. These individuals are driven by grades, take an extremely rigorous course load, and spend more hours than many of their peers studying. Model UN is an easy sell to students like these, because it is such an intrinsically academic activity. Debate, articulation, clause-writing, research, lobbying, public speaking; these are the skills that make up every Model UN conference, and they are all based heavily in the notion of breaking down a complex international issue and advocating for innovative solutions. To recruit this type of student, name a few examples of the topics you’ve discussed in previous Model UN conferences, and talk about what the structure of the activity looks like over the course of a conference weekend.
5. College application monsters.
Students who dedicate the vast majority of their high school career to the pursuit of a prestigious college acceptance will be naturally attracted to an activity like Model UN, again, because Model UN is an innately academic activity. Additionally, Model UN has the capacity to be an intensely competitive activity–should students choose to make it so–and thus participation presents an opportunity to win awards and boost a resumé. Do not shy away from students who are more overt about their search for activities that look good on paper; these individuals are typically highly-motivated and exceptionally driven. Market Model UN to them by discussing the competitive aspect of the activity, the academic themes, and the potential for awards.
6. Social butterflies.
This demographic of students is the most easily dismissed, but that is a tragic missed opportunity, because socially-driven individuals make up a large portion of successful Model UN delegates. Research, public speaking, lobbying: these are things that can be taught and coached. The natural ability to get along with others of the same age group from radically different parts of the globe, on the other hand, is a much more nuanced skill set which is based largely on emotional intelligence. Therefore, seek out individuals who are looking for activities to make new friends beyond the confines of your high school and its surrounding districts, because if they can focus, then they have great potential to be successful Model UN delegates. To recruit this type of student, speak from personal experience; talk about the friendships you’ve made with individuals from different countries and continents. Talk about the delegate dances, the bonding opportunities, and the connections that come from participation in just one conference.
In summation, Model UN is not just for one type of person, and successful delegates come from a massively broad spectrum of personality types and life motivations.
So don’t shoot yourself in the foot; cast a wide net, and refrain from ruling out entire demographics of students simply because they may not fit the stereotype of a classic Model UN nerd.
Remember that the goal of club recruitment is sparking genuine interest and garnering big numbers. Leave the rest of the pitch for the first meeting of the year. Market Model UN differently depending on who you are talking to, and I guarantee you’ll attract individuals from all ends of the social stratum.