Table of Contents
Why do I need a Discord server for my club?
Setting Up a Discord Server
• The Basics
• Customizing Channels
• Adding Roles
• Scheduling Events
Inviting Members and Joining your Student Hub
• Creating a Permanent Invite
• Student Hubs
Moderating Your Server
• Custom Emojis and Stickers
• Enabling Community
Discord is a messaging platform that can be used to communicate with communities of all types. One type of community that is becoming more prominent on Discord is school clubs, or student organizations. If you're new to Discord, and are wondering what it is and how it works, check out this video made by Discord which explains how it can be used specifically for college clubs! Before we talk about how to start a Discord server for your club, we have to answer the most important question.
Why do I need a Discord server for my club?
To answer this question, we need to first think about the needs of your club. Discord is a really versatile tool, so to get the most out of it, you'll need to identify what your club needs in a messaging platform. Some essential tasks you might be able to use Discord for include:
- Communications with members outside of regular club meetings
- Sharing important announcements
- Privately communicating with club officers to plan club functions
- Recruitment efforts through people discovering the server in your school hub (more on that later)
These tasks are what you might expect to get out of all kinds of other messaging platforms as well though. So the question still remains, why choose Discord over any of the other alternatives? Like I mentioned Discord is really versatile, meaning you can further enhance the experience of your club by fully utilizing all the features it has to offer. To demonstrate what I mean by this, here are some other things you can find on Discord that you might not find on other messaging platforms:
- The ability to organize conversations into multiple channels and channel categories
- Voice and video calling
- A built-in event calendar
- Versatile roles and permissions system that can be used for anything from enabling moderation actions for some roles to simply giving people colored names!
- Thousands of user-made bots that can further customize the experience for your club's Discord server (even moreso if you're tech savvy enough to make your own!)
Setting Up a Discord Server
So you've decided a Discord Server for your club might be worth pursuing? Now what? First we'll go through the first steps of creating the server.
If you have not done so already, head over to https://discord.com/channels/@me to make an account and start using Discord. The first thing you'll want to do is find the add server button at the bottom of the server list.
Once you've clicked this, you can use one of Discord's server templates to give you a good starting point for your server. They even have one specifically for clubs!
Once you create a server, you'll notice it already has some channels that you can use as a starting point. Something you might not notice though, is that it also creates a role for your server! Roles can be assigned to users in order to either give them extra permissions, or to serve as a cosmetic label. Roles will be explained more in a later section, and you can also learn more about them here.
The most important thing you'll probably want to change are the channels. Channels are a way to organize your server into different spaces. The template that we are using has 9 channels split up into 3 channel categories.
If you'd like to add or remove channels or categories you can easily do so by right clicking in the channel list (click inside a specific category to add to that category). Try adding a channel or two that might be useful for your club! Here's some ideas for channels to add:
- #help-and-tips - for a club focused on learning or developing skills like juggling or weight lifting
- #introductions - for any club that wants to help their members get to know each other (try pinning a message with a template for people to fill out some information about themselves too!)
- #music-sharing - for sharing music in a club for musicians (or any club!)
- #officer-chat - for officers of a club to chat in privately (we will talk about making channels private next)
Check out this article to learn more about how channel categories work.
Now that you've got some new channels, let's talk about how to set up some basic permissions. The easiest way to set up a private channel is to do so when you first create the channel. Below you can see what it looks like to make a private category for club officers only. This is a great way to simplify the process, because all channels added to this category will have the permissions synced so that they are private as well.
Next, we'll talk about how you can make a read-only channel. This process is a little bit more involved. Since we already have the Information category from the template, let's it read-only to general members (we will let officers add to these channels because we trust them). Right click the Information category, then click Edit Category. In the category settings, head to the Permissions tab. We'll be editing some of the advanced permissions.
As you change permissions, note that you are changing permissions for the @everyone role. This is basically the default role that everyone has (although it's not technically a role). The first thing we want to do is scroll about halfway down the page until we get to the Text Channel Permissions. The most important permission to revoke is the Send Messages permission. There are also 3 more permissions related to threads that you should should revoke unless you know what you're doing with those. You can learn more about threads here.
If you would also like to make sure voice channels are listen-only, you can scroll down further and revoke the Speak, Video, and Use Activities permissions.
Now that we've set the permissions to make the category read-only, Let's make sure our officers aren't affected by this, so they can make announcements. Head back up to the top of the permission settings and click the plus next to the Roles/Members section. Click on the the officers role that came with our template, and add it to the list.
Now we can edit the same 4 (or 7 if you changed voice channel permissions too) permissions, but instead of revoking the permission, we can grant it to the officers role. Remember, these permissions were:
- Send Messages
- Send Messages in Threads
- Create Public Threads
- Create Private Threads
The Voice Channel Permissions were:
- Use Activities
Once you've made all those changes, be sure to press the Save Changes button! If you'd like to allow more roles or members to send messages in the Information category just add the same permissions you gave to the officers role. I also encourage you to read this article to learn more about all these permissions so you can customize channels to your liking further. You can also check out this article about permission hierarchy if you'd like to really understand how conflicting permissions interact with each other.
Now that we have our channels all set up, let's add some roles. For now, we'll only worry about cosmetic roles, but if you want to read more about some of the permission stuff we just talked about, you can apply that knowledge to roles as well! So what exactly is a cosmetic role? Well it's a role, just like our officers role, but instead of giving you extra permissions like speaking in the Information category, it does something much more exciting... nothing! Well, that's not exactly true. We'll talk about 2 different types of cosmetic roles, color roles, and informational roles. Color roles are roles that are, well, colored. You might have noticed the officer role is a nice light green color. If you right click on your username in the member list on the right, you can give yourself the officer role and change the color of your name in the server!
To demonstrate color roles, let's head to the Server Settings by clicking the server name above the channel list and selecting Server Settings.
Next, click on the Roles tab. Here is where you can create, edit, and delete roles for the server. As you can see, the officers role that the template gave us is already there.
Once you click on the Create Role button, you can edit some basic settings like the role name and color. We'll just give our role a name and a color, but feel free to experiment with more settings. Let's just create a member role for members of the club. The default gray color is pretty boring though, and let's say our school color is red. We can use the color picker to make our Member role the exact red that our school uses to show our school spirit! Remember to save your changes when you are done editing the role!
When you make color roles, keep in mind that any color roles that are higher in the role list will take priority if a user has more than one color role. If you need a role to be higher on the list and not affect the color of a user's name, you can give that role the default gray color by clicking the box to the left of the color picker.
Next, let's make some informational roles. We'll leave these as the default color so we don't get confused with all the different colors in our server, but you can give them colors if you'd like. What exactly is an information role though? What information do they hold? Well, anything really. A few common examples of informational roles include roles that show:
- Year (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
Let's make 4 year roles as an example. Your role list should now look something like this:
Once you're happy with your roles, remember to save your changes and exit the Server Settings. Once a user has some informational roles, they can be seen on the suer's server profile, by clicking on their name.
Now we can talk about how to actually give people roles. The simplest way is for someone with permission to manage roles to manually give people roles. Another great way is by utilizing the next feature we are going to talk about...
One especially useful feature that Discord offers is the ability to create events. You can either schedule events to occur on a voice channel in Discord, or you can enter a custom location (useful for in person locations). You can create an event by clicking on the server name above the channel list and pressing Create Event. From there, just fill out the information about your event, and an Events button will appear in your channel list for all users to see. You can see what this process looks like below.
You can copy an invite to your event which will show some info about the event when posted in a channel on Discord. The #announcements channel would be a great place to tell everyone about your event (try typing @everyone in your announcement to give everyone a notification about your event)!
Discord bots are a tool that utilize Discord's features in ways to enhance the experience of users and server owners. As mentioned, one thing bots can do is assign roles to users, either by allowing the user to choose their roles themselves, or by awarding roles according to some custom requirements. Here are some bots that assign roles that you might find useful for your server:
- Discord's Pronoun Picker bot which lets users display informational roles that show their pronouns on their profile
- Reaction bot which lets users select their own roles (contrary to the name, it does NOT use reactions to do so)
- General purpose bots like Mee6, Carl Bot, and Dyno which have a plethora of features for you to explore
- Moderation bots like GearBot, Fire, and Beemo which give you extra tools to organize moderation efforts in your server, which we will talk more about later.
There thousands of bots to choose from, so be sure to check out some Discord bot lists to explore all your options.
Inviting Members and Joining your Student Hub
Creating a Permanent Invite
Once you're happy with your server, it's time to spread the word and get members. The first thing you'll want to do is create a permanent invite that won't expire. You can do so by right clicking a channel, or by clicking the Create Invite icon next to a channel name. I recommend using one of the Information channels, as the invite will lead to that specific channel.
Once you do this, an invite link will be automatically created, but it will be set to expire in 7 days. Click "Edit invite link." below the link.
Once you've reached the next screen, set the expiration time for the link to Never and click Generate a New Link.
Copy the new link and save it somewhere. You can send this link out to members in newsletters or post in on social media accounts for your club and it will never expire unless you manually remove it. Next we will talk about an important tool that Discord provides to help new people discover your club.
Student Hubs are a place where students can discover servers made by other students in your school. If your school has a student hub, you can join it by accessing the Student Hubs section of the Discovery page (accessed by the compass icon at the bottom of your server list). From there, you can verify your school email, and join your school's student hub.
Once you've joined a Student Hub, you will be able to access it through a new icon in the server list.
In the Student Hub, you will see a list of users and servers. You can add your club's server on this screen with the Add Servers button. After you add your server, any student at your school who has joined the Student Hub can find your server and join your club!
Moderating your Server
As a school club, you may not need to worry about moderation too much, but it is still something you should think about in case you find yourself having to deal with a troublesome user. There are around 4 basic actions you can make as moderator of a server using the features built-in to Discord. The moderation actions and their functions are listed below.
- Message deletions - messages can be deleted by a moderator by right clicking the message
- Timeout - prevents a user from speaking in the server for the specified amount of time
- Kick - removes a user from the server (note: if the user has an invite link, they can immediately rejoin the server)
- Ban - removes a user from the server and prevents them from rejoining (note: timed bans are a popular option that can be automated with bots)
There is a separate permission for each of these actions that you can assign to a role, so be sure you give those permissions to officers you trust (or remove them from any roles you don't trust)! Most clubs will not need to worry too much about the logistics of moderating, as there are rarely too many cases where more action than just verbal warnings or message deletions are required. If you find that you want to keep track of your moderation actions more closely, check out a moderation bot like the ones mentioned earlier in this article. Consider using a moderation bot if you'd like to take advantage of some of the following common features:
- Logs of message edits and deletions
- Logs of user joins, leaves, and name changes
- Logs of moderation actions
- Querying of past moderation actions on a user
- Querying of user information
- Automatic word filters
- Automatic spam filters
If you're interested in learning more about moderation, check out the Discord Moderator Academy, which covers everything from best practices in moderation, to how to best utilize specific moderation tools.
Once you've got your server up and running, you might find yourself wanting to do more for your club. Here we will talk about a few notable things that Discord lets you do that may be worth pursuing.
Custom Emojis and Stickers
One of the more popular features that Discord offers is the ability to upload custom emojis and stickers. You can find emoji and sticker settings in your server settings. All users in your server can use custom emotes and stickers, with the exception of animated emojis, which require a user to have a Discord Nitro subscription to be used. If you run out of custom emoji or sticker slots, you can get more if your server receives more boosts. Server boosts are explained in more detail below. You can read more about custom emojis here, and custom stickers here.
In your server settings, you can choose to make your server a community server, which can unlock some extra features and give you access to server insights, which gives you data on things like member retention and activity. You can learn more about community servers here. You can find a list of some of the features that becoming a community server unlocks and more information about them here:
- Stage Channels (and some ideas on how to use them)
- Announcement Channels
- Welcome Screen
- Server Insights
You may have noticed that we glossed over threads earlier in this article when talking about channel permissions. Threads are a useful tool that can contain specific conversations if you don't want to let the conversation continue in the channel it started in. This can be useful for follow-up questions about announcements, or for containing conversations that go a little bit off-topic from the channel they start in. To create a thread, simply right click a message and click the Create Thread button. It's important to note that threads will archive after a certain amount of time, and must be unarchived to be used again (the message history will still exist when threads are archived though, so don't worry about losing anything). You can learn more about threads here.
Users have the ability to give boosts to servers to unlock extra features. These features include things like, a custom server banner, increased max upload size, increased max custom sticker and emote limits, and increased voice channel quality. Boosts can either be purchased on their own, or as a bonus for users who have bought or received Discord Nitro, which is Discord's subscription service. Users with Discord Nitro have perks of their own (which apply to the users themselves, instead of a server). One of the perks is receiving too boosts, which can be given to any server to help it reach one of the 3 boost levels. These boost levels and their perks can be seen below. You can learn more about server boosts here.
There's a lot to think about when creating a Discord server for your club, and there are infinite ways to set up your server, so try different things to see what works best for your club. Be transparent with your club members and see what they think about your server and what they would want to see added. Discord is a powerful tool that can be a huge asset to your club if used correctly, so use that to the best of your ability, and be sure to join our server to learn more about Discord and ask for tips if you are working on setting up a server!