By: Dave Kelly | Article from 2022 Summer CLT Magazine

America’s Student Leadership Trainer,

Clubs and organizations are important to student life on campus. They are a place for students to make connections, establish lifelong friendships, and engage in projects, events, and activities that are fun, make a difference, and allow them to explore their passions. Clubs and organizations need leaders and those are students!

Do your campus leaders know what is expected of them in their roles? Leadership in clubs and organizations can be a challenge for many students. Many student leaders don’t know what they are supposed to do and have never been told! The roles can vary from club to club, but here are some of the basics:

President: The president is the chair of the group. They typically set the agenda, call the meeting to order, use parliamentary procedure to stay on track, and, in short, get things done. The president is not a dictator. Another important role is getting members involved and engaged. The president does this by setting a positive tone for the group, delegating, and by being a motivator and cheerleader. The president also follows up on the work and activities of the other officers and committee chairs.

Vice-President: The vice-president is next in line of the organization’s leadership. The VP runs meetings when the president is not able to attend, helps with motivating members, and may assist in overseeing committees and projects. When I was the Georgia CKI District Administrator, we tasked the club vice-presidents to oversee membership recruitment and education. That gave them a very defined role and ultimately helped with membership retention and engagement.

Secretary: The secretary is the record keeper of the organization. This includes writing and distributing the minutes of the meetings, maintaining the membership roster including contact information, and reporting to campus, state, and national officials as necessary. I have a template for meeting minutes that makes it super easy to record information and produce the formal document. Here is the link to the template:

Treasurer: The treasurer is the chief financial officer and is responsible for collecting dues and fees as applicable, maintaining the financial records of the organization, and overseeing fundraising efforts. If your school provides funding for clubs and organizations, then the treasurer would prepare budgets and submit any requests for money. This role is vital in that the financial well-being of the group may determine the types of activities and projects that they can undertake.

Advisor: The key role is in the name: advice. It is not the advisor’s job to run the meetings of the club/organization. The students should take charge, although the advisor is there to help and support them. Advisors offer suggestions and project ideas and can be a resource for campus policies and procedures. The hardest part is allowing students to make mistakes. That is how they learn and grow as leaders. Of course, if the mistake could cause a financial burden or be a violation of campus policy or the law, then please do step in! Advisors should encourage all members to participate, even the wallflowers who sit in the back and never speak up.

Committee Chairs: Being the chair of a committee is a great way to develop leadership skills. Committee chairs recruit members to serve with them, run meetings to make decisions and get things done, and report back to the rest of the club on their activities. I love committee chair positions because they are a great way to introduce members into leadership roles and possibly develop future officers for the club or organization.

There is much more that goes into officer training and helping them to be successful in their roles, but I hope this gives you and your students a foundation with which to begin. Look to the governing documents of your club/organization (constitution, by-laws, etc.) for more on roles specific to your group. There is usually a copy on file in the Office of Student Activities or with student government.

For more ideas, check out these links for documents that I have put together. “But Dave, what about our club/organization? It’s not listed below.” True, because it is hard to cover every possibility, but even if yours does not fall into one of these below, there are some great ideas for you. For example, the Greek Life document has great ideas for officers, while the Programming Board link has awesome examples for committee chairs.

Tips to Motivate Members

Officers need to know how to motivate their members to get engaged in the projects and activities of the club or organization. However, I find many students are not as strong in this area. Here are a few tips:

1. Identify the goal and what you are trying to accomplish. Too many times we get ahead of ourselves and fire everyone up before we know what we are doing: “Hey everyone, we’re going to do something great! Follow me. Let’s go!!” As they run across campus, they might ask, “So, what are we going to do?” “I don’t know. We’ll figure it out when we get there!”

2. Instead, figure out what you want to do and then determine who it is you want to motivate. Maybe you don’t need everyone, but just a few of the members.

3. “How do we know which members we need?” You use their hot buttons! What are those? They are things that people are passionate about, get them excited, motivate them. My hot buttons include God, family, community service, the Green Bay Packers, pizza, chocolate, and all things Marvel Cinematic Universe. You could use these things I love to motivate me to join a club, participate in a project, or even run for office. The point is your officers need to know your members beyond just their names.

4. Finally, to get members engaged and involved, your officers need to do something difficult: they have to ask! Ask for the involvement, the engagement, and the participation.

Effective Transitions

Handing off leadership responsibilities from one board to the next can vary. Many times, the transition is simply the new officers taking over with no discussion or time spent with their predecessors. If you’re lucky, a box of documents, a gavel, and other leadership elements are thrown on the table as retiring officers run out the door.

To make transitions more meaningful and effective, here are some tips:

1. Have time set aside for the outgoing officers to meet with the new officers. The agenda for this meeting can be as elaborate as a full-day retreat or as simple as discussing job responsibilities over coffee. It is important for the retiring officer to explain what they did and admit to what they didn’t do during their term of office. Discuss projects that were completed, those that were started, but not finished, and the current status. Share key dates for when things need to happen. For example, the new treasurer of a campus chapter of a national organization needs to know when dues are to be paid and which forms to submit to the national office. For student governments that elect the executive officers in the spring and the senators or other members in the fall, there needs to be a discussion of procedures, dates, and other details regarding the election and training as well as contingency plans for filling open seats, should there not be enough candidates.

2. This needs to be a time of openness and transparency, not excuse making. Be honest about how much time the job requires each week and other pitfalls that could come the way of the new officer. There should be an exchange of contact info between new and old. Outgoing officers should pledge to make themselves available throughout the upcoming year through texts, calls, and social media for both quick questions and longer discussions. Remind the outgoing officers that they just dedicated a year of their life to their position. They should do all they can to keep the momentum of their work going and help their replacement be successful! The continued health of the organization is their legacy!

3. There are important documents that need to be passed on: By-laws, agendas and/or minutes from meetings, budgets, copies of important emails, calendars, contacts, scrapbooks and other items created during the year, and anything else that could be of help to the new officers. There also needs to be a passing of gavels, gongs, and banners – these items belong to the organization, not the outgoing officers.

4. All of this can be handed to the new officers during the transition meeting. If the outgoing officers did not organize it this way, then I suggest the new officers start doing so immediately. This will help to make a smooth transition next spring. I often get asked, “Why can’t I just save it all in a folder on my computer and email it to them?” You could and should, but how many folders do you have on your laptop or in your email that you have never opened and looked at? Doing the binder gives something tangible that can be held and reviewed easily.

A smooth transition assures that the work of the club or organization continues and the new officers are not starting everything from scratch.

Training the officers of your campus’ clubs and organizations should be more than funding requests and how to fill out forms. Be intentional and deliberate with helping them to be successful and engagement and involvement on your campus can grow dramatically!

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