Chapter 4: Creating and Sustaining an Effective Organization
There are many factors that contribute to the success and viability of your organization. Effective leadership during officer transitions, managing your funds wisely, being organized, communicating with your advisor – these are just some of the characteristics of a strong organization. To make your experience as a student organization leader a satisfying one, find members who concentrate on each of the topics described in this section of the manual and take heed of the tips for success.
Benefits of Having an Advisor
The knowledge, leadership, and guidance that an advisor can provide your organization is priceless. An advisor can assist in designing and evaluating organization goals and activities. Also, in most cases, your advisor will have more familiarity with the university and its extensive community of services. And if your advisor is a faculty or staff member and not already a member of the Student Life staff, you can contact student life administrators at any time for additional assistance. Chapter Five in this manual focuses specifically on the role of the advisor.
Running an Effective Meeting
Careful planning is the secret to running an effective meeting. Poorly planned or unplanned meetings are typically viewed as boring, unproductive, and a waste of time. However, with proper planning any meeting can be productive and fun. The following steps will guide you in planning a meeting that is informative and enjoyable to all members.
Before the meeting:
- Define the purpose of the meeting. A meeting without a purpose is like a class without an instructor. The purpose is the reason why people come to the meetings. Without a purpose, members may feel that their time was wasted, and it could discourage their return to the organization.
- Develop an agenda.
- Choose an appropriate meeting time. Set a time limit and stick to it.
- Distribute the agenda and any other materials before the meeting so that members can be prepared.
- The location of the meeting is very important. Choose a location that is easy for members to find. Keep in mind that many students do not have their own means of transportation, so it is a good idea to stay on or close to campus. Be sure to select a location that will accommodate the size of your organization. Take time to check out the room prior to your meeting to ensure that the space is appropriate.
- Be sure that everyone knows where and when the meeting will be held.
If possible, hold meetings at the same time and location every week.
During the meeting:
- Greet members to make them feel welcome and be sure to introduce any new members.
- If possible, serve light refreshments.
- Start on time. End on time.
- Follow the agenda.
- Encourage discussion so that you get different ideas and viewpoints. Remember that the organization belongs to all of the members. When members see that their ideas have an impact on the decision-making process, their commitment to the organization is increased.
- Keep the discussion on topic and moving toward an eventual decision.
- Keep minutes of the meeting for future reference in case a question or problem arises.
- The leader or facilitator should model leadership skills such as staying on task, listening, valuing members, and appreciating diverse points of view.
- Set a date and time for the next meeting.
After the meeting:
- Write up and distribute the minutes within 2–3 days. Quick action reinforces the importance of the meeting.
- Discuss any problems that may have surfaced during the meeting with officers so that improvements can be made.
- Follow up on delegated tasks. Make sure that members understand and carry out their responsibilities.
- Put unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.
- Most importantly, give recognition and appreciation to the members for excellent and timely progress!
Program and Event Planning
Program and event planning helps your organization achieve its goals, teach leadership skills, and foster camaraderie within your organization. The following list will describe some basic programming tips that will help keep you on track.
- Determine the goals of the program. Examples: to bring a community together, to educate, to expose individuals to different points of view, to support other programs, to provide entertainment, to provide opportunities and to socialize.
- Brainstorm the type of event and possible themes that will match your organizational goals. Examples: speaker, film, dance, fundraiser, trip, food, festival, athletic event, recreational tournament.
- Decide on a program within your budget.
- Discuss the options within your organization and with your advisor. Make a group decision.
- Find a convenient date for members in the group and for the entertainment/speaker.
- Choose a date that does not conflict with other existing campus programs.
- Determine the type of entertainment/speaker you would like to invite.
- Research local, regional and national possibilities and negotiate a fee.
- Project the attendance to make sure that you have reserved an adequate facility.
- Determine the type of space that is needed for your event and any special needs you may have. Specific facility needs may include the need for: chairs, tables, lighting, sound, a stage, open space, classroom etc. Please note that certain equipment and services may require a certificate of liability insurance. All costs associated with the event will be assumed by the registered student organization.
- Determine a convenient time for your targeted audience. For example, if you want commuter students to attend your program, many are on campus during the day; so plan a time between day classes for a program.
- Project all expenses and incomes such as fees, advertising, security, food, etc.
- Stay within the designated budget.
- Brainstorm additional funding sources if you need more money
- Design publicity strategies for targeted audiences.
- Design your promotion to fit the style and theme of the program. Be creative.
- Make the publicity neat and accurate. Include the name of the program, date, time, place, and ticket information if necessary. Be sure to follow UT Dallas trademark guidelines.
- Distribute publicity in ample time. This allows people to plan ahead. Two weeks advance notice is minimal.
- Determine food needs, as well as whether the program will be a dinner or reception. UTD Dining Services will work with you to provide catering services. Please refer to the food policy in the shaded box
Rules and Regulations for Sale and Distribution of Food on Campus by Student Life Entities and Registered Student Organizations
The food policy at UT Dallas is driven by two overriding principles. First and foremost, we are concerned for the safety of students, staff, and faculty who participate in campus activities. We are required to adequately manage the risks associated with food consumption which includes following proper food handling procedures and ensuring that all food consumed on campus has been prepared following health and safety rules and laws. To serve the UT Dallas community, the university has a contract with a food service vendor, which handles catering and food service on campus. The food service vendor has the “right of first refusal” on any food events on campus, meaning that the food service vendor should be offered the opportunity to provide service for events that have food. In certain circumstances, other food vendors can be used; for example, if the food service vendor is unable to provide a certain kind of menu or if a more competitive price can be found from another source. However, all food must be prepared by a licensed catering company. Specific guidelines and exceptions are described below.
All student events selling or distributing food on campus must obtain approval through the Application for Facilities Request (room reservation).
All foods must be packaged in individual servings, and individually wrapped, such as slices of cake or bread, cookies, or have a natural protective skin such as oranges, apples, or bananas.
The use of grills for preparing food is restricted to licensed caterers, specifically the on-campus catering service.
No foods may be distributed that contain uncooked milk, cream cheese, eggs, whipped cream, yogurt, or frostings made with egg whites or yolks.
Foods that require refrigeration or heating may not be sold or distributed. Some examples are custards, cream pies, puddings, meat, fish, poultry, pork, eggs, or cooked beans, rice, and potatoes.
Anyone handling food must be approved through the Application for Facilities Request (room reservation) by indicating acknowledgement of, and compliance with, these rules and regulations.
All student events must provide utensils, plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons, etc to the consumers.
All student events must provide plastic bags for wrapping and trash.
Examples of Approved and Not Approved Food Items
Some examples of approved and not approved food items at Student Life events:
Any Delivery items other than pizza
Food Handling Guidelines
No student or staff member shall handle or prepare food while infected with a communicable disease that can be transmitted by foods or who is a carrier of organisms that cause such a disease or while afflicted with a boil, an infected wound, or an acute respiratory infection.
Food handlers must wear plastic disposable gloves at all times when preparing, serving, or handling food.
Food handlers and preparers must wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water in all of the following instances:
- Before starting food handling or preparing after visiting the toilet
- After coughing or sneezing into hands or handkerchief
- After smoking
- After handling boxes, create, packages, and other soiled articles
- After handling garbage
- After handling money
Food handlers and preparers must not use tobacco in any form while engaged in food preparation or service.
Food handlers and preparers must keep fingers and hands out of food and not taste food with fingers.
Food handlers and preparers must never use a tasting spoon twice. Food handlers and preparers must carry and serve food in a sanitary manner.
Exceptions and special circumstances
Student organizations and departments may hold a pot-luck with home-cooked or prepared food. The food may be not given or distributed to students at large (group members only). The sale of home-cooked or prepared food is not permitted.
Pizza delivered from an off-campus licensed caterer/restaurant is permitted.
Develop a list of tasks that need to occur before, during, and after
the event; then determine who will be responsible for each one. For
example: ushers, clean-up crew, stage crew, publicity, and hospitality.
On the day of the program,
- Arrive early to check on room arrangements and the set up.
- Prepare a brief introduction statement. For example, “Welcome to tonight’s performance presented by ________. If you are interested in having more events like this one, please talk to a representative of our organization.”
- Do an evaluation of the program at the next meeting:
- Determine if you have accomplished your program goal.
- Record both positive and negative results for future planning.
- Prepare financial statement of actual expenditures.
- Send thank you notes to appropriate people.
Adapted from: Central Connecticut State University, The Success! Series, “ABC’s of Programming”
Preparing a Budget
Student organizations are required to submit an annual financial report for the academic year. These blank reports can be found online. These reports are due within thirty days after the start of the long semester. Student organizations should become familiar with the preparation of financial plans, budgets, as well as the benefits of using a budget as a management tool. There are three primary purposes for developing a budget:
- to put the organization’s plans into monetary terms;
- to provide a means of allocating limited resources among the organization’s activities;
- to aid in tracking the organization’s actual revenues and expenditures against its goals.
Student organizations should budget their operations annually. The proper management of funds is important, especially when dealing with limited financial resources. Also, the more complex the group’s objectives, such as managing multiple programs with different activities and funding sources, the more important the budget process becomes.
If your organization has been in operation for a fair amount of time, the easiest way to prepare a budget is to start by recording your last two or three years of actual financial data by year. A schedule thus prepared will allow you to compare trends and identify major expense centers. It will also point out areas where your organization is growing or declining and indicate areas where reductions and cost savings might be possible.
This historical information can then be used as a basis for preparing a current year budget forecast. The budget forecast is adjusted and modified from the historical data for projected major changes in revenues, programs, or expenditures. Obtain historical data from your organization’s records to assist you in this process. If your organization does not have these records, begin creating a system now that can be used in the future.
While preparing a budget may seem excessive and cumbersome, an organization that operates without a formal budgeting process cannot effectively manage or plan its operations. A properly prepared budget allows even small organizations to identify potential problems and take corrective action before they become major issues.
Adapted from: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Student Organization Handbook (2003). http://carolinaunion.unc. edu/activities_orgs/handbook/funding.html
Implementing an effective officer transition for your student organization is a critical responsibility of outgoing leadership. Here are some reasons why transitioning is important:
- provides the new leader with significant organizational knowledge;
- minimizes the confusion of leadership change throughout the entire organization;
- outgoing leaders gain a sense of accomplishment and closure;
- helps the incoming leadership take with them some of the special expertise of the outgoing leaders;
- increases the knowledge and confidence of the new leadership;
- minimizes the loss of momentum and accomplishments of the organization; and
- provides a sense of continuity among the membership.
The following are some suggestions that may prove helpful in your leadership transition.
- Identify potential leaders in your organization early in the year.
- Encourage these potential leaders through personal contact.
- Have the officers help develop skills by delegating responsibility to potential leaders.
- Share with them the benefits of leadership.
- Clarify job responsibilities.
- Let them know that the transition will be orderly and thorough.
- Model effective leadership styles.
- Develop an organizational structure to support leadership development.
- Develop a mentoring program.
- Develop leadership notebooks.
- Create a shadowing program.
- Orient the new officers together with the outgoing officers so they can understand each other’s roles and start building their team.
- Transfer the knowledge, information, and materials necessary for the new officers to function well.
- Ask outgoing officers what they wish someone had told them.
Make the Transition Smooth
- Hold officer elections one month before installation to provide an overlap period for new and old officers to work together.
- Fill the gaps for new officers by asking yourself what information you wish someone had shared with you a year ago.
- Review and make current if necessary your constitution and by-laws to reflect changes made during your administration.
- Review the job descriptions to make sure they accurately describe the offices your organization needs and uses.
- Encourage informal meetings between incoming and outgoing officers.
- Plan a transition retreat.
- Review and update your mailing list or membership records.
- Leave behind files that might be helpful to the new person.
- Introduce incoming officers to advisors, SOC staff, the Student Union staff, other student leaders, and university administrators.
- Orient incoming officers to resources used in the past.
Add Your Personal Touches
- Share the effective leadership qualities and skills you learned on the job.
- Share problems, helpful ideas, procedures and recommendations.
- Write and share reports containing traditions, ideas or completed projects, continuing projects and concerns, or ideas never carried out.
- Have the officers go through personal and organizational files together.
- Acquaint the new officers with physical environment, supplies, and equipment.
Share the Organization’s Structure: All students are required to write and submit a constitution. (See Chapter Two for sample constitution)
- Constitution and by-laws
- Job descriptions/role classifications
- Organizational goals and objectives
- Status reports on ongoing projects
- Evaluation of previous projects and programs
- Previous minutes and reports
- Resources and contact lists
- Financial books and records
- Mailing lists
- Historical records, scrapbooks, and equipment
Accessibility to All
It is important that your organization is accessible to all interested students. UT Dallas is a large community of diverse people, which is a tremendous benefit for registered student organizations. Groups that are intentional about being inclusive in their recruitment and retention of members have the advantage of being able to interact with students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, which strengthens the group experience for all students involved.
SOC is committed to fostering diversity within the student organization community. When we speak of diversity, we are speaking not only about ethnic diversity, but also diversity of religion, national origin, sexual orientation, ability, age, gender, socioeconomic status, and other unique characteristics that make us who we are. As a leader in a registered student organization, it is important to consider how you can make your organization as inclusive as possible for all students. Consider questions such as:
Where do you hold your meetings?
Consider holding your meetings in locations where all students can feel comfortable.
When do you hold your meetings?
If your organization always holds your meetings at night, you might be excluding commuters or students who have family responsibilities.
Are your meetings and activities accessible to students with disabilities?
Let members know that you are willing to change meeting sites or provide accommodations for persons with disabilities.
What do you talk about in your group? Is your group conversation inclusive, or do people use derogatory or racist language?
Educate yourself and your organization on how racist, sexist, or other forms of hateful language can be very damaging.
How do you advertise your organization and its activities?
If you only advertise in limited areas, it is likely that you are excluding some interested students from your organization. Think about how you can reach out by intentionally advertising in new ways and to new areas on campus. Remember that relying only on word-of-mouth advertising has a limiting effect on diversity!
For more information, or to discuss issues of diversity, inclusiveness, and equality more in depth, please contact staff members in Student Organization Center for specific information about how you can accommodate students with disabilities in your organization, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSB 1.204) at 972-883-2096.
Students stay with organized, dynamic groups that meet their personal goals for membership. Prospective members want to know that the organization is moving forward and will be successful in achieving its goals. Identifying the needs of the individual members is the key to having a strong organization with enthusiastic members. To remember why students join organizations and what helps retain them, just think of GRAPE.
The Grape Principle
G is for Growth
Does your organization provide growth opportunities for all interested members? Are there opportunities for members to move into positions of leadership or are leadership opportunities usually “saved” for the senior members?
R is for Recognition
Do you recognize members when great things occur in your organization? Don’t wait until the end of the year. People need and appreciate being recognized in a timely manner for their hard work and accomplishments. Recognition or awards that are presented may also serve as a motivating factor for other members who would like to achieve a certain level of success.
A is for Achievement
A sense of “team” achievement is important. Healthy organizations make sure that everyone feels as if they contributed to the success of the organization. When the organization is honored, it is important to realize that everyone has contributed and should have a feeling of accomplishment, from a member who may have done a simple task to the president of the organization.
P is for Participation
Can everyone participate in programs and events? Make sure your organization is open and willing to accept all student members’ contributions regardless of how long they have been with the organization.
E is for Enjoyment
Volunteering and working hard in an organization has to be fun! If being part of a group isn’t fun, why be a member? A student’s time is valuable and there are many opportunities for involvement. Make sure one of the best options on campus is being involved with your organization!
Adapted from: The Ohio State University’s Student Organization Handbook (2003). www.ohiounion.com/studentorgs/default.asp
Considering Community Service
Community service, volunteerism, and service learning enhance your college experience in many ways. The following are a few of the ways that the members of your organization can benefit from participating in community service.
- A strong sense of self-worth and pride
- New experiences, new friends, new possibilities
- Increased independence and managerial skills
- Improved decision-making abilities
- Visibility and prestige in the community and on the job
- Personal growth
- Contacts for job advancement
- Satisfaction from helping to build a stronger and safer community
If you are interested in doing community service, you may contact the Office of Student Volunteerism at 972-883-6393 or visit www.utdallas.edu/volunteer to find non-profit community agencies who need volunteer help, or to sign your organization up to participate in large service projects such as Service Saturdays.
Updated: July 24, 2012