Student Groups Organizational Resources
Click on the below resources to learn more how to utilize them when creating plans, policies and guidelines for your organization.
Creating an Agenda
How to Create a Meeting Agenda
The meeting agenda is a roadmap for the meeting. It lets participants know where they’re headed so they don’t get off track. Most importantly, the meeting agenda gives a sense of purpose and direction to the meeting.
Agendas should generally include the following:
- Meeting start time
- Meeting end time
- Meeting location
- Topic headings
- Some topic details for each heading
- The time each topic is expected to last
- Which meeting participants are expected to be the main topic participants
Types of Agendas
Agenda 1: Formal
- Meeting – time and date
- Roll call
- Approval of minutes
- Officers Reports
- Committee Reports
- Old Business
- New Business
Agenda 2: Prioritized
- Treasure’s Resignation
- Sally’s Program Idea
- Friday’s Event
Other Agenda Notes
- Always add an Advisor’s Report
- It is important to spice your agenda up when appropriate (Examples: Fun graphics, tips of the day, congratulations to members, acknowledgements, etc.)
Creating Goals and a Vision
How to Create Goals and Vision For Your Group
In order for a group/organization to succeed, it must have goals and a vision that everyone in the organization is committed to. Therefore, it is essential that every group/organization create goals, a vision, and a vision statement.
What's in a Vision Statement?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I have a dream," and what followed was a vision that changed a nation. That famous speech is a dramatic example of the power that can be generated by a person who communicates a compelling vision of the future.
Management author Tom Peters identified a clear vision of the desired future state of the organization as an essential component of high performance.
Widely-read organizational development author Warren Bennis identified a handful of traits that made great leaders great. Among them is the ability to create a vision.
What is a Vision and How Do I Get One?
A vision is defined as: a guiding image of success formed in terms of a contribution to society.
There is one universal rule of planning: You will never be greater than the vision that guides you. No Olympic athlete ever got to the Olympics by mistake; a compelling vision of his or her stellar performance inevitably guides all the sweat and tears for many years. The vision statement should require the organization's members to stretch their expectations, aspirations, and performance. Without that powerful, attractive, valuable vision, why bother?
How a Vision is Used
A vision is a guide for implementing goals. This is because the development of goals are driven by what you are trying to accomplish or your group’s/organization's purposes.
A vision answers the question, "What will success look like?" It is the pursuit of this image of success that really motivates people to work together.
A vision statement should be realistic and credible, well articulated and easily understood, appropriate, ambitious, and responsive to change. It should orient the group's energies and serve as a guide to action. It should be consistent with the organization's values. In short, a vision should challenge and inspire the group to achieve its mission.
The Impact of Vision
John F. Kennedy did not live to see the achievement of his vision for NASA, but he set it in motion when he said, "By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon." That night, when the moon came out, we could all look out the window and imagine... And when it came time to appropriate the enormous funds necessary to accomplish this vision, Congress did not hesitate. Why? Because this vision spoke powerfully to values Americans held dear: America as a pioneer and America as world leader.
In an amazing longitudinal study on goal setting, Yale University surveyed the graduating class of 1953 on commencement day, to determine if they had written goals for what they wanted their lives to become. Only three percent had such a vision. In 1973, the surviving members of the class of 1953 were surveyed again. The three percent who had a vision for what they wished their lives would become had accumulated greater wealth than the other 97 percent combined.
Great wealth, a man on the moon, brother and sisterhood among the races of the globe... what is your organization's vision?
To a leader, the genesis of the dream is unimportant. The great leader is the servant of the dream, the bearer of the myth, the story teller. "It is the idea (vision) that unites people in the common effort, not the charisma of the leader," writes Robert Greenleaf in Leadership Crisis.
The Process For Creating a Vision
Creating a vision begins with and relies heavily on intuition and dreaming. As part of the process, you may brainstorm with your group/organization what you would like to accomplish in the future. Talk about and write down the values that you share in pursuing that vision. Different ideas do not have to be a problem. People can spur each other on to more daring and valuable dreams and visions -- dreams of changing the world that they are willing to work hard for.
The vision may evolve throughout a goal setting process. Or, it may form in one person's head in the shower one morning! The important point is that members of an organization/group without a vision may toil, but they cannot possibly be creative in finding new and better ways to get closer to a vision without that vision formally in place.
Perceptions of Ideal Futures: An Exercise in Forming Vision
This section outlines an exercise you may use to assist your organization/group in defining its vision. By using this exercise to develop your group/ organizational vision, you may be better assured that the vision statement that is developed is a shared vision.
At a retreat or a weekly meeting, take an hour to explore your vision. Breaking into small groups helps increase participation and generate creativity. Agree on a rough time frame, say five to ten years. Ask people to think about the following questions: How do you want your community (residence hall and campus) to be different? What role do you want your group/organization to play in your community(residence hall and campus?) What will success look like?
Then ask each group to come up with a metaphor for your group/organization, and to draw a picture of success: "Our organization/group is like ... a mariachi band - all playing the same music together, or like a train - pulling important cargo and laying the track as we go, or ...." The value of metaphors is that people get to stretch their minds and experiment with different ways of thinking about what success means to them.
Finally, have all the groups share their pictures of success with each other. One person should facilitate the discussion and help the group discuss what they mean and what they hope for. Look for areas of agreement, as well as different ideas that emerge. The goal is to find language and imagery that your organization's members can relate to as their vision for success.
Caution: Do not try to write a vision statement with a group. (Groups are great for many things, but writing is not one of them!). Ask one or two people to try drafting a vision statement based on the group's discussion, bring it back to the group, and revise it until you have something that your members can agree on and that your leaders share with enthusiasm.
(Source: Alliance for Nonprofit Management)
Effective committees can be one of the most important working forces at the heart of an organization. Committee work can and should be an extremely rewarding experience to both the individual and the organization. The purpose and objectives of a committee may be clear and concise, but as with any group of people trying to achieve a common goal, many other factors will determine whether or not the committee will in fact succeed in accomplishing its task.
Advantages of Committees
There are several basic reasons for setting up committees that are common to all regardless of the tasks they are to complete.
- Responsibilities are shared
- More members become involved
- Specialized skills of members can be used to best advantage
- Inexperienced members gain confidence while serving on the committee
- Matters may be examined in more detail
- The organization is able to complete its business more efficiently by delegating some work to committees
Questions to Answer in Developing Committees
- What is the purpose of the committee?
- What are the responsibilities and limitations?
- What are the specific tasks?
- When should the job be completed and what type of report is expected?
- What is the role of officers and how is the membership decided?
- Is there a budget?
- What is the term of office for members, methods of filling vacancies, and appointment of the chair?
- What is the authority of the committee?
- What resources are needed? What resources are already available?
How to Develop a Committee
Selecting Committee Members
Selecting committee members is most effective as consideration can be given to skills, interest, and size of the group. Five to nine people on a committee are usually the best for most situations.
Selecting a Committee Chair
A committee chair is the key leader of the committee’s work. The committee chair orients the members as to the purpose of the committee and expectations of the organization. The chair’s role is not necessarily one of bringing technical expertise to the group. The chair must be organized and know how to organize - both programs and people. He or she must know how to involve others and how to motivate them to do the work of the committee.
Other responsibilities of the chair
- Preparing and presenting committee reports to the organization
- Setting agendas, calling meetings, and soliciting input from all members
- Ensuring that the chair is succeeded by another member of the committee
Signs of an Effective Committee
- Purpose of the committee is clear to all
- Careful time control: length of meetings, as well as development of overall committee time path
- Sensitivity within to each other’s needs; good communication among all members
- An informal relaxed atmosphere
- Good preparation on part of the chair and members
- Interested committed members
- Minutes are complete and concise
- Periodic self assessment of committee’s performance
- Recognition and appreciation are given to members so that they feel they are really making a contribution
- The work of the committee is accepted and makes a valuable contribution to the organization
Ways to Increase Participation in Committees
- Ensure committee chairs understand and can convey the role of the committee to members, and that the chair and members have up-to-date lists of roles and responsibilities
- Ensure adequate orientation that describes how the committee contributes to the organization’s mission
- Have ground rules that support participation and attendance
- Consider using subcommittees to increase individual responsibilities and focus on goals
- Conduct yearly committee evaluations that include a clear evaluation process where each committee member evaluates the work of the committee
- Attempt to provide individual assignments to each committee member
- Develop a committee attendance policy that specifies the number of times a member can be absent in consecutive meetings and in total meetings per time period
- Generate minutes for each committee meeting to get closure on items and help members comprehend the progress made by the committee
- In committee meeting reports, include noting who is present and who is absent
- Consider having low-attendance members involved in some other form of service to the organization, such as a "friend of the organization," who attends to special events rather than ongoing activities
- Have a "summit meeting" with committee members to discuss the low attendance problem, and use a round-table approach so each person must speak up with their opinions
- Rotate in new members to the committee every year
(Source: Free Management Library)
Guidelines for Writing a Constitution
The constitution of an organization contains the fundamental principles that govern its operation. Some organizations also create by-laws to outline specific rules of governance by which the group is to function. The constitution and the by-laws are in place to guide how the organization works. They are primarily for the organization’s use. Organizations should develop a form and language that works for them. The constitution should be made for easy amendment of the by-laws since rules of procedure should be carefully formulated, clearly worded, and kept up-to-date so that they serve the needs of the organization. The constitution and by-laws should be reported so that each member may have a copy.
The following outline should assist in the preparation of a constitution, and if needed, by-laws.
Article I: Name of the Organization and any affiliations
Article II: Purpose of the organization. Organizations should take care to include a complete statement of purpose. Programs sponsored by the organization will be expected to keep with the organization’s stated objective.
Article III: Membership (qualifications, types). Voting membership should be defined as limited to currently enrolled University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students. No student organization shall deny membership because of sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability.
Article IV: Leadership (titles of leadership, terms of leadership, how leaders are selected, and duties). Organizations should have necessary leaders to conduct their activities.
Article V: Meetings (regular, special, quorum). It is best to establish only the minimum number required and the approximate time of year in order to avoid creating requirements impossible to fulfill. Additional meetings can always be held. The quorum necessary to conduct business should be defined.
Article VI: Advisor (term of service/ selection) Each organization must have an advisor from the staff of Residential Life.
Article VII: Standing committees (if needed). Listed names and general duties of standing committees.
Article VIII: Executive Board/ Leadership Council (if needed). Provide for such a board, how it is selected, an its responsibilities.
Article IX: Parliamentary Authority. If this is your choice of organizational structure, the statement usually reads: “The rules contained in Robert’s Rules of Order revised shall govern this organization in all cases to which they are applicable unless they are inconsistent with the constitution and by-laws and special rules of the organization.
Article X: Method of amending constitution (methods of proposal, notice, voting requirements). Generally, proposed amendments are not acted upon immediately and require a majority of 2/3 or ¾ of those voting or of total membership to be adopted.
An organization need not have by-laws separate from the constitution. Items covered in by-laws by the organization might be covered in the constitution of the organization. On the other hand, by-laws are sometimes desirable since by-laws usually contain more details and are more easily amended than the constitution. They are more permanent than passing a motion at a meeting.
By-laws cannot run contrary to the constitution. Possible topics for by-laws include:
- Membership (selection requirements, resignation, replacement, dropping members).
- Dues (amount and collections procedures, special fees, when payable).
- Duties of officers (power, responsibilities, rules for election, procedures for filling un-expired terms, removal from office).
- Election rules and procedures.
- Duties of advisor.
- Executive Board/ Leadership (composition, privileges).
- Committees (standing, special, how formed, chairpersons, meetings, function).
- Order of business and rules about conducting business.
- Amendment (means of proposals, notice required, voting requirements).
Ice Breakers and Team Builders
Icebreakers and team builders help group members to get to know one another, and can help kick off a meeting, retreat, or other get-together with energy and group interaction. Below are examples of these kinds of activities.
Create a grid and write different facts in each box like "has green eyes" or "has been to Chicago." Ask participants to move around the room and find the people who fit that box and have them sign it. This exercise is used to get to know others in the group.
Each participant is asked to either write words or draw pictures that describe themselves. This is done silently. They pin the picture on their backs, walk around and have everyone look each other over. Pictures are then shuffled and participants are asked to identify the person to which the picture belongs.
Make up pairs or groups of people that go together (Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse, Barbie/Ken). Give each person a card with one member of the pair or group on it. The pairs or groups must find their match. When they find each other, they must discuss something about themselves (such as their hometown, favorite family vacation story, etc.).
Sit in a circle. One person starts by using an adjective starting with the same letter as their first name, followed by their first name (i.e. Clever Claire, Kind Karen). The next person and following has to repeat the first person's adjective and name and then add their own. It goes around the circle and the last person has to repeat all other names in order and end with their own.
Have a group of 10-15 people stand very close together. Tell them to reach out their arms so all hand are jumbled and intertwined. Tell them to grab one hand for each of their hands, but not the one of the person's next to them. Now they are a human knot and must use teamwork to untangle themselves into one circle without letting go of their hands.
Take a ball of yarn and have the person who starts hold one end and rap it around their wrist. They throw the yarn around the room and say something positive about the person you throw to or something they did to inspire you.
Balloon Game #1
Have everyone put one piece of information about themselves in a balloon, then blow up the balloon and throw the balloon in the middle of the circle of participants. One by one, pop the balloons and guess to whom that piece of information belongs.
Balloon Game #2
Pass one balloon around the circle and have each person write a question on that balloon, and then pass the balloon around the circle and each person has to answer three questions on the balloon.
This is a cooperative version of "regular" tag. You should designate a few people to be "freezers," then tell everyone else to scatter in all directions. The freezers count to ten, and then take off after the runners. Once they tag a runner, that person becomes one of the freezers. A player is safe from being tagged only when he or she is hugging another player.
Fruit Basket Turn Over
Seat players in a circle. One person stands in the center. Each player is given the name of a fruit. The person in the middle calls out the name of two fruits. The two people must quickly change seats. The person in the middle also tries to reach one of the seats. The one left standing then calls the name of two other fruits. He or she may also call "fruit basket turnover" and everyone must change seats.
Paper Bag Skits
Split your group into teams consisting of three to six members. Give each team a paper bag filled with assorted objects. (These can be almost anything, i.e. a wooden spoon, a screw, a bar of soap, a computer disk, etc.) The object of the game is to present a skit using all of the props provided. The props may be used as they would be in normal life, or they may be imaginatively employed. Give each group a topic to base their skit on. When all the skits have been planned and rehearsed they are performed for the amusement of all.
Upon entering the room, everyone is given a card with an animal on it (make sure there are two of every animal). On the count of three everyone makes their animal noise and tries to find their partner.
The members sit in a circle of chairs and there is one person standing and does not have a chair. The person in the middle asks a question, like "who has brown hair?" and everyone who does has to get up and switch seats. The person in the middle has to go and find a seat, which in turn will leave somebody else in the middle without a chair to ask a question. The catch is that the people changing seats (this applies to each individual round) cannot move to the seat on either side of them, or if they get up and can't find a seat, they cannot return to the seat where they just sat. This is a great way to "dig" up some information on people you don't know.
(Adapted from the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization)
As you know, members are essential to student organizations. It is important to know how to keep members interested and working for the good of the organization. By using these suggestions, your organization should have little difficulty attracting new members and retaining the ones it already has.
Four Basic Motivations For Involvement
- Acceptance into groups that they consider to be important to their well being
- Routine/regular operations and activities
- Not thrust into new situations rapidly and without warning
- Acceptance by the group
- Seeking contact with new people
- Creating new social situations in which to become involved
- Learning and accepting new and different responsibilities
- Learning to play new and different roles
- Desire for challenge
- The need to feel important
- Viewing ourselves in relationship to how we feel others view us
- Satisfaction with recognition and empathy from others
- Understanding and acceptance from others
- Sense of belonging with and to other people
- Confidence in ourselves and in others
Keys to Maintaining Members and Their Momentum
- Effective training
- Meeting personal interests and needs
- Allowing members to design and implement their own ideas and objectives
How to Maintain Momentum
- Explain the purpose of the group clearly
- Have a positive "we can" attitude
- Develop clear expectations of assignments (What needs to be done? By when?)
- Allow for personal growth (What does the member want to learn?)
- Offer feedback
- Organize an effective training program (Remember, people learn in various ways)
- Provide a sense of unity
- Compliment good work
- Reward good effort
- Help members set achievable goals
- Initiate recognition
- Initiate social interaction
- Recognize individual achievement
- Conduct exit interviews with those who leave the organization to find out why they left the group— this will provide important information on how things can be changed to make the environment more satisfying for everyone
Adapted from Cornell University (http://www.sao.cornell.edu/SO/Policies/advisors2.html) and Frostburg University (http://involvement.frostburg.edu/studentactivities/pdf/handbook.pdf).
Planning Your Student Organization Retreat
Planning Your Student Organization Retreat
A clearly defined purpose will provide clarity for your organization’s retreat. Answer the following questions:
1. Why have a retreat?
- Provide workshop sessions for your members
- Motivate your members for a new year or semester
- Set/redefine goals and objectives
- Engage in team-building
- Introduce new members
- Have fun!
2. What are you trying to achieve?
3. What organization goals or business needs to be accomplished?
Perhaps the retreat itself is strictly recreational, or it could be intended to facilitate team building. Whichever path you choose to take, be sure organization members and your advisor are well informed of the events and purpose for the retreat. Keep in mind that retreats serve a double purpose of accomplishing organizational goals or work, while also reenergizing the group and its members.
Think about the timing of your retreat:
- Beginning of a year or semester
- Mid-semester for evaluation
- Mid-year as a refresher
- For one day or overnight
- At a time with no other conflicts
Check with your organization members and your advisor to be sure they are available at the time(s) scheduled, and have a backup weekend or date in mind as an alternative!
Choosing an ideal location can be a challenge. Your organization could hold the retreat somewhere on campus, or a quick web search of "conference centers" gives you thousands of hits. Allow yourself to have ample time to sift through the information. You may also wish to meet with your advisor to see if she or he has suggestions for possible locations for your retreat.
As team leader, it is your responsibility to ensure everyone has transportation to and from the retreat site. Carpooling or rental vehicles are potential options, depending on the location of the retreat and the size of the group. Check with your advisor to see if he or she has recommendations for transportation.
What length of time will this retreat be? One day, overnight, weekend? The retreat agenda should combine organization work and downtime, as well as fun activities for the group. If this schedule necessitates an overnight retreat sleeping accommodations may have to be shared by one or more members. In this situation, be sure to inform group members that they made need to pair up or share rooms and bathrooms.
While some retreat sites offer meals with the rental price of the facilities, other sites expect that you will bring your own food or arrange for catered meals. If you plan to cook, delegate tasks to organization members (including menu planning, buying food, cooking and cleaning up). If arranging for catered meals, be sure to know how many people will be attending your retreat and if there are special dietary restrictions that need to be considered when planning the menu.
When designing your agenda think of your organization and its reasons for holding a retreat. Use these questions to guide your planning of a detailed agenda:
- Do members need to get to know one another or team-build?
- Do leadership transitions need to take place?
- Does the organization need to clarify its mission or purpose?
- Does the organization need to set goals or objectives for the future?
- Is there unfinished organizational business that needs to be resolved?
Your agenda should include:
- Name of session/retreat agenda item
- Presenter(s) or facilitator(s)
- Time(s) for each session
- Materials, equipment, or handouts needed for each session
Retreats lend themselves to completing bigger tasks. Items such as examining roles and responsibilities, revisiting the group's Constitution, or designing an action plan for next year’s programs can be areas of focus at a retreat. Remember to be Flexible! Your agenda does not need to be written in stone. If the group is engaged in a productive brainstorming session, let them ride with it. Other agenda items can be moved around depending on the group's needs.
Design an evaluation for members of your organization to solicit their feedback on the retreat. This feedback will help in planning future organization retreats and other activities.
Timeline for Planning a Retreat
Three months in advance
- Decide on the data of the retreat and announce it to all members and your advisor
- Reserve your retreat site
- Ask other organization members to be part of the retreat planning committee
- Identify funding sources for retreat expenses
Two months in advance
- Secure funding for the retreat
- Determine the format and goals of the retreat
- Begin to develop retreat agenda
- Contact any outside resources needed to facilitate the retreat and/or sessions
One month in advance
- Finalize retreat agenda
- Send information to members detailing the retreat and travel arrangements
- Arrange for equipment (i.e. overhead projectors) or needed materials
- Plan a menu and secure food reservations/purchase
Two weeks in advance
- Send a reminder to members about the retreat and what members should expect
- Send maps, an agenda, and a list of what to bring to participants
One week in advance
- Contact the retreat site to finalize arrangements
- Organize a final committee meeting to make sure people know what they are responsible for
- Make a checklist of who is responsible for bringing what