Chapter operations must be strategic, organized, and integrative for the effective and successful management of a Chapter. Learn how to set strategic goals an objectives, budget, and execute based on your plans.
Strategic planning refers to the process of articulating and formalizing the mission, goals, objectives, and strategies of the Chapter. Whether as part of a student organization requirement from your institution or as a personal decision as to the determination of where to allocate time and funds, all Chapters will be engaged in strategic planning at some point and on some level. Additionally, the periodic reassessment of the strategic plan’s aspects as circumstances, priorities, or capabilities shift is a critical step to growing, not just maintaining, a Chapter. Chapter Leaders are encouraged to attend Regional Summits for tailored and curated training on strategic planning.
Collaborate to define the Chapter’s strategic plan. Even shorter strategic plans are intended to address many aspects of the Chapter over relatively long periods of time. As Chapter Leaders, members, Advisor, stakeholders, and other individuals involved with the Chapter work together in the early stages of the strategic planning process, the first step should be to evaluate the Chapter’s current standing so that ambitious, yet reasonable goals can be defined for the strategic plan.
A steering committee is an invited group of stakeholders that decide on the priorities or order of business of the Chapter and manages the general course of its operations. This is generally created for new Chapters and may not be appropriate for Chapters with established priorities and operations.
The members of a Chapter steering committee should include Chapter Leaders, certainly, but also university administration, faculty, and staff, community members, etc.
There are over 4,000 institutions of higher learning (IHLs) in the United States with unique campus cultures, communities, opportunities, and logistical challenges associated with each. Understanding your campus is critical to managing a Chapter that meets the needs of student veterans and the type of programming the Chapter should pursue.
Campus culture is affected by the student and student veteran populations, campus location (rural or urban setting), campus setting (residential or commuter school), and student life. Once these factors are understood, it is helpful to further explore campus culture by answering the following questions as it relates to student veterans.
- What do new student veterans on campus say about their first impressions of the institution? What did they notice first and what sense did they make of what they saw or heard?
- How do community members talk about the campus? Do those views match up with what experienced members of the campus community or newcomers or students say about the institution?
- What does the institution value most and how is that expressed?
- Are Chapter Leaders’ core values and expectations aligned with the main elements of the campus culture? If not, what might Chapter Leaders do to describe the Chapter in ways that fit that culture?
The Chapter mission statement clearly defines the Chapter’s purpose, who the Chapter represents, and the value added for its members and community. Mission statements reflect the identity of the individual Chapter, as well as the role the Chapter is playing or is striving to play on campus. Accordingly, the mission statement will typically be reviewed and revised by each new leadership team.
As an example, SVA’s mission statement is, “Act as a catalyst for student veteran success by providing resources, network support and advocacy to, through, and beyond higher education.” By examining the SVA mission statement, the following questions can easily be answered:
- What is the organization’s purpose or why does the Chapter exist? SVA exists to put into motion all factors that will lead to student veteran success.
- What services does the organization seek to provide? SVA offers resources in research, programming, and services as well as policy advocacy.
- What does the organization hope to achieve? SVA hopes to see the successful transition of servicemembers, their families, and allies into college, through graduation, and onto a successful career.
Mission statements are a strategic tool and a part of an organization’s “brand.” This guide discusses the concept of developing a brand at length below, and it is important to recognize the mission statement’s role in showing the world three key elements: who your organization is, what you are doing, and why it matters.
Goals should be clear action statements identifying what Chapter Leaders seek to accomplish. They are a direct extension of the Chapter mission and should be re-evaluated often to ensure they are keeping up with the Chapter mission statement, campus culture, and strengths of leadership. As with any other strategic tool, goals will guide the Chapter’s decisions and define its priorities. A timeline should be established for each set goal, but can be short-term, lasting only a semester or long-term feeding into the legacy of the Chapter.
It needs to be said again because it is important—collaborate to define your Chapter’s goals. One tried-and-true, highly effective starting place for evaluating the Chapter and beginning to define goals for the next strategic plan is an analysis of the Chapter’s strengths, challenges, opportunities, and vulnerabilities (SCOV). This analysis should include Chapter Leaders, members, and advisors. This process is more commonly referred to as SWOT, but SCOV conveys a more constructive framework and tone.
The people involved in the various aspects of the Chapter’s work will each have different and valuable considerations for each category, but they may include:
- Strengths. What aspects of the Chapter’s operations, structure, and team have been responsible for the most significant recent successes? Perhaps there were particularly successful programs, a well-connected board, enthusiastic volunteers, or a generous and loyal base of supporters. Perhaps the Chapter has all these strengths and seeks to expand them.
- Challenges. Just as the Chapter undoubtedly has unique strengths, it is likely to have encountered some recurring challenges in Chapter operations. Identifying these can help in setting some early goals for the strategic plan to make the Chapter even better than it already is. Member retention, a lack of new faces in Chapter Leadership, and flat fundraising might be challenges affecting the Chapter.
- Opportunities. Building on current strengths, brainstorm opportunities for the Chapter that can transform into concrete goals. Are there ways to improve communications among Chapter Leaders, for instance, or areas of the campus or community that could benefit from the Chapter’s work? How can impact be expanded? Membership refreshed? Fundraising increased?
- Vulnerabilities. Not all the challenges that the Chapter may have to face are connected to its operations or structure. If there are external reasons causing trouble connecting with the campus or reaching fundraising goals, for instance, these should be addressed in the strategic plan.
Everyone who plays a role in furthering the Chapter’s mission should be involved in this initial assessment process and in turning those findings into potential goals to include in the strategic plan.
- “To connect Chapter Members with on-campus resources needed for personal and academic success.”
- “Raise visibility of student veterans on campus.”
- “Create camaraderie among student veterans.”
A Chapter’s objectives are the actions the Chapter will take to achieve its goals. Objectives are goal-specific, meaning they align with one, goal, and define exactly what the Chapter will do, how it will be measured, and the timeline required for success.
The strategic planning process is a collaborative effort involving Chapter Leaders, members, the advisor, and other stakeholders that will require continuous year after year with each leadership change. Prioritizing the objectives contained within the strategic plan ensures that Chapter Leaders work efficiently and make more progress toward achieving the identified goals.
When it comes to prioritizing objectives, every Chapter’s needs are different but anyone can benefit from categorizing these objectives to better understand how they fit together within the Chapter’s operations and overall strategic plan. To help with organizing and prioritizing objectives, think of them in categories of objectives such as:
- Leadership. These objectives serve to elevate the role or the person in the role. Ensure that Chapter Leaders communicate frequently to stay updated on their progress.
- Operations. Carried out in large part by Chapter Members, operations objectives could include improvements to the Chapter’s internal processes, for example, or more effective means of carrying out the work done for or on behalf of student veterans.
- Fundraising. The Chapter’s leadership, advisory committee, members, and any partnered fundraising consultants (e.g., a university’s development office) will all play important roles in creating and meeting fundraising objectives. These may include finding ways to encourage recurring contributions, increasing annual giving, or offering supporters new giving methods.
Regardless of category, strategic objectives should be “SMART”:
- “Compile a list of veterans’ services available on campus and make it available in print and online by October 15.”
- “Create and submit a student veterans orientation slide deck for approval by Student Affairs before Winter Break.”
- “Have at least 12 people at each Chapter Community Service event this semester.”
Failing to meet an objective does not mean that a Chapter has failed. It only means that the Chapter should re-evaluate its objectives and alter one of the SMART elements of the strategic objective.
Strategies are the definitive, item-by-item to-do list for accomplishing an objective. They specifically describe what the Chapter will do with at least one strategy supporting each objective. Thus, strategies have a direct connection to the objective.
Example: if the objective is to “add 15 new email addresses to the contact list by the end of September,” the following strategies might be used:
- “Put an email sign-up sheet in the Veterans Resource Center.”
- “Ask the SCO to send a blast email to all new student veterans with the Chapter sign-up link.”
- “Table in the dining hall with a sign up and snacks on Thursday lunches in September.”
As the Chapter continues serving student veterans on campus over time, conditions in these communities and at the Chapter are bound to shift and change. The work itself will be responsible for some of these effects, as will external circumstances beyond the Chapter’s control. Capacity building is important because it leaves the Chapter with an improved structure and tools that make Chapter Leaders capable of maintaining positive impact even when the details of the strategic plan must change.
While no one can predict all possible changes as the strategic plan is created, steps can be taken throughout the strategic planning process to help ensure that the plan will be flexible enough to handle unexpected shifts. These steps include:
- Developing a theory of change. Especially in the earliest stages of the Chapter’s strategic planning process, envisioning and discussing a theory of change—beginning with mission-based goals and working backward to identify potential paths toward reaching them—is an effective approach to the process. It helps ensure that everyone involved in the planning process has a clear understanding of the overarching goals, even if the paths must change.
- Communicating regularly with everyone involved. Nonprofit strategic planning is a team effort, as is realizing the objectives and goals outlined in the plan. Effective communication among all the various participants and components of the Chapter is essential to keeping the plan updated as circumstances change.
- Revise the plan as needed. The need for revisions does not mean that the original strategic plan was flawed or lacking—it simply indicates aspects of the organization, or of the student veterans, families, or allies being served have changed over time and their needs can be best met in new ways.
- Plan for leadership turnover. Chapter Leaders generally only lead for one term, or one academic year, and each incoming Chapter Leader has their own vision for where they want to see the Chapter at the end of their term. The purpose of the Chapter will generally remain the same through these turnovers, but goals and objectives should be revisited and revised as the talent in Chapter Leadership changes.
The big ideas associated with strategic planning can propel a Chapter’s engagement and success. However, without the appropriate approach to business operations, a Chapter’s success will be limited significantly. Creating Chapter rules and guidelines through a constitution or set of bylaws, establishing and spending according to a budget, and instituting a Chapter Leader transition plan, will allow a Chapter to run smoothly, and set it up for a legacy of success.
A common issue for Chapters is the concentration of information in a single individual’s hands. Silos can be a major barrier to building Chapter continuity. Clear, accurate, and thorough records are essential to maintaining Chapters. Records also promote transparency, reduce conflict, and tend to increase engagement. All Chapters should maintain the following documents and forms in a secure, accessible online platform:
- Founding Documents (By-laws, Mission, Constitutions, etc.)
- Strategic Plan
- Budgets (Proposed & Operating)
- Meeting Agendas and Minutes
- Membership Rolls and Contact Lists
- Events Calendar
- All grant or funding applications
- Any letters of support or recognition
- All significant external correspondence
Chapters should audit their member rolls and contact lists each term. Chapter Leaders may also want to keep a continuous list of important school and community contacts, including what role they serve and any notable past interactions. It is important to keep track of any major events, including:
- Agendas and minutes for planning meetings
- Event planning timelines
- Vendor lists
- Publicity efforts
- After-action reports
There are several cloud-enabled programs that facilitate the maintenance and security of Chapter records, such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and others. When choosing a platform, consider the school’s policies, the platform’s security, the ease of use, and how files are accessed on mobile devices.
In most Chapters, the primary responsibility for record maintenance will fall to the Vice President of Communications, or equivalent. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the elected Chapter President and the entire leadership team to review Chapter records and agree on internal expectations and divisions of labor for ensuring they are kept accurate and up to date.
Founding documents are the documents required to form a student organization. These can include a Statement of Purpose, which explains, “This is what we’re doing for someone else” and describes the Chapter’s “philosophical heartbeat;” a Petition for Recognition, which can be a simple sheet listing the name and Statement of Purpose and a required number of signatures for organizational legitimacy; as well as a Constitution and Bylaws, described below; other RSO application documents; and branding documents.
Constitution. A constitution is a founding document that provides a clear outline of the structure and mission of the organization and provides a basic set of rules that will govern the group. Its intent is to provide consistent leadership for the organization as it will be passed on to future Chapter Officers. Creating a constitution for the Chapter can be challenging, but an effective Chapter constitution should reflect the purpose and goals of the organization. A Chapter constitution should be simple and concise.
Outside of our student veteran law students, members are generally going to avoid reading exhaustive documents unrelated to daily life or operations of the Chapter. They should be created by several members of the organization. A constitution created by a single person, whether the founding member or Chapter advisor, is not going to best serve the Chapter. Input from a diverse group will bring a collection of perspectives to ensure the language is inclusive and effective.
Finally, it should include appropriate guidelines to govern the organization in concise and effective language that enumerates all aspects of the Chapter. An example Chapter constitution can be found here.
Bylaws. Bylaws are secondary principles that govern the internal affairs of a Chapter. Bylaws are essentially an expansion of the articles or sections of the constitution. They describe in detail the procedures and steps the organization must follow to conduct business effectively and efficiently. Chapters are not required to have bylaws, specifically, though they may be required by the education institution. However, Chapter Leaders may find them helpful to the Chapter’s operations.
The constitution covers the fundamental principles but does not provide specific procedures for operations. Bylaws should set forth in detail the procedures that the Chapter must follow to conduct business in an orderly manner. They provide further definition to the provisions contained in the constitution and can be changed more easily as the needs of the organization change.
Bylaws must not contradict provisions in the constitution. They generally contain more specific information on the topics outlined below as needed. If the Chapter chooses not to develop bylaws, this information may be included in the appropriate sections of the Chapter constitution. The following are some standard articles that commonly appear in Chapter bylaws:
- Membership Sections: discuss and detail the various aspects of membership that may be applicable: membership selection process, types of membership, and procedures for disciplining and/or removing members.
- Officers Sections: discuss the officer selection process, duties, powers, and responsibilities of each officer, and procedures for removal from office and filling vacant officer positions.
- Committees Sections: discuss and detail standing and special committees (formation, selection, powers, and duties) and the executive committee (membership, powers, and duties), along with the roles and responsibilities of committee chairs.
- Meetings Sections: discuss types of meetings, how and when they are to occur, requirements for notice, attendance, and quorum (number of members needed present to transact business), meeting format, and parliamentary rules of order (usually Robert’s Rules of Order).
- Financial Procedures Sections: discuss and detail (as applicable) dues, fees, and products, collection procedures, and other financial procedures (budgets, expenditures, etc.).
- Amendment Procedures Sections: discuss the procedure for amending the bylaws (means of proposals, notice required, voting requirements).
- Other specific policies and procedures unique to the Chapter that may be necessary for its operation.
Remember the reasons for having a constitution and bylaws; these documents articulate the purpose of the Chapter and spell out the procedures to be followed for its orderly functioning. Constitutions usually require a two-thirds vote of the membership for adoption, while bylaws only require a simple majority for passage, though this is defined by the school, generally. Once the constitution and bylaws have been developed, review them often. The needs of the Chapter will change over time and it is important that the constitution and bylaws are kept up to date to reflect the current situation.
Make sure every new member of the organization has a copy of governing documents. This will help to unify Chapter Members by informing them about the opportunities that exist for participation and the procedures they should follow to be an active, contributing member. A thorough study of the constitution and bylaws should be a part of Chapter Leader training and transition, discussed below. Chapter Leaders should also provide a copy of the constitution and/or bylaws to the Chapter Advisor.
Registered student organization application. Most institutions require an application to be identified as a recognized student organization. This application generally requires renewal annually, and so it is prudent to keep a copy of the previous year’s application on hand to ease completion of new applications. The same is true for university grant applications and funding requests.
Branding documents. The Chapter brand is more easily understood as the Chapter’s identity. While brand is discussed fully below, branding documents, to include the Chapter’s logo, style guide, and branding policies should all be included and maintained with the founding documents.
A budget is a strategic tool used for planning and controlling within a Chapter. It is a formal written guideline for a plan of action, expressed in financial terms within a set time. It can help refine goals that reflect realistic resources. It can compel members of the Chapter to use funds efficiently. It can provide accurate information to adjust, analyze, and evaluate programs and activities. It can aid in decision making. Finally, a budget can provide a historical reference to be used for future planning.
A budget is made up of several components including a statement of the organization’s goals, objectives, and priorities. It considers what goals a Chapter wants to accomplish, how the Chapter will accomplish them, and how much they will cost to execute. It then identifies how each program, event, and service will be funded and a specified time to which the budget applies. The Chapter should have an outlined method of reviewing budget plans and procedures designated in their bylaws or constitution. To measure and track the financial stability, support, and success of the Chapter, a budgeted financial statement brings both an estimated detailed income breakdown as well as an estimated detailed expense breakdown.
To develop a budget, Chapter Leaders should begin preparations a month or more prior to the close of the current year. In many cases, this would be a summer practice in preparation for Chapter operations in the fall, but Chapter calendars are at the discretion of the Chapter. Chapter Leaders should consult their Chapter calendar to prepare an outline of the organization’s planned activities for the upcoming year. Budget development involves careful studies, investigations, and research of funding, cost, and resources.
Budgets start with determining available funds, such as carry-over balance from previous year, cash on hand, and estimate expected income as well as the expectation of when the funds will be available from dues, T-shirt sales, donations etc. The budget also defines needed expenses for advertising, rentals, printing, supplies, etc. It is a good practice to gather price quotes on certain expenses and delegate some responsibilities to Chapter Members. Budget items or activities should be rank ordered by their relative importance and then chosen to make the wisest expenditures for a limited budget.
Chapter Leaders should consider how much funding is available to allocate to a program, negotiate as necessary, eliminate less-essential expenditures, or limit certain expenditures. The budgeting process, therefore, involves revision, coordination, cross-referencing, and assembling information into a final budget; the budget must be flexible to anticipate conditions which might have been overlooked during the planning process. Chapter budgets are often voted on either by the leadership team or at a full member meeting. School policies can also dictate how Chapter budgets are adopted.
Once approved, adopted and prepared, a budget should be closely managed. The Vice President of Finance should set and ensure maintenance of a minimum cash balance, formulate policies and procedures needed to achieve objectives, keep an accurate log of financial transactions (income and expenses) in Chapter record books available to the Chapter President, and set up internal control designed for safeguards and accurate accounting data. This encourages adherence to accountability.
To manage a budget, remember the most important cost control: allow only approved expenditures. The Vice President of Finance, Chapter President, or any other Chapter Leader should be available to assess budget at any given point of time during the budgeted period. The bottom line is that the Chapter budget will dictate which plans Chapter Leaders can implement.
Beyond expenditures, budgets provide opportunities to fund sources of revenue. Revenue can come from institutional funding, where applications for institutional funding, if available, are often submitted every year and received via reimbursement or direct pay through a school account or debit card. Revenue can also include membership dues. Recall that the founders of SVA believed that student veterans paid their dues through military service, and so we do not collect dues at the National Headquarters.
Chapters, however, can set their own dues or fees schedules, but should consider the limitations this may place on recruitment goals. Many Chapters also market and sell their own branded merchandise. Entrepreneurial Chapter Leaders who wish to follow this revenue path should research school policy on selling merchandise, and ensure that all branding (i.e., SVA, school, etc.) are in line with branding policies. SVA branding policies are discussed below. Merchandise sales provide a source of revenue and expand visibility of the Chapter on campus.
Grants are another source of revenue. Some schools award grants and prizes to impactful student organizations. Additionally, non-profit organizations and veteran service organizations may offer grants to Chapters making an impact in the lives of veterans. Finally, many Chapters use fundraising to increase revenue. Chapters engaged in fundraising should know and understand the college’s regulations pertaining to fundraising on campus. Fundraising is discussed extensively below.
Having an up-to-date inventory helps guide planning for the current year and beyond. The organization and maintenance of inventory does not need to be stressful. Below are ten tips for inventory organization.
Organize by type. Group items by type. For example, the “shirt” section is organized by type (event shirts, shirts for sale, shirts free to students, etc.) and placed in a particular area of storage. Storage means something different to each Chapter – some may have a space in the student union or student life offices; some may have a storage unit off campus; some may have a closet in the Chapter president’s apartment – but each Chapter is recommended to keep their “swag” or materials in a singular place for ease of access. All general multi-use items should also be in the same area including signs, tabling materials, flyers, etc.
Organize by usage. As in our own homes, frequently used items are easily accessible and infrequently used items are in a forgotten drawer. Some Chapters rotate their inventory according to semester (weather). Items that are going to be used for the upcoming event may be placed up front and are typically in collapsible, wheeled storage carts. Equipment that has just been used may be put away in the back or on shelves.
Take notes. Supplemental to the previous point, it is important to reflect upon the end of each semester regarding the Chapter experience, and in terms of inventory and materials. When putting away inventory that may not be used for a while, Chapter Leaders should make notes as to what may be needed soon, what needs ordering, and what needs repaired.
Labeling. Regardless of quality or expense, label all tubs, boxes, larger items, etc. to help you find what is needed when it is needed. Chapter Leaders may want to consider including the year items were received. The year helps to know how old an item is and indicates when an item may need replacing. It also shows if an item is holding up to expected use. If you bought something last year and it looks as if it has been used for 5 years, then you may want to consider a different vendor in the future.
Think ‘Portability.’ One of the biggest benefits of a storage room is the ability to easily transport many items at once. Collapsible carts are a good suggestion to easily transport bulky or heavy items and boxes.
Storage Options. Most Chapters are not provided with a complete storage system, so Chapter Leaders should always be on the lookout for good deals on storage items such as tubs, boxes, collapsible carts, wheeled carts, file systems, and utility hooks to hang things in storage. An important thing to keep in mind is where to organize, secure, and charge all devices. This can be a challenge if the storage room is not set up with a charging area.
Electronic Inventory Record. Chapter inventory records may be mandated by the office that oversees Registered Student Organizations. Regardless of required procedures, if not included, it is recommended that Chapter Leaders use an electronic inventory sheet (an Excel file or something more formal) to keep a detailed record of all inventory or materials. This should be updated with each leadership turnover. A template inventory management file is available here.
Meeting Agendas and Minutes
The heart of every Chapter is found during its meetings. Meetings range from a lighthearted, informational gathering of general members to a heated decision-making session of Chapter Leaders. Good meetings are always a result of careful preparation and planning. There are different ways to run a meeting. Whether parliamentary procedure or a more relaxed format is used, it is important to know what the purpose and goals are, have a plan to accomplish goals, and understand communications styles.
Preparing an agenda communicates to the Chapter what the meeting is about and invites Chapter Leaders to consider the information to include in the meeting before the meeting occurs. An agenda is an outline of the issues that a group will discuss during a meeting. The agenda is prepared by the Chapter Leaders, specifically the Vice President of Communications and Marketing, with assistance from the Chapter Advisor. Once prepared, the agenda should be distributed to members at least one day prior to the meeting either by email, in printed form, published to social media or a web site, etc. This allows members to come to the meeting prepared to discuss the agenda items, exchange information, and make decisions. A sample meeting agenda can be found here.
Using the Agenda. Simply putting topics on a list will not make meetings more productive. There are some points that may help if considered during a meeting. Chapter Leaders should be realistic about the amount of time each topic will take. Avoid an over-crowded agenda. If choices must be made, leave more time for important issues. Chapter Leaders should take up the less complicated topics first, leaving time at the end for more complex issues. The agenda should be a strict guide to respect the time of Chapter Members. Agenda topics should be introduced with a comment about the reason for its inclusion on the agenda. A full discussion of each topic should be allowed, while Chapter Leaders are mindful of the schedule. A good idea is to close discussion of each topic with plans for future action.
Maintaining Meeting Minutes. The agenda is a useful tool for the Vice President of Communications and Marketing to organize meeting minutes. Notes, particularly action items or decisions, are wise to note in minutes for historical records.
Membership Rolls and Contact List
Chapters can develop membership rolls and contact lists by simply placing a sign-in sheet at the door during Chapter meetings. Chapters can also leverage relationships with university administrators to access student lists for sending out information.
Organizationally, it may be a good opportunity to tailor these lists to specific markets. Student veterans do not always require, nor are always interested in, the same messages as partners, administrators, and others. A separate list for each type of media is helpful, but subscribers should have a mechanism with which to disenroll or quit receiving messages.
Chapter event calendars often align with the academic year. Whether the university operates on a quarter or semester basis, calendar events are grouped by term and begin with the fall. They include scheduled federal and university holidays as well as important university dates, such as registration, drop dates, graduation application deadlines, and graduation.
Chapter-specific events and anniversaries are also included, such as meetings. These calendars can be distributed to Chapter Members every fall, posted on the Chapter website, and added to communications, such as the newsletter. Having an organized event calendar ensures that programming runs efficiently and effectively and allows Chapter Leaders to plan logistics for events well in advance.
Grant or Funding Documents
Any documents associated with funding are often required to be kept on file for a specific amount of time according to university guidelines. These include grant applications, checks, invoices, and receipts. Chapter Leaders should check with the body responsible for registered student organizations for guidelines.
Letters of Support, Awards, Recognition
Chapters are often recognized either by their university, the global network, partners, or other organizations. It is important to keep and maintain these forms of recognition to continue to add to the Chapter’s story. Scanned copies of letters and certificates maintained on an online drive ensures they are not lost during transition or eroded over time.
Chapter Leader Transitions
Leadership transition is a time-intensive process made smoother by beginning this handover well in advance, beginning soon after elections. The timing of elections is an important consideration in this process to maximize the transition period, the period between the election of a new leadership team and the formal handover of responsibilities.
Full team meeting. The goal of this meeting, which includes the entire incoming and outgoing executive boards, is to establish a timeline and agree on a structure for the rest of the leadership transition, as well as for the incoming leadership to ask any pressing questions. This meeting may also identify for all parties any major shared deadlines or responsibilities.
For instance, many schools require that student organization status be renewed in the spring for the subsequent fall. Renewal may entail submitting a detailed budget, member records, and plans for the upcoming school year. Finally, if members of the incoming and outgoing leadership teams do not already know each other, this meeting can be an excellent way to begin building rapport and opening lines of communication.
Individual meetings by role. It is best for outgoing Chapter Leaders to meet with their incoming counterpart at least one additional time without the remainder of the group with the following goals:
- Familiarize the incoming Chapter Leader with any resources and records pertaining to the position
- Share best practices and lessons learned.
- Instruct the incoming Chapter Leader on any technical skills or other requirements necessary to perform their role.
- Introduce the incoming Chapter Leader to important school spaces, procedures or contacts.
- Answer any questions the incoming Chapter Leader may have.
Introductory meetings. Most Chapter Leaders will have a list of school or campus contacts with whom they work regularly. These relationships may be formal, such as that between the Chapter President and the Chapter Advisor or between the Vice President of Finance and the Student Affairs administrator responsible for managing student accounts. They may also be informal in cases where faculty members, administrators, or even other student leaders have been supporters and allies.
Part of a successful leadership handover entails, at a minimum, the introduction of an incoming Chapter Leader by the outgoing Chapter Leader, to all formal and informal contacts. These meetings may need to take place in person—such as during a handover of SVA debt accounts—or may be conducted via email or the appropriate social media, whatever is most appropriate for Chapter culture.
Old business wrap-up. Some outgoing leadership teams may have active programs going on despite their departure, so they may maintain continued responsibilities at the time of the elections. To the extent possible, all old business should be concluded during the leadership transition period and no later than the final handover meeting.
However, in situations where this proves impossible (for example, outstanding receivables for large events even late in the Spring semester, events with community partners in progress for summer, or graduation plans begun by the outgoing leadership team), there are three options:
- The ongoing business can be handed over completely, with the incoming leadership team taking on the role or organizer/responsible party.
- The ongoing business will remain in the hands of the outgoing leadership team with a plan for a delayed handover of any relevant resources
- The incoming and outgoing leadership teams will divide the responsibility, either with the outgoing team continuing to finish out any remaining responsibilities but including an incoming Chapter Leader where appropriate or with an incoming Chapter Leader taking over primary responsibilities with the ongoing support and participation of the outgoing Chapter Leader.
Documents and resources. Most Chapters will have both material (keys, supplies, swag) and virtual resources (passwords, documents) to hand over. If a Chapter has maintained an ongoing inventory, the handover of materials will be relatively straightforward. Virtual resource inventories may need to be created for each Chapter Officer position. Depending on the quality and organization of existing records, it is highly likely that the outgoing leadership team will have to devote significant time to consolidating, organizing, indexing, and editing any virtual documents and records.
Final team meeting. The goals of this meeting will vary based on what was accomplished in individual meetings and during the handover process. The primary responsibility of the outgoing leadership team is to systematically confirm that they have handed over all necessary resources to the incoming leadership team. The secondary responsibility of the outgoing leadership team is to make themselves available for questions and to offer final words of advice.
The leadership team is highly encouraged to prepare for this meeting and execute it systematically, using a checklist, for instance. The responsibility of the incoming leadership team is to have reviewed all relevant documents and resources thoroughly prior to the meeting and to come prepared with any questions or final “to-do’s.” Additionally, this meeting may be used to walk-through the year-at-a-glance with the incoming team, to discuss the logistics and planning timetable for any large-scale events, to test and confirm any passwords, and to establish parameters and expectations for future communications.
Chapter Update. The new Chapter Leadership Team should submit a Chapter update to National Headquarters within two weeks of the election results. This allows new Chapter Leaders to receive updates on the various opportunities for them and their members.
Example Incoming Leadership Team Checklist