Virtual Organization Engagement
As students return and wish to engage with their student organization, the resources below are intended to help you navigate in the era of virtual engagement. We hope the resources below will help you maintain a strong sense of belonging, connection, and passion as you navigate a virtual student organization experience.
Staying Connected with Meetings:
- One-on-one meetings: Facetime, Android Video Calling, Skype, Google Hangout are all great for one-on-one video calls.
- Group Meetings: Zoom may be used by Vanderbilt students for participating in video conferencing, web conferencing, virtual meetings and more. Students can access Zoom by visiting vanderbilt.zoom.us and using their VUNetID and password to sign in. Many student organizations have already used this for meetings with good success.
- Consider how to adapt the ways your members connect to the current circumstances. For instance, you could hold Zoom calls, use an app like Marco Polo so organization members can stay up to date with each other, or watch Netflix together with the Chrome extension Netflix Party.
- Consider hosting small virtual get-togethers. Split the organization into smaller groups or even by Class or segment of the organization. Assign an executive board member to each of the groups and have them host/create programs for each of those groups based on what people are most interested in doing.
- Consider hosting virtual study sessions or have a standing open Zoom room specifically catered to study sessions, based on major or with organization members who have the same classes or major. This will give you that great feeling of being in the library and encourage you to look at your books more than your timeline.
- Pair each member of the organization together with someone they do not have a great opportunity to connect with throughout the year. Encourage them to connect at least once within the week either via phone or a video call. Check out this randomizer to make your life a little easier when randomizing parings or small groups. Rotate groups around every two weeks or so. This would be especially great for newer members the organization may not know as well yet.
- If your organization plans to take new members this semester, think about how you can intentionally reach out to them during this time. Excitement is often high for the newest members of our community and you don’t want them to feel lost. Get them engaged with some virtual committees early on. See if there are any of them that want to continue to lead engagement for newer members throughout this virtual period. Encourage them to utilize some of the same resources the organization leadership is using to maintain chapter engagement.
- Work with your coach or faculty consultant when appropriate to ensure that official updates and communication are vetted and appropriate. Coaches should be included on your communication and are a great resource to help support your organization.
- Consider free software that can help manage segmented communication. For example, Mailchimp can help you create specific communication to various groups (parents/families, organization members, executive board members, advisors, etc.). Their free version allows you to create email templates and see who has opened your email and even clicked on the links you are providing.
- If you want to create graphically stimulating content, Canva.com or even Gimp.org feature free graphic design software with templates to create your next masterpiece to share through social media.
- It’s okay to say that you don’t know an answer or that the update does not address any concern – this is better than communicating information that you then have to rescind.
- Use preexisting forms of organization communication (GroupMe, Facebook, email, etc.) whenever possible to make the communication as seamless as possible.
- The organization’s executive board should continue to meet regularly via Zoom or other video conferencing software. Organizations are encouraged to establish a set time that works around every officer’s schedule and make sure everyone attends from week to week. Utilize other communication platforms in between video meetings.
- Engage with your organization’s Coach. This person is there to support you as a student leader, whether that be for organizational or personal needs.
- Continue to host virtual organization meetings throughout this time to have the members connect with each other. Remember all of us joined our organizations for human connection. It is even more important in this time to continue to encourage positive connection through strong organization meetings/programming.
- Should the organization need to conduct a vote for business, consider compiling the information to be voted on and send to all voting members prior to the vote being conducted. Give members ample time to review the information you are sending over, preferably longer than 48 – 72 hours. Your organization constitution & bylaws might already have a “reading” or “reviewing” period before votes or constitutional amendments can take place. Make sure to review those and stick to those even throughout this virtual period. There is a voting platform available on your Anchor Link page. Click here to for directions on creating polls, surveys, and elections.
- Recruitment of new members will occur immediately…be prepared! The Virtual Student Involvement Fair will be a great way to get the word out, but don’t use that as your only tool. Be sure your Anchor Link profile is updated and respond to students that reach out to you through Anchor Link. Host small group information sessions to make it more personal.
- Update all organization websites and social media platforms to reflect the current operations of your organization. Let people know you are still operating! Incoming students, prospective students, and family members are looking at your websites and social media platforms to understand whether or not they are interested in joining your organization. Most websites are outdated and present very little information to the prospective member. Consider giving visitors to your website a better idea of what your organization values.
- While major operations – like in-person events and programs – have ceased and won’t likely start back up for a while, you can use this time for planning with your executive board or officer team. Start to lay the foundation for how you will engage the organization as your members return to campus.
- Think about what are things you always wish you had time to do, but never have the time to do so during the semester. Organizing think tanks, working on transition documents, brainstorming bylaws revisions, and cleaning up chapter files are all things that can now be more feasible.
- Use resources on our Student Organizations website and guide. Seek out relationships with those in other offices that can help improve your organization. Want more education and resources on sexual assault for your members, reach out to Project Safe. This is a great time for a “zoom-introduction” as administrators are eager to engage with you.
- Work with your executive board and coach to sketch out a return plan and priority list when operations resume. Construct your plan to be a day by day format with specific tasks and deadlines rather than specific calendar dates to allow for flexibility while accomplishing the tasks.
- We care deeply about the well-being of our students. As student leaders, we understand you may have unique needs and the university is prepared to assist you in any way possible. For the most updated information on services provided by the Student Care Network, please visit: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/studentcarenetwork/updated-services/
This resource was adapted with permission from colleagues at Florida State University.