I’ve been on the executive board (eboard) of my school’s Filipino organization, Barkada, for three years. I progressed to my current position as Vice President of Internal Affairs from Historian during my sophomore year and Secretary during my junior year. Even as a general board (gen board) member, I detected small and big ways the then-current eboard could have improved in many aspects: appearing professional, maintaining general board retention, being prepared for meetings and events, raising money, maintaining civil connections within eboard, and ensuring the future success of the organization. Basically, everything at which any eboard should excel. In my time on eboard, I’ve strived to address these issues in order to help Barkada be the best organization, community, and life experience it could be. Here are a few tips or reminders you can use to make your organization in the same ways:
1. Explicitly describe each position’s duties, expectations, and power.
A secretary’s duties seem simple enough: record what gets planned at eboard, send the relevant info to gen board, repeat every week. In reality, my experience as secretary was much more intensive: collect and organize all documents, flyers, forms, logo submissions, big-little applications, and photos into Google Drive in the appropriately labeled folders; draft attractive but informative emails to gen board that would elicit their interest but would not be annoyingly flashy; listen to seven other eboard members speaking at different volumes simultaneously at eboard meetings and try to record all important details, times, locations, and names; and organize such details, times, locations, and names in the meeting minutes in a way all members can follow. I welcomed these intensive duties and expectations as a challenge but for someone else who perhaps thought that Secretary “just writes the emails”, they may not be willing to do more than that. In the best case, they do it anyway with less-than-stellar quality. In the worst case, they quit their position and your eboard is down a record-keeper and -organizer.
Accordingly, if an eboard member is not willing to perform an explicit or implicit duty or fulfill any expectations, it must be known who has the power to address the issue and what power he/she has. Is it only the President who has the right to confront them about their quality of work? Or can he/she delegate the right to the Vice President? Or can anyone on eboard speak out? How do repercussions work? A three strikes system? One warning, then you’re out? Can the President strip a member of their position as an executive decision, without the rest of eboard having a say? It’s best to have an up-to-date constitution outlining position duties and expectations, and disciplinary measures in order to avoid dealing with conflicts based on ambiguous or arbitrary rules.
2. It is every eboard member’s responsibility to make gen board feel as welcome and important as possible.
Just as a Secretary does not “just write the emails”, the President does not just “lead meetings” and “delegate eboard duties”, and the Publicity Chair does not just “update the Facebook page” and “post flyers on bulletin boards”. Though unwritten, it’s implied that every member of eboard is responsible for contributing to an organization’s goal of creating and maintaining a community between eboard and gen board. Accordingly, a Historian should balance their time between taking photos of the meeting or event, and interacting directly with those they’re taking photos of. President introduces and closes the meeting, but also stands at the door thanking gen board for coming.
People regularly attend meetings where they make personal connections with the people running them, where they feel welcome and important as a member and an individual. People do not attend meetings where they enter and leave without speaking a word or feeling like their presence isn’t wanted or necessary.
3. Have an eboard retreat.
This is the time to discuss and finalize a constitution, plan general board meetings, start planning large events, and set the goals for the organization. This should happen during breaks (summer and winter) in preparation for the upcoming semester. My eboard is having our retreat about a week before the start of the semester at our President’s house for an overnight gathering. We’ll be planning all general board meetings and a male pageant in collaboration with other Asian cultural clubs, re-writing our constitution to reflect our new goals, and reviewing the positive and negative aspects of our work this past fall.
Preparing for an entire semester in 1-2 nights can be intimidating, but doing it as a ‘retreat’ or social gathering between semesters greatly reduces the amount of stress all of eboard will experience during the semester. Instead of reviewing, planning, and executing all meetings, events, and duties amidst academic responsibilities, the majority of the work is completed before you even step foot on campus.
4. Make it known that duties for each position extend beyond the ‘job description’ of the position.
Again, just as each person has the responsibility to connect with gen board, each person has the responsibility to dedicate time towards tabling for fundraisers, going shopping for supplies, cleaning up after meetings, etc. If one person can’t fulfill their duties (according to the job description or not), no other person should reject an obligation (or order) to make up for that person. When Secretary can’t access their laptop, the President or someone previously holding the position of Secretary should step in. When Treasurer had offered to pick up name tags at Shoprite for the first meeting, but her car breaks down, anyone with access to a car is expected to be able to go shopping instead.
5. Make it known that duties extend beyond the ‘work hours’ of the position.
When President sends out an agenda two days before an eboard meeting, the time to read the agenda (and prepare ideas and input) is before arriving at the meeting and not when the topic is brought up during the meeting. It takes 20 minutes for eight people to brainstorm and agree on meeting idea, list the required supplies, and delegate who should bring what at the eboard meeting. It takes 10 minutes for someone to think of a scavenger hunt meeting, ask everyone else to approve or decline in the eboard group chat, and link to a Google Doc for everyone to list scavenger hunt items at their leisure. Then at eboard, all that’s left is to discuss logistics of scoring, time limits, and how to assign teams.
The most efficient eboard meeting occurs when most of the work does not occur at eboard. When every eboard member understands and internalizes this idea, you will save plenty of time and stress.
6. What goes on outside eboard, stays outside eboard.
This is incredibly problematic for some organizations. Sorority sisters may be biological sisters. Fraternity brothers may be roommates. I’ve been on eboard with three roommates, my sister, and my boyfriend. It has definitely taken conscious effort to remember that I am not my boyfriend’s cuddle buddy or my sister’s biological subordinate (as she would sometimes like to believe) when we’re at meetings. I’ve had to hold back my tongue on a weekly basis, for the best of the organization and my personal and professional relationships.
If your President accidentally broke your favorite mug, don’t talk about how clumsy she is at gen board meetings. If you and the Fundraising Chair have started flirting, don’t ask him why he didn’t text you back at eboard meetings. The key to keep in mind is “Be professional, and treat it like a job.” Would you call your boss clumsy at a conference? Would you get into a lover’s quarrel at the copier machine?
7. Your actions and decisions will greatly influence future eboards, general boards, and the welfare of the organization for years to come.
I knew I wanted to be on eboard when I first joined Barkada. I knew I wanted to build upon the existing organization and create a meaningful community. I paid attention to every success and failure of each eboard position, gen board and eboard meeting, event, and fundraiser as I progressed over the years to Vice President. We implemented changes based on mine and others’ observations to create the best and largest community Barkada has been since its conception in 2007.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m making any difference. But when Barkada has a meaningful and highly interactive meeting, or the biggest turnout at our main event of the semester, and gen board thanks us for putting thought into our meetings and stays after the event to help us clean up, we know we’re effectively working towards our goal to create a community. When you put your heart and mind into leading an organization and community with these tips and reminders, I promise you’ll create many memories with your eboard and gen board, and pass on a legacy.