Effective communication is essential to maintaining a good organization. Keeping members informed keeps them involved with the organization. As important as communication is, it is surprising how often it is overlooked. Excellent organizations develop their own plans for communication that take into account the special characteristics and needs of the situations. This is especially important for student organizations, where membership is fluid and constantly changing and members are balancing their participation with a number of other commitments. Following are some tried and true techniques that your organization should consider when you develop your communications plan:
Inform members of meetings. It’s always helpful to do a few things to remind everyone of your next meeting. Some ways of doing this are:
- Putting a reminder at the end of each meeting’s minutes if your organization keeps minutes and distributes them.
- Sending individual meeting notices.
- Having the secretary or another appointed person call members a day or two before the meeting to remind them of it.
- Setting up a “calling tree” to remind members of meetings.
- Using the campus radio or newspaper announcement section to publicize your next meeting (if your organization is exceptionally large).
- Using an e-mail list.
Have members build meeting agendas. Members will be more engaged if they help set the topics covered in a meeting. Some groups build the agenda for the next meeting by asking members for their ideas on items that should be included at the conclusion of each meeting. Others ask members to leave agenda items with the secretary any time up to 24 hours before the meeting. Still other groups use the first part of each meeting to build the agenda.
Plan meetings that facilitate good communication. Analyze your meetings – do they encourage a high level of two-way communication? Consider some ways in which your meetings could allow for better communication:
- Use smaller groups to discuss some issues.
- Ask each member to share their thoughts on important topics rather than hearing only from the few who may volunteer an opinion.
- Have a “good of the order” item on the agenda where members can express a thought or opinion on anything.
Keep minutes of meetings and distribute them by e-mail. If your organization is like most student groups, you will have very few occasions when all of your members are at a given meeting. Minutes keep members informed and up to date even if they occasionally miss a meeting.
Use a newsletter (electronic or hard copy), especially if your membership is large. Newsletters can go into depth with important issues. Through “personals” and notes of recognition, they can also be great morale builders.
Encourage officers to spend time with members of your organization on an individual basis. Many people, especially newer members, will feel more comfortable sharing their ideas, feelings and concerns about the organization in one-to-one situations.
Retreats, social events and other occasions to build person relations will do great things for the communication in your organization. The more familiar and comfortable members of an organization are with each other, the easier it is to communicate.