Branch action plan

10. Managing Your Board and Members

“Leadership involves guiding vision, passion, integrity, curiosity, risk taking and organizing” — Hacker, Wilson and Johnston

DEVELOPING YOUR BRANCH AGENDA

To the Branch Executive Director, YALDA cannot stress how important it is to formulate a clear and concrete agenda or a strategic plan for your team and committees at the beginning of the year or every semester. This agenda must be in line with the aforementioned expectations that YALDA has for each branch. It is nearly impossible to run any organization without a carefully well thought-out plan of action and a timeframe right from the start. With an agenda, everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, when and even why. It is not enough to just give your team members a copy of the constitution and ‘the BAP’ and expect that the organization will fall into place. First, not everyone will read everything carefully and second what they do might not necessarily be in line with achieving YALDA’s goals and objectives. It is very important for the Executive Director not only to ensure that an agenda is developed, but that it is also implemented.

First and foremost we believe that a new board should be selected 6 weeks before the start of any final exams (of the end of the year), then together with the old board they should work out a preliminary agenda for the next semester, for when they return and will be in office. In our experience, we have seen that branches that develop their agenda when the semester begins have a really hard time starting up, which might lead to the disgruntlement of their members. It is therefore very important to develop this preliminary agenda before hand, so that even during the school vacation you can meet up or email each other to discuss it and fine tune it before the semester begins.

It is important that while you are developing your agenda to remember that YALDA is first and foremost a networking organization meant to: create information; collect information, and to distribute this information to its members. There are three simple questions you and your board members should continually ask yourselves while developing your agenda and running your YALDA branch.

With all the resources available to us such as human, financial, information, material, what is our branch doing to further the mission of YALDA:

  1. How are we as a branch ensuring that our resources go towards improving the YALDA network and distribution of all types of information on African Development?
  2. How are we as a branch using our resources to help our members develop and improve their leadership skills?
  3. How are we as a branch utilizing our resources in order to foster communication and networking between African youth and African leaders, both abroad and on the continent?

The following steps will help give your YALDA branch a sense of direction, when developing your branch agenda:

  1. Give all your new board a copy of the Constitution and a chance to read your branch copy of ‘the BAP.’ You must emphasize that they make a clear note of what applies to them in their position, as ‘the BAP’ offers some crucial advice for every Executive Board member.
  2. After everyone has read and clearly understood their role, organize a one or two-day retreat for the board where they can focus and work on developing an agenda without any distractions.
  3. In developing the agenda, the board must decide on what their goal(s) or vision(s) for the semester or year are. They must all sit down and put the goal(s) or vision(s) in clear comprehensive writing that will not only be understood by them later, but by all your YALDA members. If an organization is working towards one goal or vision this creates a sense of unity and builds the YALDA team spirit and commitment to accomplishing its objectives.
  4. Once you have articulated your goal(s) or vision(s) then it is time to really and carefully write a very comprehensive agenda for the Executive Board, followed by separate agendas for the respective Committees. In this agenda, it is helpful to include tentative dates for possible events with their proposed themes, field trips, team building activities, frequency of board and general meetings etc. We recommend that you also set deadlines for certain items and submissions at the beginning of the year, so everyone knows what is expected of them from the get go. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO PRODUCE AN ONLINE CALENDAR FOR THE YEAR AND PUT ALL THESE DATES IN EVERYONE’S INDIVIDUAL CALENDARs!!!!
  5. Consult with your faculty advisors and professional mentors on the clarity and feasibility of your agenda. As young people running a young organization, we encourage sharing experiences with older people as they have a lot to offer.
  6. Once you have developed your agenda, you must make sure you have systems in place (such as evaluation forms), that will allow you to monitor the implementation of the agenda and whether it is achieving its desired results in line with your goal(s) and/or vision(s). This will be an important learning experience, as in Africa effective and timely implementation of policies and strategies still continue to be an incredible impediment in realizing our continent’s development.

You may also ask for assistance from YALDA International or other YALDA branches in helping you formulate your branch agenda. YALDA International will offer you as much assistance needed by email, on the phone, or in person, including sending you Agenda Development Templates depending on your situation. YALDA International will also offer advice and technical assistance to assist you in the monitoring and implementation of your agenda, ensuring that your team runs a successful and active YALDA branch.

ACKNOWLEDGE AND THANK YOUR TEAM

Finally, it is important to take the time to celebrate the accomplishments of your YALDA branch in achieving its goals and objectives. As the Executive Director or Chairman of a Committee take time THANK your team for a job well-done; this can include hand-written acknowledgements or cards, public acknowledgements at a special event or even a small outing for the high-performance team. Without a sense of closure, acknowledgement and fulfilment from a job well done, the next strategic planning cycle can become a grind.

TIME MANAGEMENT AND WORKINGS AS A TEAM

In YALDA we are all team players with two goals in mind: improving our leadership skills for the development of Africa. Remember that you, your board, members, advisors and mentors are all working on the same team. It is important, if you are a student, to stay on top of your school work, but also realize that you have made a commitment to realizing the goals and agenda of YALDA as an organization. You must be serious about implementing its mission. For this, it is very important not only to read the agendas the YALDA Headquarters sends to you, but also those sent to you by your branch’s Executive Director.

You need to ensure that all lines of communication between members and more especially between the Executive Board are always open. YALDA is a leadership organization and you and your board have the added task of being exemplary by demonstrating your leadership skills in the work you do with YALDA and your members. We recommend that your whole board take initiative, communicate, listen and put your words into serious action.

That being said, here are some suggestions of how you and your board can go about managing your YALDA duties as a board (note: this can also be extended to the YALDA committee members):

  1. Leading by Example. Again, we stress the importance of being exemplary leaders. Effective leaders know they must model the behaviour they seek to see from others. If as a leader you fail to act in accordance with the stated values of YALDA, your members will realize this and it may affect your branch’s performance.
  2. Time Management in any organization or leadership position is ESSENTIAL. We cannot stress this enough. Designate at least 6-10 hours a week, excluding time at your weekly meetings
    • You can wake up early everyday and use an hour or two before class or work to write up YALDA updates, read and reply YALDA related emails, read agendas and come up with your own ideas and suggestions
    • Or before you go to bed you can take a YALDA hour to complete stuff as well
    • Even on weekends make time to complete and do your YALDA tasks and come up with new and innovative ideas.
  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. YALDA is all about communication. Networking cannot happen without communication, so talk to your board, your members, other branches and the Headquarters.
    • Make a serious effort (more especially the Board) to get to know your members and the Executive Committee. Have activities, icebreakers and games that will encourage you to get to know each other well including, people’s names, degrees, even their dreams and ambitions
    • Communicate your needs to other members of the YALDA board and help each other when needed, to execute goals and agendas for YALDA
    • Encourage your board to give the Executive Director and/ or Chair of the Board meetings feedback and suggestions that would help improve the quality of the meetings, and how to execute agendas in an effective and timely manner
  4. Board Meeting Discussion Suggestions. Some people ask what they should be discussing at their Executive board meetings. With the BAP you will find that there will be plenty of things to talk about at every meeting. However, here are a few suggestions, though not even close to an exhaustive list, of what you could discuss at your board meetings:
    • Ideas of how to conduct your partners’ and professional contacts research
    • Plan and strategize the implementation of your YALDA branch project if you decide to pursue one
    • Events and workshops that you would like to hold on campus and who (if you want) could co-sponsor them
    • Field trips and any other such activities that your branch wants to plan
    • Competitions and ways to keep your membership engaged and active
    • …and so on….
  5. Effective Management of Emails or Files. We encourage people to either set up a separate email account or set up folders in their existing email accounts that are YALDA folders. You can also use this to set up hard-copies of YALDA files. As a leader one thing that is key is organization. You do not need that many folders but suggested folders may include:
    • YALDA Agendas
    • YALDA Executive Board Applications
    • YALDA Membership Forms
    • YALDA Professional Contacts Information
    • YALDA Finances
    • YALDA Quarterly Reports
    • YALDA Research
    • YALDA Conference
    • YALDA Events and Activities
    • YALDA International Material
    • YALDA Suggestions
  6. YALDA book or an electronic device. We highly suggest you get a YALDA book, small and easy to carry that will help keep you organized. Keep a note of when things are due and also put them on a calendar. Little books are a great tool to have, especially if you are not near a computer; you can use it anywhere and anytime, to write ideas, suggestions, comments and things you would like to see happen.

KEEPING PEOPLE ACTIVE AND ENGAGED

“Effort only releases its reward after a person refuses to quit” — Napoleon Hill

The idea of motivating members is a GREAT target focus for any young organization and as you probably already know is one of the hardest tasks. At YALDA we have talked to many other organizations and they all seem to say one of their sources of frustration and failure to implement tasks in an effective and timely manner is the severe lack of committed members who actually step up to the plate.

Finding a secure base of dedicated board members and even just general members will always prove challenging. It is important for people to see the importance/value of the experience and volunteerism when working for YALDA, but we are not naïve and do realize some people do need incentives. It is a pity that sometimes you have to sell an organization to its membership to keep them involved and actively engaged in it.

So here are some ideas for doing just that:

  1. ‘You may kill two birds with one stone’ as mentioned earlier in this Chapter by organizing a competition for those people who recruit the most number of members, and those members remain actively involved in YALDA. Have your current members and all of the Executive Board participate in this, and ask people to recruit a minimum of 3 new members by a specified deadline. You must encourage your team not only to recruit friends and colleagues, but go further and recruit people they don’t know. For the person who recruited 1) the most number of new members and 2) these new recruits have been actively involved in committees for a semester/year (whatever you feel is the best timeline) since being recruited, will win a prize together with the new members.
    This will not only encourage team building within YALDA, but will encourage members not only to recruit the minimum of three but to go beyond that. They will even have the opportunity to act as a mentor/motivator in order to encourage the new members to stay actively involved and engaged in the organization.
  2. Honoring the best member(s) with professional paper awards and also actual tangible prizes. What the actual prizes are will depend on your finances and your student culture. Be sure to also contact your professional contacts and companies to help in this area. Prizes at other branches have ranged from books, ipods, free dinners, tickets to popular events, computers, all expense paid trips, gift certificates etc.
  3. Remember also that the best YALDA members of the quarter are automatically eligible to attend the YALDA international conferences no matter the attendance situation or policy at their branch. At the conference they are entered into the picking for YALDA’s top three members of their year, with fabulous prizes.
  4. At YALDA events you can have the most active and hard working members sit and mingle with the VIPs (which is a great opportunity for them to network with people they might not otherwise meet), which could be a door opener.
  5. If you are invited to other events that are being held by other organizations or companies, instead of just taking the whole board, choose some of your best members to attend as well. Board members do not have to attend all events and should give other members a chance.
  6. Set up YALDA Committees at your university that will allow your members to find something in the organization that interests them or that they are skilled at, and work on it. All branches are required to set up YALDA Committees, but they are free to add more committees if they wish. At Harvard YALDA for example, all active members in committees (joining is not compulsory) are eligible to attend the YALDA Conference for free. For more on Committees please see Chapter 3.11.
  7. Monetary awards or compensations are not encouraged at YALDA. We do believe, however, that all members should be reimbursed for their YALDA related expenses. If the culture in your country or community prefers monetary awards over other avenues, then you may offer them as according to your financial situation.

Again, we encourage you to continue to come up with proactive and creative ideas on how to keep your members active and engaged, knowing your own school culture and the youth culture in your country. Please be sure to share all those great ideas with YALDA, so we can add them to the BAP and share them with other branches.