Running a Club
Clubs are an essential part of student community and life and culture at University. This guide is to help with the starting up and running of clubs so that they will be successful and last for a long time.
A Club is a non-profit organisation that exists for its members – students. Non-profit organisations can make money for itself but this money can’t be distributed to club members without good reason. At the end of the day your Club will be dealing with money and more importantly, creating a legacy that is setting the course for future members even after all the current members have left University. Making good decisions for your Club is vitally important.
Your Club’s structure is all about how you make your decisions. Most Clubs operate on a Committee basis (this is what the standard AUSA Constitution creates), which involves a smaller group making most of the decisions. This is an efficient way of running the club and it has the added bonus of freeing most members from the burden of the necessary administrative tasks, however care must be taken to involve the members in decisions otherwise they can feel left out, disconnected, and disinterested.
An alternative is a Collective structure which involves decisions making by overall consensus of a high number of the membership. This structure can suit certain goals and aims, and it can be particularly useful for Clubs that are starting out, however as the club grows it can be a constraint. It also means ordinary meetings can be bogged down by administration.
When you’re starting out you can take a little from column A and a little from column B, however you will need at least three “Executive Officer” positions – a President (or Chairperson), a Secretary, and a Treasurer.
The main tasks of the President or Chairperson are:
- Manage and oversee the affairs of the Club
- Run the meetings
- Be the key public contact person
- Organise and run the Club’s activities
- Planning and budgeting – the big picture of the Club’s direction.
Useful skills can be:
- Being enthusiastic and committed to the Club – a must!
- Leading without controlling
- Ability to work with a broad range of people
- Being able to run a meeting effectively
The Secretary’s job is mainly administrative and involves:
- Keeping the Club’s non-financial records (for example, minutes – the record of meetings and decisions made)
- Distributing the minutes and agenda (what will be discussed at an upcoming meeting).
- Dealing with correspondence and communications to the Club
- Assisting the President or Chairperson when there is no Vice-President or Vice-Chairperson positions.
The Treasurer’s role is to control the finances of the Club, and tasks include:
- Maintaining all financial records such as the balance sheet, asset register, etc
- Carrying out the banking, making sure all incoming and outgoing payments are made and recorded.
- Preparing for the yearly club health check.
- Having financial skills is useful but not absolutely required. AUSA is always available to help with finances and governance.
Governance and Administration
Meetings at which decisions are made need to be documented with minutes, however some decisions are already made by the constitution, or require a special meeting to make.
The Constitution is the highest authority in the Club as it sets out the basic rules by which the Club is to operate and these rules cannot be broken. These sorts of decisions are along include:
- What the club does and why it exists (the Aims of the Club or Purpose)
- How people can become members and how they can leave or be removed from the Club
- How much the membership fee or levy is.
- What Committee and Executive Officer jobs are available (ie President etc) and what their jobs are (it can be good to create positions that focus on organising or staying on top of important elements of the Club’s life).
- How elections are held.
- What happens if the Club is dissolved (finished or closed up).
The Constitution does not determine how the Club is run on a day-to-day basis, that is the responsibility of the members acting in accordance with the Constitution.
To change the Constitution, or to carry out any action that is noted in the Constitution, the Club must hold a special meeting called a General Meeting. There must be an Initial General Meeting when the Club is created, and then once a year, every year, an Annual General Meeting (AGM).
AGMs are normally held in October before the end of the University year so that any new Committee members have time to transition from the old ones, planning can be done, and the club is ready for the new year. The AGM is where the official reports about the Club and its finances are given and where the elections are held for any Committee position that exists. The Club must also set the membership fee or levy.
Sometimes though a General Meeting may be required when an AGM is not scheduled – the Club may need to change the constitution, elect a new position because someone resigned, remove someone from the Committee, or perhaps to wind up or dissolve the Club. In this case a Special General Meeting may be called.
The difference between an ordinary Club meeting and a General Meeting is mainly a larger number of the club needs to be present in order to conduct the business of the meeting (this is called a quorum and it ensures that important decisions are made by a representative sample of the Club membership – 2/3rds of the membership under the standard AUSA Constitution.
At least once a year your Club will need to have elections for the positions of at least the President, Secretary, and Treasurer, and any other positions listed in your Club’s constitution.
Nominations for people and positions need to be moved and seconded during the meeting, that is, someone needs to put another person’s name forward and another person must then back them up. Nominations can also be made in written form prior to the meeting by giving the Secretary a letter nominating a person that is signed by two members (the paper version of moving and seconding).
If there is only one nomination for a position that person is declared elected and the meeting progresses. If there is a contest, if more than one person is nominated for a position, then an election must be held.
Elections are a “Secret Ballot” which is like voting for Parliament – you write down the name of the person on a piece of paper and then these slips are counted up. To have an election a Returning Officer must be appointed. This person runs the election – they are in charge of handing out the paper used for the ballots, then for collecting them back in, counting them, declaring the result, and destroying the ballots. They are not able to vote. The Returning Officer needs to be agreed upon by the meeting (via a resolution THAT So and So be the Returning Officer for the Committee Elections).
Before voting begins, the meeting should give each candidate an opportunity to speak about why they are standing and what they would do.
Voting happens after the candidates have spoken. The meeting can decide for itself how the elections should be run (as long as the constitution doesn’t say otherwise). Most of the time the First Past the Post system is used, which is when the candidate with the most votes wins. However if there are more than two candidates for a position the Preferential Voting system can be used.
Preferential Voting makes sure that the person elected is truly supported by the membership. All members rank in order their preferences for a position – first preference, second preference, third preference, and so on. All the number ones are added up and if there is a candidate that gets more than 50% of the total votes cast then that person is elected.
If no one makes the 50% threshold the person with the lowest amount of first preference votes is eliminated and the votes that are listed under preference two are distributed to the other candidates. If there is still no winner, the votes that are listed under preference three are distributed, which should then decide a winner.
For example, Sally, Arena, and Akif all want to be elected President. In the first round of voting they get:
In a First Past the Post model Sally would be the winner even though she only won by two votes and got 41% of the votes cast.
In Preferential, because Sally requires more than 50% of the vote, the lowest polling candidate is removed, in this case Akif, and his second place votes from the six ballots cast with him as their first choice are added to the others. If all 6 chose Sally as their second choice, Sally’s share of the vote would be 16-8 or 66% and she would be elected. Likewise, if all the second place votes went to Arena her share of the vote would be 14-10 or 58% and she would win.
If however 2 votes went to Sally and 4 to Arena in their second place choices, it would be tied at 12-12, and then the third votes from the people who voted for Akif would come into play.
If 2 of the 6 people voting for Sally in Round 2 voted Arena in third place her share of the vote would increase to 14, but if the 4 who voted for Arena in second voted for Sally in third, Sally’s share would increase to 16, making her the winner.
Preferential Voting also works well for more candidates as every time another redistribution has to occur to find a winner, another person is removed from the bottom and their votes reshuffled. For example if there were four candidates and there was no result after the first elimination and the redistribution of the second preference votes, the last place candidate would be removed and the third place preferences would be distributed and so on. Preferential means there is almost zero wasted votes.
For more information see http://electionbuddy.com/preferential and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_runoff_voting
If there are ties the Chairperson has a casting vote (meaning a second vote that can only be used to break ties), or can call another election. AUSA can provide assistance with the running of elections, such as providing a neutral Returning Officer and advising on procedure, should your Club require.
After all the positions are declared elected, the meeting can proceed or finish.
Elections must be held at a General Meeting, and so if a committee member resigns a Special General Meeting needs to be called to elect another person in their place. The General Meeting also has the power to remove people from office if a majority of the members want that to happen, and then again, elections must be held.
Membership Levies or Fees
At each AGM your Club will need to set its membership levy or fee for the year ahead. Clubs can also choose to have no membership fee if they wish. Setting membership levies low can encourage people to join up and pay, but the Club may have to charge more fees during the year when there are activities or events.
Alternatively, setting a higher levy may mean that less fundraising will need to be done during the year but if its too high people might not want to pay or join your Club.
It’s a balancing act that is unique to each club, but generally membership levies should be proportionate to the basic operations of the club for the year.
Running an Effective Meeting
Not all Club activities need to be meetings, they can be informal gatherings and often this is a much better way to run the Club. However if decisions need to be made, decisions about spending money or planning an event or activity for example, a formal meeting of the Committee and other members should happen.
The President or Chairperson’s is responsible for running the meeting – they are the Chair of the meeting. Their job is to guide the meeting through the Agenda – the list of things that need discussing or doing – and to put motions to the meeting, that is, to read them out and then hold the vote – for example “THAT the XYZ Club spend $50 on a fundraising barbecue, all those in favour say aye, opposed no, abstentions?” and then judging whether or not the motion passed (votes can also be held by a show of hands or a secret ballot should it be required).
The Secretary’s job is to take the notes of the meeting and formulate these into Minutes. Minutes are the official record of the meeting and includes what topics were discussed, any action points decided, any responsibilities decided, and any motions put up and whether they pass or not and by how much. Minutes are not word-for-word recollections of the meeting, they are just indicative so there’s no need to worry about getting every single detail.
An effective meeting is to the point and it’s the Chair’s job to make sure that the meeting progresses at the right pace. You don’t want people getting bored but you also want people to have their say. To help with moving the meeting on, it can help to send an agenda to everyone or have some paper copies ready to distribute before the meeting. A template of an agenda can be found here.
It helps to summarise and review the meeting at the end making sure that all action points and responsibilities are clearly assigned and recorded correctly.
Recruitment of new members is crucial to the survival of your Club, and there’s no better time of the year to do this than in Orientation or O-Week.
Campus Life manages a “clubs fair” type event where during the whole of O-Week and Re-Orientation clubs set up stalls behind the Student Union Building and next to the quad. During the first week of Semesters (especially the first week of the year) there are loads of students walking around, especially new students, who might be interested in joining.
To set up a stall you will need to contact email@example.com, and then when the time comes, set up a table. Campus Life and AUSA unfortunately do not have enough resources to provide tables and chairs for clubs to use, so you might have to organise something yourselves. We can however give your Club grants to help purchase things like tables, chairs, and gazebos.
If you don’t have much stuff, you might find other Clubs are willing to help you out!
Keep a piece of paper at your stall with room for peoples’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, and student ID numbers and interested people can put their details down. After O-Week, contact these interested people and invite them to come to an activity or event, or organise a club social event at a bar so that they can come along and meet everyone.
Not everyone who puts their name down during O-Week will necessarily come along to your meetings, so don’t take membership levies on the spot unless you’re certain they are interested. After you’ve invited interested people to a few events you can identify the ones who are keen to keep attending, at that point getting them to join properly and paying their levy is a good idea.
Having regular activities is important to keeping members engaged. Sometimes it’s also a good idea to have purely social events that are not the typical activities. Going to Shadows or organising a Club party or barbecue is a great way of developing the social bonds within the Club which is crucial for making sure it stays together and functional. Social events should always be welcoming for new people as Clubs that are cliquey can be off-putting to new members.
Staying in contact with members is important and setting up an email list is the best way of managing this. Text messaging your members when there is an event coming up is also a good way of mobilising people. Be careful not to flood people with too much information but stay in contact often.
Planning for the Future
A Club can only be successful if there is a plan for the future, and many clubs tend to go inactive or shutdown after two or three years because they don’t make transition plans.
Getting a steady flow of new members each year is important, but so is identifying people who might be suitable to continue running the Club after the current members leave. Getting keen new members to take on some low-level responsibilities can be a good way to prepare them for leadership. Another way to develop members is to share around the Officer positions each year, making sure that there isn’t the same team in charge for a few years on end.
A key responsibility of the Officers is to find their replacements and encourage them to seek election. Not everyone will have desires to lead and most people won’t think about it without some prompting. Enthusiastic encouragement is key to making people know and believe they can do the job.
When looking for potential candidates look for people who are enthusiastic about the Club, who turn up and are reliable, and who are always offering to help.
Help! It’s all Gone Wrong!
For help setting up a club, information about club administration or other matters contact the Clubs Administrator at Campus Life – firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are having problems, disagreements about process or procedure, or need to ask a question, AUSA is also here to advocate for you. Feel free to contact AUSA by emailing email@example.com.