How You Can Help Students Transition Their Club and Organization Leadership Virtually

With so much going on, you may have forgotten a critical loose end that needs tying up: The transfer of student organization leadership.

Don’t worry; it happens to even the best advisors!

If your students have found that their clubs got lost in the shuffle of a chaotic semester, this list will serve as a guide for how you can effectively advise them on virtually transitioning their members for a successful start next semester.

6 Tips

1. Host a videoconference election party

If your students didn’t get a chance to vote their new leadership in, have them invite their members to a virtual election party. Candidates for each open position should have a chance to speak about why they would be a great fit for the role, along with any organization-specific comments that the existing leadership would like them to make.

After the candidates have had the opportunity to introduce themselves and their vision for the organization, encourage questions in the chat feature from viewers. It would be helpful to have a moderator for this so they can direct questions to the intended recipient.

Once the event has concluded, participants should be emailed a link to the voting ballot. This could be something like a Google form or a Qualtrics survey, or you could use features built into a student engagement platform.

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2. Schedule a call with new leadership

Once the votes are submitted and tallied, announce the winners!

Then, after everyone has had a chance to celebrate, have the outgoing officers invite the newly elected leaders to join them on a call to discuss next steps. This would be a great time for them to introduce an action plan for transitioning responsibilities and answer any pressing questions that successors have about their roles.

3. Establish a timeline

In order to ensure the action plan goals are met, help your advisees create a timeline for completion. It may take a couple of months for the new leaders to get their bearings, but that won’t seem as ominous if they’ve clearly outlined a schedule for covering all the content. 

4. Unpack the action plan

This is the meat and potatoes of the leadership transition. Predecessors should take their time talking through the tasks that need to get accomplished. Here are some things that should be included in the action plan:

A review of transition documents: If your students haven’t already completed one of these, encourage them to start working on one! California State University, University of Southern Mississippi, and Sam Houston State University have some great examples.

Upload the transition reports onto a Google Drive or shared Box folder so successors can make notes, prompt questions, or refer to it down the line.

An overview of important files: Speaking of Google Drive and Box, ensure that the student organization you’re advising has one already! These tools are great digital places to drop shared documents, such as member lists, contracts, event planning worksheets, meeting minutes, and organization by-laws. (Find out how Presence can help with this, too!)

As your students transition leadership, they should carefully explain how each file is used. They can also talk about updates that need to be made to existing documents for incoming officers to add that to their to-do lists!

A budget breakdown: The student org’s budget is going to shift from year to year since it is likely dependent upon student fees and student government allocations.

But although budget lines may not be the same, it’s important to still talk through budget must-haves, and events to fiscally plan for.

A creative way to do this virtually would be to have new leadership practice a zero-based budget wherein they project costs associated with the organization’s initiatives. They can factor in dues or donations, if applicable, and then propose an amount to ask student government for. This is a great way to get them strategically thinking and a tangible way for you to highlight some areas they may have forgotten to consider.

When students become leaders of an organization, their mindsets begin to shift from when an event will happen to when they’ll need to start planning for that event. So, the students finishing their terms should guide incoming officers through a projected timeline of events. That way, they can work backward and fill in the gaps for when certain tasks need to be completed. A shared calendar will be very helpful for this part of the action plan. (Presence even made a free program planner to help get them started!)

A policy and history review: Don’t forget to review the do’s and don’ts of student organization leadership. Be sure that incumbents are aware of pertinent policies as well as any outstanding sanctions or probationary terms. For example, maybe your students forgot to officially get their organization registered last year, so they have to wait a semester before they can host events again.

Learning from mistakes is important but passing those lessons and stipulations on is even more essential.

A working to-do list: As your students go through each element of organizational transition, be sure that they are left with a good sense of what comes next and how best to plan for the semester. For example, both the outgoing and incoming leadership teams should work together to settle any outstanding contracts or invoices, discuss recruitment strategies, plan for the club recognition process, and discuss strategies for a successful first general interest meeting.

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5. Transfer ownership

This can include email passwords, social media profiles, website credentials, and any other accounts that new leadership will need access to.

Encourage your students to change those passwords for enhanced security, and allow them to bring their unique perspectives to the pages while maintaining the essence of the student organization. If applicable, you should also encourage your students to notify affiliated departments or advisors of the leadership changes.

A fun way to introduce the new leadership team would be to host an Instagram Live session with them. You can find some tips on how to use that platform (and TikTok!) here.

6. Send some snail mail

If your students have an extra stamp to spare, suggest that they send the new leaders a note of encouragement. They can wish them well and leave them with a few nuggets of parting wisdom. It will be the motivation they need to take all they’ve learned and apply it as they start fresh in the new semester.

As you work through the leadership transition process with your students and use this list as a guide, reassure them that there are many resources at their disposal. They shouldn’t let a virtual transition hold them back. They can use technology’s interconnected platforms as a means to keep their organization’s momentum going.

You’ll have equipped them with the tools. So, empower them to go build something great with their handy new team!

How do you plan to guide students through leadership transition when you cannot all be together in person? We’d love to hear your tips. Connect with us @themoderncampus.

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Chelsea Jordan

About the author: Chelsea Jordan (she/her) is a student affairs jack-of-all-trades with a passion for women's leadership. She currently serves as the Associate Director for Campus Life at Tufts University, and if she could have dinner with anyone tomorrow, it would be with the woman who inspires her most: Brené Brown. Learn how we can help get your students involved.