Posted by: Del Suggs – Saltwatermusic.com
For the next several columns, I want to address developing your program board. Even if
your board is functioning well, there is nearly always room for improvement. Perhaps
you’ll get some ideas here that you can use to take your board to the next level. Strive to
be a High-Powered Program Board.
Plain Vanilla Organizational Structure
Let’s begin by looking at the organizational structure of program boards. Most of them
follow the “SGA” Model. You know what I mean– there is a President or Chair,
Vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. Maybe committee chairs, “at-large seats,” or
otherwise designated additional members of the Executive Committee.
Why do we organize like this? Because it’s what we know. It’s familiar. Is it the best
way to organize a Program Board? Maybe, or maybe not. Let’s consider some other
Every organization needs a Presiding Officer. You can call it President, Chair, or Grand
PooBah, but it simply identifies the person who chairs meetings and heads the
organization. You also need a Vice President or Vice Chair, to take care of business when
the President is absent or unable.
Next, you must have a historian or archivist to capture all the important actions that take
place during meetings. It can be the Secretary, or Recording Secretary, or General Note
Taker. But you must– you must– maintain accurate records of your meetings. These are
called the “minutes.”
There may also be an officer responsible for keeping tabs on the budget. This can be the
Treasurer, the Financial Officer, the Budget Director, or some other title. Often Program
Boards skip this officer, because the budget is kept mostly by the Advisor and so the
Treasurer’s job is unnecessary.
How about the members who actually do the work, who are in charge of specific areas or
events? They are generally known as Chairs, a non-gender specific form of Chairman or
What’s In A Name?
Does all this sound familiar? It also sounds dull. Why should a High-Powered Program
Board– in charge of FUN on campus– be this boring? After all, you’re not passing
legislation. You’re creating exciting co-curricular events on campus!
Look at some alternative structures and titles. Consider borrowing a page from Corporate
America. Change your “president” to “Chief Executive Officer”. Make your vice
president the “Chief Operating Officer.” The treasurer becomes the Chief Financial
Officer, and so on. The executive committee becomes the Board of Directors.
Perhaps you could borrow the structure from the entertainment industry. Name your
president the “Executive Producer.” Name your committee chairs “Producers,” who then
answer to the Executive Producer. Call your members “Directors” or members of the
Don’t just change the titles. Consider the entire “chain of command,” who answers to
whom. Keep the levels as simple as possible. You don’t want too much confusion.
Information gets filtered by each person as it’s passed along. Keep the command structure
as simple as possible.
Members and Officers
One major, recurring problem with program boards is recruitment. Either you can’t get
enough members, or they are all from the same clique. The current members recruit their
friends, who recruit their friends. Often, program boards consist of a group of 19-21 year
old students, programming for themselves.
Diversity is vital, and I don’t just mean ethnic diversity. Certainly, you want the ethnic
make up of your board to mirror the campus. But does your program board really
represent your campus? Are there freshmen and sophomores, or just juniors and seniors?
Are there non-traditional students and traditional students, both younger and older
You can solve the need to diversify by actually creating positions in your bylaws or
constitution that must be filled . For example, amend your bylaws to require four
members of the freshman class on your board. That will make you recruit freshmen. Or
you could call for the Freshman Class President to appoint a certain number of members.
Consider reaching out to other organizations to help you broaden your Program Board.
You could stipulate in your bylaws that you have a representative from each active club on
your campus– whether it’s the Chess Club, the Black Student Union, or the Spirit Squad.
It’s always a good idea to bring in new people and new ideas to your program board. If
you can’t just find them, create a structure that will bring them to you!
Define the duties and responsibilities of your officers. Spell them out clearly, and make
sure that everyone is aware of their obligations. And not just for your officers and
executive committee. Make sure the regular members are also aware of their
But take it a step further. Draft a contract for your officers and members to sign. If
“contract” sounds too legal and scary, then call it an “agreement.” List the
responsibilities for each officer. For example, the President must preside over meetings,
appoint committee chairs, and more. A general member of the program board might be
required to attend meetings, serve on a committee, assist at events, and the like.
Having a signed agreement serves a multiple purpose. It will define the duties for each
member. It will make each member aware of their duties. It will also add a sense of
obligation, even though it’s not legally enforceable. You obviously won’t be able to force
a board member to come to meetings or help with events. But if he or she signs an
agreement that lists attendance as a duty, then you know that they are aware of that
obligation. It does take things a little more seriously.
Back in the day, Program Board members actually had to physically be in an office to
answer the telephone and reply to correspondence. Today, with cellphones, computers
and the Internet, you can do all of that work and more without ever setting foot in the
But you still need to set office hours.
The problem with working away from the office is simple: procrastination. It’s too easy
to avoid doing your job if you’re away from the office. Most successful professionals
such as writers, composers, and other artists, have offices and studios other than their
home. It is more conducive to doing productive work.
If you set hours for the officers on your program board, then they will have to be in the
office taking care of business. It’s not a time to do homework or surf the Internet or play
video games. It’s the time to review CDs and DVDs of new artists, to create promotional
materials, and respond to program board emails. Setting aside just a couple of hours each
week to focus on your program board duties in the office– and nothing else– will result in
an enormous increase in efficiency.
Next, we’ll deal with time management tools, conflict resolution, and some branding
and marketing ideas. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.
Just drop me an email, and I’ll get back to you.