Club and Organization Advisor Guide:
Suggestions & Guidelines for Being an Effective Advisor
Familiarize yourself with policies and procedures Part of being a good advisor is knowing University policy and procedures, or at least knowing where to direct students to find them. Imagine if your student group spent a great deal of time planning a trip, event, or fundraiser, only to find out that what they’ve planned violates University policy. A list of policies and procedures can be found by visiting: http://www.stlawu.edu/student-activities-and-leadership/policies-and-procedures
Lay out clear expectations—and don’t be afraid to say no! Have open and honest conversations with club/organization leadership about what they are looking for in an advisor, as well as what they can expect from you. For example, are you comfortable with students calling or texting you after hours? If so, how late at night is too late to contact you? Do you stop checking email after a certain point in the evening? If so, let students know so that they don’t expect a reply until the following morning. Lastly, don’t be afraid to say no. It is important and perfectly acceptable to seek balance among your various commitments.
Let the students steer the ship Allow students to navigate their own course. Try to sit back and listen as best you can. You should be available to offer advice if the students ask for it, or to guide them in the right direction if something they’re planning violates University policy. Otherwise, student clubs and organizations should be student-directed. Students will benefit most from co-curricular leadership experiences if they are given the chance to try (and sometimes fail), as long as they are doing so safely. Remember the difference between ‘advising’ and ‘supervising’.
Be prepared for interpersonal conflict Conflict is a natural part of the group process. However, a good way to minimize conflict is to discuss roles and expectations early on. Having club/organization officers and members agree on clearly-specified roles and responsibilities in one of their first meetings may help prevent disputes down the road.
Encourage the group to take care of basic ‘nuts and bolts’ details These may include updating their constitution, maintaining accurate contact lists, or creating a shareable group calendar so that everyone can be on the same page. It also includes making sure that any bills are paid on time and critical event-planning details, such as room reservations or catering requests, are completed in a timely manner.
Assist in facilitating effective club/organization transitions Encourage club officers to keep detailed notes of what their position entails, as well as any traditions, guidelines, budgetary notes, or other information that would be helpful to pass down to the next set of officers. When officer transitions are smooth, it allows the group to continue to grow and develop, rather than spending time reinventing the wheel.