by Bahia Simons-Lane
October 10, 2018
After meeting with so many chapters and hearing their stories as part of our leadership program, here are some general recommendations from USJETAA on how to deal with some of the most common issues:
Establish a board of directors to help with maintaining institutional knowledge and to support transitions.
Due to the volunteer nature of JETAA leadership, many JETAA chapters find it challenging to maintain institutional knowledge over time. Many chapters experience periods of turnover where many officers leave at one time and sometimes it's difficult to find an immediate replacement. Establishing a board of directors to provide high-level advice and guidance can help by providing extra support in times of transition, assist with finding new officers, and keeping older alumni engaged and giving them an opportunity to share institutional knowledge. For board of director members, chapters should consider past officers and JET alumni with experience serving on other boards.
Think creatively about how to provide value.
It can be helpful to think outside the box when addressing the specific needs of your chapter. Are you spread out over a large area, but don't have enough alumni to officially establish a subchapter? Create regional representative positions to help serve those areas or ramp up your social media efforts to create a virtual community. Are your members using Facebook less? Update your website regularly and use MailChimp to communicate with your members by email. Is your chapter spread too thin to do bigger events? Partner with a local organization like your Japan America Society, World Affairs Council, or the Asian studies department at a nearby university. Do your members like to eat or read? Create an officer position to serve those alumni by having a Dining Chair or a Book Club Chair.
Don't try to do it all!
Create SMART goals:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
Think about the needs specific to your chapter and plan from there. For example:
- Evaluate your annual activities. Are they all well attend? Is the effort to hold the event worth the result? Cut out those events that are not having your desired impact and replace them with new events or activities that are easier to implement.
- Are you considering pursuing 501(c)(3) status? Why? Do you need to be able to fundraise? Will you be able to sustain it and stick with the annual filing requirements in the long-term? Can you meet your needs through partnerships or support from organizations such as USJETAA without taking on 501(c)(3) status?
Seek support from others.
You're not alone! Seek support from USJETAA, JETAA USA, other chapters, and JET alumni chapter leaders. If you're pursuing 501(c)(3) contact a chapter that has it, ask them about their process and if they have example materials to share. Seek out a JET alumni in your area who is a lawyer and see if they are willing to help with the paperwork pro bono. If you need funds for an activity, contact USJETAA about the program offerings that may be able to support those activities or for ideas about grants to apply for that will support your programs. At this writing of this post, applications are still open for the second round of Sasakawa USA Grants for JETAA Chapters!