Maintaining Good Records and Institutional Knowledge


As with many student organizations, some of your team might be made up of graduating seniors. It’s important to think about how this amazing new organization that you just created survive once they graduate! Are all the founding members graduating? Or most? It's not enough to hand the baton off to the next person and force them to recreate the wheel. You need to make sure the next person can leap frog these growing pains by handing off the good work you have done and everything that you have learned along the way.

Document everything you do. Meeting agendas, meetings minutes, tool kits that you used for direct actions. All of this is extremely useful institutional knowledge. When you put an event together create a spreadsheet tracker for your event that lists all the moving pieces: who owned them, what was involved in organizing this piece, who were your contacts that contributed products necessary for the event (such as venue, sound/VA, media, signs, printing, etc), everything. Not only is this useful for someone picking up the baton but it also makes planning similar events easier so you can focus less on organizing the basics and more on depth and quality.   

Build your leadership bench. The bus test is a fun scenario to explore. Basically, if you got hit by a bus today would there be someone who could take over your responsibilities with the confidence, knowledge, and skills to succeed? If your group would fold because you aren’t around then you definitely need to do more to snowflake your organization. Is there someone in your group who has displayed a passion for the work and a propensity for helping others grow? Maybe they would make a great leader! Schedule a 1:1 with them to initiate the conversation, start including them in the work you do for your organization, give them small responsibilities to test their commitment and reliability. Basically, groom someone to do everything you do. Remember the motto “Organize yourself out of a job.” as you grow your organization and you will do great!

Put all of your important/must-have information in one place. Since almost everything is done on google these days, a google drive works great. But you can also put a lot of this stuff on a jump drive. In fact, doing both - having one as a backup - may be the smart thing to do.

It may not seem natural to store so much information that we normally hold by memory but we have to be forward looking. If someone owns important information, like passwords for social media accounts or website accounts, you should encourage them to store that information in a central location that is accessible to everyone. Nothing is more stressful than being a responsibility without the tools that you need to be successful. All good people eventually move on, so when the next person comes along to take over a role make sure that they have everything they need to succeed.

Caroline Kavit