Running a YUSU Society

Date
Tags howto, university
Target Audience University of York people.
Epistemic Status These are all my opinions about running a society based on doing it for several years. YUSU likes to change things, so any (or all) of this may no longer be valid.

I have been around a bit:

1st year
(S­pring) Elected Sand­wich Rep of DougSoc.
2nd year
(S­pring) Elected Shape Rep of DougSoc.
3rd year
(S­pring) Elected Chair of Hack­Soc.
4th year
(S­pring) Re-elected Chair of Hack­Soc.
5th year
(S­pring) Re-elected Chair of Hack­Soc.
(Sum­mer) Elected Or­dinary Member of So­ci­eTEA.
6th year
(Au­tumn) Elected Treas­urer of So­ci­eTEA (no longer Or­dinary Mem­ber).
(S­pring) Re-elected Chair of Hack­Soc.
(S­pring) Re-elected Treas­urer of So­ci­eTEA.
(Sum­mer) Stepped down from Chair of Hack­Soc.

I am writing this doc­u­ment post hoc, so I am sure I will miss things out. On the other hand, I’ve been doing this for a while, how much could I have for­got­ten, really?

This is a gen­eral con­cep­tual guide, with no spe­cifics of pro­tocol. This is be­cause the pro­to­cols keep chan­ging.

Roles

There are three man­datory roles: the chair, sec­ret­ary, and treas­urer. They are the sig­nat­ories of the so­ciety and two of them are needed to au­thorise pay­ments.

Being a Chair

The chair is the face of the so­ci­ety: the person who deals with YUSU (ex­cept YUSU Fin­ance), de­part­ments, the uni­ver­sity as a whole, and any ex­ternal bod­ies. The chair is also re­spons­ible for making sure everything gets done.

The ideal chair is cha­ris­matic, or­gan­ised, and good at del­eg­at­ing. Del­eg­a­tion is the most im­portant skill, or you will go mad.

Some­what more con­cretely, the chair (in co-­op­er­a­tion with the rest of the com­mit­tee) will:

  • For­mu­late goals (for ex­ample, run­ning a large event in col­lab­or­a­tion with so­ci­eties X, Y, and Z in two terms time).
  • Plan ex­actly what is hap­pening each term in ad­vance.
  • Figure out what needs to be done to make all the goals and plans work.
  • Del­egate tasks as ap­pro­pri­ate.
  • Com­mu­nicate reg­u­larly with the rest of the com­mittee to en­sure everything gets done, and ad­just plans as ne­ces­sary.

The chair is also re­spons­ible for making sure the AGM (An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing) hap­pens, but that’s pretty easy: just stick it at the start of an­other event.

Being a Sec­retary

I haven’t done this, but as chair, I del­eg­ated: room book­ings; dealing with the YUSU/uni­versity bur­eau­cracy; and com­mu­nic­a­tions.

Being a Treas­urer

The treas­urer, un­sur­pris­ingly, man­ages the money of the so­ci­ety. This will be far more money than you ex­pect: So­ci­eTEA is a fairly small so­ci­ety, and has had over £500 of in­come, and spent around that much, in the past seven months.

The treas­urer has four main jobs:

  • De­pos­iting mem­ber­ship fees (if you charge them).
  • Pro­du­cing and handing in claims forms.
  • Ap­plying for grants from YUSU.
  • Keeping an eye on YUSU Fin­ance.

Being an Or­dinary Member

The du­ties of an or­dinary member will vary greatly de­pending on the so­ci­ety. Some have a number of spe­cial­ised or­dinary member roles, others treat or­dinary mem­bers as a gen­eral re­source to help run­ning the so­ci­ety. Whatever so­ciety it is, they all have one thing in com­mon: the or­dinary member is a low-­com­mit­ment role which the so­ciety can sur­vive without. Any­thing more es­sen­tial is a “proper” po­s­i­tion.

  • As Sand­wich Rep of DougSoc, my formal re­spons­ib­il­ities con­sisted of providing sand­wiches to the (twice a term) com­mittee meet­ings, and run­ning the en­d-of-year pic­nic.
  • As Shape Rep of DougSoc, my sole formal re­spons­ib­ility was picking the shape for every term. I also ran some the oc­ca­sional event.
  • As Or­dinary Member of So­ci­eTEA, I had no formal re­spons­ib­il­it­ies, and in­stead just ad­vised the (very new) com­mittee about run­ning a so­ci­ety. This role was cre­ated be­cause I had been doing so as a normal non-­com­mittee mem­ber.

Events and So­cials

The terms “event” and “so­cial” don’t really have well-defined mean­ings. After all, isn’t everything a so­ciety does an “event”? As far as the uni­ver­sity and YUSU are con­cerned, however, an “event” is a spe­cial activity re­quiring spe­cial plan­ning (see ‘Events and EVENT­S’).

Events and EVENTS

Some­times an event will be fancy enough that the uni­ver­sity or YUSU feels that it needs proper over­sight. To achieve this, an Event Man­age­ment Form (EMF) must be sub­mitted at least three weeks in ad­vance. The EMF cov­ers:

  • What, when, and where the event is.
  • What non-uni­versity people are at­tend­ing.
  • What re­sources are used.
  • What the risks, and their mit­ig­a­tion, are.

It’s very fuzzy what makes an event an EVENT. If in doubt, ask the YUSU Health & Safety per­son. The gen­eral rule of thumb is that “nor­mal” so­ciety events don’t need an EMF, but any­thing out­-of-the-ordinary does.

Plan­ning a Term

Be­fore a term starts, or cer­tainly by the end of week one, the com­mittee should de­cide what’s on that term. There are two very op­posed schools of thought:

  1. Each term is just a per­muta­tion of the es­tab­lished events, in which case plan­ning is very simple.
  2. Each term is totally unique, in which case plan­ning is very dif­fi­cult.

Most so­ci­eties fall some­where around the middle. DougSoc is an ex­ample of a so­ciety which falls very much to­wards (1): al­most all of DougSoc’s events have been run for over a dec­ade, and re­peat every year; new events do get tried out, but the bulk of their activ­ities are de­term­ined by tra­di­tion.

Here is how I liked to plan a term:

  1. Enu­merate the events that you will def­in­itely be hav­ing, such as weekly so­cials.
  2. De­termine which, if any, of those con­flict and should be spread apart. For ex­ample, having a fort­nightly pub trip in the same week as a bar­crawl may not be the best tim­ing.
  3. Come up with a few can­didate ar­range­ments based on these con­straints.
  4. Think about any ad­di­tional less-­con­crete events, and re­peat the pro­cess.
  5. Point (4) can be re­vis­ited during the term as ideas oc­cur.

This pro­cess is fairly rigid for the bread-and-butter events, the things that make your so­ciety your so­ciety. For Hack­Soc, these are the weekly so­cial, the fort­nightly pub, the fort­nightly boardgames, and so on. It is more flex­ible for the more unique events, which al­lows ex­per­i­ment­a­tion without com­prom­ising what people are used to. I think it strikes a good bal­ance.

Finding a New Com­mittee and Elec­tions

Elec­tions happen at least once a year, at the AGM (an­nual gen­eral meet­ing). They can also happen more fre­quently, if people step down. The AGM is usu­ally to­wards the end of Spring term.

Strictly speak­ing, an AGM con­sists of:

I have never seen an ac­count of the fin­ances be given.

The most suc­cessful way to find a new com­mittee is for each member to find and groom a suc­cessor in the Au­tumn and Spring terms. An­other very suc­cessful ap­proach, which DougSoc uses, is to have a large number of or­dinary mem­bers: people tend to run for an or­dinary member po­s­i­tion in their first year, and then for a higher­-­level po­s­i­tion in their second year after they have ex­per­i­ence on the com­mit­tee. The DougSoc ap­proach re­quires a fairly large so­ciety to be sus­tain­able, however.

Co­er­cing people to run for elec­tion on the day is gen­er­ally a bad idea.

Re-rat­i­fic­a­tion

After a new com­mittee is elec­ted, the so­ciety must be re-rat­i­fied. How this is done changes ba­sic­ally every year, so I will say little more on the mat­ter. It is usu­ally a pro­cess done by the new com­mittee under the guid­ance of the old, and YUSU emails out only slightly con­fusing in­struc­tions when it’s AGM sea­son.

Fin­ance

Fin­ance is mostly pa­per­work, and done by the chair, sec­ret­ary, and treas­urer. There are claims forms, which au­thorise a pay­ment from the so­ciety to an in­di­vidual, and paying in slips, which put money in your so­ci­ety’s ac­count.

A so­ciety has two ac­counts:

Strictly speak­ing, all money must be de­pos­ited with YUSU Fin­ance, and keeping it ex­tern­ally is not al­lowed. In prac­tice, there is some flex­ib­il­ity, as cash is useful to have. However, YUSU will use your de­pos­ited money when de­term­ining how many mem­bers you have, so keeping at least that por­tion up­-to-date is a good idea.

Using an ex­ternal bank ac­count for so­ciety money is a big no-no.

Grants

Grants are a good way to get a large sum of money without needing to sell your mem­ber’s or­gans.

Un­for­tu­nately, you have to be very sure you will spend it all, as oth­er­wise YUSU may be less in­clined to give you a grant in the fu­ture. This should not be too tricky, however, as you need to give YUSU an itemised list jus­ti­fying the asked-for total. Grant money can also be re­as­signed fairly simply by emailing the So­ci­eties Co­ordin­ator.

There are two types of grant:

  • The main grant: this is ap­plied for to­wards the end of the aca­demic year, and made avail­able once you hit two thirds of your pro­jected mem­ber­ship tar­get.
  • The other grants: these come under various names, like “devel­op­ment grant”, “equip­ment grant”, or “new pro­jects grant”. They are all the same thing: a way to get a quick grant of less money than the main grant.

Don’t trust YUSU Fin­ance!

There’s an­other, un­for­tu­nate, part of the man­aging of a so­ci­ety’s fin­ances: keeping an eye on how much money YUSU Fin­ance thinks the so­ciety has. This will al­most never match up with how much money you think the so­ciety has, for a couple of reas­ons:

  • YUSU Fin­ance will pro­cess trans­ac­tions weirdly: in­di­vidual claims may be split into mul­tiple with­draw­als; dis­tinct claims may be merged into a single with­drawal; and the same with de­pos­its.
  • YUSU Fin­ance will clutter the his­tory by fre­quently making in­cor­rect or double trans­ac­tions, and then re­versing them.
  • YUSU Fin­ance will oc­ca­sion­ally make in­cor­rect trans­ac­tions without real­ising, and only re­verse them when you email them saying some­thing like “hey, we didn’t spend £100 on a bus.”

I re­com­mend doing your own ac­count­ing. I did it for So­ci­eTEA, and while I could never make it match up ex­actly with what YUSU Fin­ance thought we had, it was fairly close, and much more read­able than the state­ments you can get from them.

I used hledger for the ac­count­ing. Here is a rep­res­ent­ative trans­ac­tion:

2016/10/21 Yet more teas
    li­ab­il­it­ies:own fund­s:aleksis           £-5.04 ; Lem­on­grass & ginger
    li­ab­il­it­ies:­main grant:re­stock­:aleksis  £-4.41 ; Rooibos lemon
    li­ab­il­it­ies:­main grant:new:aleksis      £-8.64 ; Kokeicha
    li­ab­il­it­ies:own fund­s:aleksis           £-5.04 ; Green tea & mint
    li­ab­il­it­ies:own fund­s:aleksis           £-4.41 ; Blood or­ange
    li­ab­il­it­ies:­main grant:new:aleksis      £-3.78 ; Chun mee
    li­ab­il­it­ies:own fund­s:aleksis           £-8.28 ; Kukicha
    ex­penses:tea

I like to have sep­arate ac­counts for each sort of money we have, and for each person in­volved. I also like to have itemised trans­ac­tions, so it is clear where the money is go­ing. You don’t need to go into that level of de­tail, but some­thing beyond what YUSU Fin­ance provides is very con­veni­ent.

The com­plete journal is avail­able, along with a re­port that hledger gen­er­ates.

Press and Pub­li­city

There are two dif­ferent goals for p&p, and need dif­ferent strategies:

Here are some tech­niques I have used: