Beta Alpha Psi Fall 2020 Suggestions

To help chapters through these uncertain times, the Chapter Advocates have provided the following suggested guidance and tips for chapters to refer to during the fall 2020 semester.

The below will assist chapters in considering creating an online presence, how to collect fees virtually, plan a virtual meet the firms event, and tips for virtual professional and service activities. 

Please contact the Executive Office at bap@bap.org with any questions.

Due to university restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is assumed that most or all Beta Alpha Psi chapters will not be able to have in-person professional meetings in the fall of 2020. Thankfully, chapters are being allowed to have an unlimited number of webinars or virtual meetings for the 2020-21 academic year. This creates many possibilities for interesting and new experiences and an opportunity to more fully engage working students and online students.

Suggestions:

  1. Plan your virtual meetings at a recurring time, as you do with in-person meetings. Use Zoom, Skype. Microsoft Teams, or whatever your school uses and provides free. This may require sending an invitation to every member for every meeting, but that is not difficult and may be a good thing, as it will get the meeting on their calendar. If your speaker does not object, it is easy to record Zoom sessions for future viewing. Also, Zoom will create a report of attendees after the meeting, including how long they were in the meeting.
  2. Getting meeting invitations and announcements out by email may be a problem, as many students don’t regularly check email. The use of social media may help. Also, Beta Alpha Psi could be set up as a class in Canvas or Blackboard or other LMS. The announcement function would automatically notify members when an announcement was posted, Zoom sessions could be easily created and invitations sent, and the grade book function could be used to track participation in various meetings and events.
  3. Even if schools will allow them, most firms are not planning to visit campuses this fall and will be recruiting virtually. Therefore, the firms should be anxious to participate in a virtual session to get in front of BAP members. It may even open up speakers that would not normally come to campus – such as some specialist in a certain area that is in another city or state. While they would not spend the money and time to travel to your campus, they might spend an hour making a virtual presentation. Don’t be shy about asking your local contacts about the possibilities.
  4. Call on the BAP Professional Partners for presentations. The same logic about not having travel expense and time applies here also. Some of them will want to use their own webinar service, but they will be able to provide a list of attendees. This would also apply to successful alumni that are not close enough to come to campus often. They would love a chance to speak.
  5. This year may be a great time to have sessions on ethics, prejudice, social injustice, etc. It is very likely that there is someone on your campus that would be great at this. A speaker from Arts and Sciences talking about morality and good people making bad choices, will be shocked at the similarity to our fraud triangle.

Summary:

Be creative and use this time of unlimited webinars to do things you do not normally do. Use this as an opportunity instead of seeing it as a constraint.

The performance of service activities in the Fall of 2020 is certainly going to be different than usual. The challenges may vary from one school to another, based on school restrictions or local/state restrictions. At the very least, it seems we can assume the use of face coverings and social distancing.

Some thoughts and suggestions follow:

  1. Chapters that have relied heavily or exclusively on VITA for service hours should get an answer quickly from their university regarding the ability to perform that service without social distancing. The IRS is allowing for virtual or remote processing. Guidance can be found in Chapter 10 of Publication 4396-a.
  2. For events that a chapter does every year, it may be necessary to break the service into multiple, smaller projects if possible. For example, working at a local park or garden could be done on consecutive Saturdays with smaller groups of students.
  3. Tutoring is another activity that many chapters use for a substantial part of their service hours. This can be converted to a virtual activity. One option would be to assign members to specific classes and further to certain students within that class. Weekly small group study sessions through Zoom could be conducted, similar to a professor’s virtual office hours. A two-hour session each week of a 14-week semester would give each participating student 28 service hours for one semester. That would make up for a lot of missed hours by other members.
  4. Many not-for-profit organizations that rely heavily on volunteer time are being very creative in converting some of their activities to a virtual experience. For example, organizations that provide tutoring to school-age children, are moving that to an online activity and they love college students as tutors/mentors.
  5. Community Food Banks, including on-campus facilities, are being stretched to the limit and this will continue. These food warehouses are usually large enough that maintaining social distancing while stocking shelves is not a problem. Also, many of these facilities have “backpack” programs for children to take home food for the weekend. These backpacks, sometimes in the hundreds, have to be packed with food every week. Again, this is something that a small group of students could do, if the space is not large enough for a large group to maintain social distancing.
  6. In some states (about 10), volunteers are needed to help with the 2020 Census by contacting (electronically) members of ‘Hard to Count” groups in those states. The Executive Office has more information on this project.
  7. In addition, there are at-home service activities, such as Operation Gratitude and The Kindness Campaign, which allow students to participate in the comfort of their homes.
  8. Junior Achievement opportunities to create video content, blogs, and other resources. Find a local contact here and become a virtual volunteer on topics such as financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.

Summary:

Be creative. Ask your members to make a commitment to a certain cause. Some of the activities discussed above may require a commitment of time by members on a weekly or monthly basis – not just a one and done deal. Ask your members for suggestions and they may surprise you.

Due to restrictions imposed by states and universities, the traditional in-person Meet the Firms events will not be possible in the fall of 2020. Therefore, the best option seems to be a virtual event. One advantage of the virtual event is the possibility that new firms will participate because they do not have to travel to campus. Breakout rooms, similar to Zoom, may be used by firms.

Suggestions:

  1. Consult with your Career Services office. They are probably already planning Virtual Career Fairs for the fall of 2020. Have them help you set-up and manage your event or at least get the contacts and information they have already gathered.
  2. Talk to some of your employers that have already participated in a virtual event.
  3. If your Career Services office is not as helpful as you would like, a Google search will reveal several options. Some of these are:
    1. CareerEco
    2. Hexafair
    3. Career Fair
    4. Handshake
    5. Virtual Career Fair FAQs (for more detail about Virtual Career Fairs)
  4. A potential advantage to Handshake may exist if your school already uses Handshake for job posting and search activities (similar to Purple Briefcase). Your students and employers would already have accounts in Handshake. Another positive for Handshake is the cost. They are offering Virtual Career Fairs at no cost for the fall of 2020.
  5. Firms may be willing to help you with planning and communication, but you will need to communicate with students and employers early and often. Firms can set the criteria for students they want to talk to, such as GPA, graduation date, etc. Firms can also host group sessions in addition to 1:1 meetings with students. It would be helpful to provide the employers with the resumes of students that have signed-up to talk with them in advance of the event. You may consider sending a short survey to gather pertinent information (e.g. will they participate in a virtual MTF and are they willing to use the virtual platform you’ve chosen or would they like to use another one, how do they plan to conduct first and second round interviews, timeframe for the event, best time of day, preference for 1:1 or group meetings, how do they expect students to be dressed if virtual) to help with your planning.

As many universities are preparing to be fully or partially online, Beta Alpha Psi chapters are changing the ways they recruit and engage members online. It is essential for chapters to have an online presence to promote their chapter. For this guide, we will show how a website was built that accepts online membership applications, collects dues, collects sponsorship payments, and collects event registrations at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) chapter.

Creating a website

For recruiting new members, email is an essential way to communicate with students, but having a website where you can direct them to with all the details about membership will aid in the recruitment process. For the purposes of this guide, we will use the Squarespace web platform as an example, but note there are other acceptable platforms such as Wix, WordPress, Weebly, and others.

1. Getting started

  • You will want to see if your university has guidelines around the creation of new websites. Some universities may offer free websites on the university web server or student organization web platform. 

  • If your university does not offer free web hosting, decide if you have funds to pay for external web hosting. There are free options available; however, we recommend paying for hosting in order to accept dues online, have a custom domain (eg: uabbap.org) instead of using the free domain (eg uabbap.squarespace.com), along with other features.

  • If you have funds, Squarespace is a good option. You can start with a free 14 day trial to see if it is right for you. 

2. Preparing your website content

  • Before you start your Squarespace trial, you will want to do some initial groundwork to prepare your content and decide on the pages you will need. See the section titled Recommended Website Pages below for a list of recommended pages and what to include on each.

3. Building your site

  • Once you have decided what pages you need and what content and photos will go on those pages, start your Squarespace trial.

  • The first step will be to choose a template. Squarespace has many templates that you can choose and customize. The UAB chapter website uses the Hayden template

  • Now that you have your site set up, you will want to begin creating your pages. 

4. Choosing your domain

  • Before launching your site, you will want to choose your domain name (URL). 

5. Choosing a billing plan

  • The Business plan or higher is required to collect dues, have a custom domain, have multiple editors on the site, and access other premium features. 

Guide: Squarespace Getting Started guide 

 

Recommended Website Pages

Below is a selection of recommended pages you may want to include on your website. Each page is linked to an example from the UAB chapter. 

1. Sponsors: recognize chapter sponsors

2. Sponsorship and Employer Payments: an online option to allow organizations to submit sponsorship payments and event registration fees

3. Leadership: list the chapter advisor(s) and officers with their contact information

4. Membership: list membership types and pledge/initiation requirements for each membership type. Include a link to your membership application on this page. 

  • Application: using the Squarespace form tool, you can collect information about applications. The form submissions can be stored in a Google Drive account and/or emailed to an advisor or officer. 
  • Pay Dues: this page will use the Squarespace Store function to accept credit card payments. See more about setting up the store in the below section called Setting up an Online Store to Collect Dues
  • Check Hours: this provides an easy way for members to check their hours. One way to do this is to embed a Google Sheet into the page.

5. Events: include upcoming chapter events

6. Photo Gallery: this is a helpful recruitment tool to show activities and events the chapter is hosting and to give prospective members an idea of what to expect 

7. Contact: contact information for your chapter

 

Setting up an Online Application

An online form tool is the best method of collecting online applications. Squarespace has a built in tool, as other web platforms do as well. If you have an existing web presence other than Squarespace, check and see if your university offers any form tools such as Qualtrics or Google Forms. These will work just as well as Squarespace forms.

1. Set up your form

  • Create all the fields for the information you need to collect from applicants
  • Set up an email address for the new submissions to be emailed to
  • If you want an archive of all the submissions (this is recommended), you can create a Google account or link an existing account to sync submissions to your Google Drive

2. Promote your application

  • You will want to link your application form prominently on your homepage and site navigation
  • You will also want to include the link in emails and communications to students

Guide: Squarespace Forms guide

 

Setting up an Online Store to Collect Dues

The way you collect dues will vary depending on your university guidelines for collecting funds. Many universities require you to use an approved e-commerce platform. However, if your university doesn’t, you can use Squarespace to collect dues. This method requires that you have a bank account separate from the university’s bank account. If you are using a university e-commerce tool, you will most likely be able to get a link to the online store that you can add to your site, and you can skip all the steps below. 

1. Connecting your bank account

  • To connect a bank account to your Squarespace site, you must first connect it to either a PayPal or Stripe account.

2. Accounting for processing fees

  • Both Squarespace and the payment processing tool you choose (PayPal or Stripe) will charge a credit card processing fee.
  • One way to mitigate this is to add this into your chapter dues. You may want to include a note on the site that outlines this extra online fee.

3. Setting up online store and due amounts

  • To create your online store, create a new Products page 
  • Once created, you will be able to create Products for each dues amount
  • These Products will need to be set up as a Service type, as there isn’t an option for dues and membership type products. 
  • This process can be duplicated to create a page to accept payments from firms for sponsorships, Meet the Firms attendance, etc.

Guide: Squarespace guide for connecting a payment processor

 

FAQ's

1. Why does our chapter need a website?

  • For recruiting new members, email is an essential way to communicate with students, but having a website where you can direct them to with all the details about membership will aid in the recruitment process. 

2. Who manages the website?

  • Designate an officer role to manage the website. Many chapters will have an officer role dedicated to managing and overseeing the content of the chapter’s website.

3. What website platforms should we use?

  • Research your universities policies on creations of new website. Some may offer free websites on the university web server or student organization web platform. Make sure to familiarize your officers with the university policies around student organization websites.
  • If your university does not offer a website, there are several free or low-cost website options to choose from such as wix.com and squarespace.com. 

4. What do we need to do to get started on creating a website?

  • Consider investing in a web hosting service that will provide a domain name and that offers an option of collecting chapter dues online. Bluehost or Microsoft Azure offer low cost accounts. 

5. What content should we have on our web page?

  • We strongly recommend including the following content items on your chapter’s website:
    • Description of Beta Alpha Psi and your chapter name and a bit of your chapter history.
  • Leadership: List the names and photos of your chapter officers and a point of contact for an interested student to reach out to.
  • Candidate and Membership requirements
  • Online application: Most chapters use Google Forms or Squarespace to create an online application for interested students to submit to the chapter.
    • An online payment application for the student to pay their chapter dues. Google Forms or Squarespace are suggested applications to consider.
    • For any online payment system outside of the university e-commerce platform, your chapter may be required to have a bank account and tax id to connect to a PayPal or Stripe account.
  • Chapter Meeting Information: List the location, days and hours when the chapter meets. A calendar of events is also suggested. (Keep up to date!)
  • Photo Gallery: Post photos of your chapter events!
  • List any sponsoring firms or supporters of your chapter on the website along with their logos.

*Make sure to follow the Executive Office branding guidelines.

6. Once the website has been completed, then what?

  • Promote Beta Alpha Psi in the following ways:
    • BAP Candidates and Members can earn service hours by tutoring other students in accounting, finance, business analytics and digital technology. Make those students aware of Beta Alpha Psi.
  • Hold virtual meetings at least twice a month via Zoom or Skype. 
    • Post the virtual meeting hours on your chapter’s website. 
    • Ask faculty members to help spread the word of Beta Alpha Psi. 
    • Invite as many students as possible to the virtual meetings to make them aware of your chapter. 
    • Invite professionals to the virtual meetings.
      • Hold meetings where the professional presents on a technical topic.
      • Hold a meeting where the students present to the professionals what they learned about technical topics.
      • Hold a student wellness virtual meeting.
    • Report all applicable hours in the Reporting Intranet
  • For committed candidates and members offer the below professional development resources that can be accessed virtually and during the student’s personal time. Once the student completes the virtual webinars, they should submit to the chapter reporter the hours to report in the Reporting Intranet.

Hear what our Professional Partners think about BAP!

At Xero, we want millions of small businesses to thrive through better tools, information and connections with their accounting and bookkeeping partners. We know technology is only half the equation - it's the human and technology elements combined that make the role of an accounting professional so powerful. Members of Beta Alpha Psi are the catalyst to make our mission a reality and represent the future success of small businesses as the advisors that will lead them forward.

Ryan Wakefield
Xero