Chapter leaders are selected at the start of the school year and are trained to support the Best Buddies chapter at their school and support the mission in action. Chapter leaders should uphold Best Buddies expectations and serve as a role model for their chapter. Leaders are expected to meet regularly to plan meetings, communicate goals and challenges, and support the mission in their school.
All downloads for leading your chapter are on the Resources section of BBU.
Review the information below for information on leading a successful Best Buddies chapter.
The officer team can be made up of a variety of positions and should be developed to meet the needs of the chapter. Any position that helps promote growth and sustainability for the chapter is encouraged.
The average chapter officer corps consists of:
- Chapter President
- Vice President
- Buddy Director
Chapter advisors are also crucial members on the leadership team in order for the chapter to have a successful year.
Chapter presidents and advisors keep the chapter’s portal up to date on BB360, including managing members, making matches, creating events for the chapter calendar, and submitting the end of year snapshot.
If you are interested in being a leader in your chapter, be sure to discuss opportunities with the current officer team and advisor at your school.
Best Buddies is committed to developing leaders and empowering students to serve as prepared and confident decision makers and managers of their chapter. The key to the success and ongoing cultivation of these leaders is the chapter advisor. The chapter advisor serves as the guide and mentor to youth leaders as they plan events and foster friendships to meet the Best Buddies mission.
There are many ways in which advisors can support their chapter. Here is a quick review of the roles:
- Faculty Advisor: A member of the school staff who serves as the liaison between school administrators and students. This advisor provides insight on matching peer buddies and helps to secure meeting space when necessary.
- Special Education Advisor: A staff or support faculty that works with the special education program on campus and is familiar with the students who receive special services. This advisor provides support when matching buddies and shares information and training when necessary to new matches.
- Host Site Coordinator: For chapters with a host site, this advisor serves as the connection between the participants at the site and the on campus members. This advisor supports the communication, transportation, updates, and other necessary planning resources and information for participants of the host site. This advisor also provides any needed training on the disability awareness and safety of participants. The Host Site Agency acknowledges participation of its clients in the Best Buddies programs and agrees to take responsibility of members in their participation at Best Buddies events and activities. Best Buddies and the Host Site will work together to provide participants information on events, hold members accountable for meeting the Best Buddies commitment, and support members through their involvement.
- Parent Advisor: A parent of chapter members who can support any transportation or event planning needs and communicate plans and goals with other members’ parents.
Best Buddies recommends that each chapter has at least one advisor to support chapter success. The overriding goal of the advisor is to support student leaders in their work to share the Best Buddies mission on campus. This can include:
- Supporting connections and approval from school administration for Best Buddies chapter events.
- Organizing chapter meeting times and locations.
- Connecting parents with the chapter events and communication.
- Providing support, answers, and guidance for members with questions about their buddy match.
- Empowering students to develop engaging activity ideas and challenging students to think critically about mission-based gatherings.
As a chapter leader, keeping up with making matches, selecting new chapter leaders, communicating with various members of the chapter, and planning activities and fundraisers can be a lot to juggle. Here are some tips to ensure your chapter is successful in managing common chapter challenges.
Communicating with Chapter Members
- Be clear and open with all communication as a leader in your chapter
- Determine the best method of communication for each individual or group you are communicating with
- Create a communication schedule to ensure everyone is aware of chapter updates
Planning Events and Activities
- Chapters are encouraged to have one activity a month during the academic year for their chapter
- All chapter activities should be age appropriate
- Chapter activities and events should be inclusive for all members
- Matches must be one-to-one and indicated on BB360
- Matches should be paired by similar interests, availability to spend time together, and are encouraged to be same gender when deemed necessary
- The minimum buddy pair commitment is to have contact once a week and see each other twice a month
Chapter Leadership Transition
- Incoming Chapter Presidents should be selected by current chapter leaders and advisors by June 1st in BB360 (high school and college chapters only)
- Chapter Presidents and advisors should work together to select necessary incoming leaders for the next academic year before the end of the school year
- Identifying chapter leaders early is recommended, this allows the opportunity for the incoming leader to learn from the current leader in that role
- Chapters are encouraged to fundraise year-round in preparation for paying Chapter Dues ($350) by June 1st (high school and college chapters only)
- Ensure that funds raised by the chapter are going into a secure account managed by chapter leaders
- Use effective marketing techniques to promote fundraisers early to ensure the events are successful
If your chapter makes matches, as a chapter leader, connecting members with and without IDD into mutually enriching one-to-one friendships is one of your most important responsibilities.
Typically there is not an even number of members with and without IDD, so you probably won’t be able to match everyone in a one-to-one friendship.
The first step to making matches is reviewing the previous year’s matches and determining who should be matched together again. For the rest, you can get to know your members via matching surveys or member interviews.
The matching survey can be used during the matching process to learn about your members’ interests to see who could be compatible together. First, determine if the member wants to be matched in a one-to-one friendship. There is a question on the membership application asking if you want to be matched. To see a member’s response, review their membership record in BB360.
Each member has a personalized matching survey form available for you to send to them. There is a link in BB360 on their membership record called Matching Survey URL. Send that link to the member and they can submit their interests and availability for getting together.
Introducing Buddy Pairs
Once all the one-to-one matches have been made, it’s time to have a meet your match party. At this party, members find out who their buddy is for the first time. This party can be a pizza party, an ice cream party, a banquet—whatever you want it to be!
The match party should give each buddy pair a chance to get to know one another in a relaxed, social setting. Think of a creative way to introduce the buddy pairs for the first time. Here are some ideas that real college chapters have done:
- Find pictures from magazines that relate to the buddy pairs’ common interests. Cut them in half, like two puzzle pieces. Give each buddy and peer buddy one half of the picture, and let them find each other.
- Give each pair index cards with words that go together or form expressions—for example, peanut butter and jelly, green eggs and ham, fish and chips, etc. You can do the same activity with names of famous duos—such as Batman and Robin, Bonnie and Clyde, Calvin and Hobbes, etc. Give each peer buddy and buddy one half of the expression and have them find their match.
- Instead of cards, give actual objects that go together—salt and pepper shakers, shampoo and conditioner, etc.—and let the pairs find each other.
- Bake cookies and use icing to write the names of the buddy pairs. Then cut the cookies in half and have each person find their match.
- Reserve a table for each buddy pair, and prominently display their names so they know where to sit. Let them talk and get to know one another. Put a list of discussion questions and topics on each table in case there are lulls in conversation.
- Buy inexpensive picture frames, take Polaroid pictures of each buddy pair at the party, and have pairs decorate the frames together and take home the pictures as mementos.
Best Buddies chapters plan activities and events for the chapter and buddy pairs to connect throughout the year. General guidelines for chapter activities are:
- Chapters are encouraged to have one activity a month during the academic year
- Chapter activities should be age appropriate
- Chapter activities and events should be inclusive for all members
Planning events is fun, but also a lot of work; event committees can share the responsibility and increase involvement from members.
The type of events held are up to the chapter leaders and committees. In addition to general get-togethers, Best Buddies suggests the following activities for member engagement and community impact.
- Kick-off party: start the year with some fun! Get new and returning members together to meet and greet.
- Match party: for chapters that can match members with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities in one-to-one friendships, plan a party where buddy pairs can meet and get to know each other.
- Fundraisers: sell tickets to an event, or do a bake sell to raise funds for more chapter events, or your chapter dues.
- Back to Best Buddies activity (see below)
- Global Youth Service Day project or other community service project: giving back to the community is a great way for chapter members to bond and have fun.
- End of the Year Chapter Activity: go out with some fun and celebrate those member graduating!
Back to Best Buddies
Each year, chapters are faced with the challenge of keeping members enthusiastic and engaged following the winter break. When students return after the New Year, there are often new club opportunities, academic commitments, and graduation related activities. We want to ensure that members feel connected, engaged, and valued by their Best Buddies chapter. Recognizing members, thanking them for their involvement, and sharing with them how much fun the second semester is going to be will re-energize members for a great spring with Best Buddies.
There are many different activities and ideas that chapters can participate in to celebrate the start of a new year and get motivated for a great spring. Make your meeting fun, festive, and creative. Hold an event in an unusual place, offer refreshments, plan age-appropriate games, and/or invite a guest speaker. Have chapter members wear Best Buddies gear that whole week of the meeting! Here are some tips and ideas to host a dynamic return to the chapter after the winter break:
Why: Back to Best Buddies (B2BB) are a perfect time for buddy pairs to reconnect following the break and stay on track with their one-to-one commitment.
When: A B2BB activity should be held within the first few weeks of returning from winter break. It is important to get everyone together soon after returning so members can reconnect, share stories about their break, and make plans for a fun spring. You should plan and advertise your meeting before winter break so that members have the event to look forward to and are excited and free to attend in January
Who: All members should attend to celebrate their friendships and fun, but this is also a great time to invite new students who may want to learn about Best Buddies and join for the spring semester. B2BB is a great recruitment opportunity!
What: Planning engaging, inspiring, and fun events that remind people why they joined Best Buddies can energize and motivate them – and your entire chapter – for a fun spring semester. Your Back to Best Buddies event does not have to be long, hard to plan, or expensive. Just providing members with a chance to meet up, connect, and get back into the routine can establish a strong foundation for the rest of the year. What inspires, excites, and motivates you? How can you share this energy with your chapter for committed membership throughout the coming year? Work with your chapter to plan an exciting event that is unique to your chapter and captivates your members’ attention, energy, and commitment to the mission!
Start planning your Back to Best Buddies event early. Communication about goals, needs, and ideas for the event in advance of the spring semester – and before things get too busy with mid-terms and the holidays – can provide you with the time and focus to plan an engaging, exciting event. Use your chapter meetings in November to collect ideas; what would members like to do when they return in the spring? What activities, food, or games will engage them in Best Buddies events right at the start of the spring semester? Promoting the event – and reminding members throughout the break via social media – will incite excitement, give members something to look forward to, and ensure a strong turnout to the B2BB event. Once you’ve planned your event, be sure to share pictures and updates on social media using the hashtag #Back2BB.
- Back to Best Buddies Potluck: Invite members to bring their favorite dish enjoyed over the holiday break to share with the chapter.
- Coffee Catch Up: Provide a space and coffee, tea, or small snacks for members to gather and chat about their break and what they are most looking forward to in the New Year.
- Spring Fling: Hold a spring fling first thing upon returning to campus after the holidays to keep those lousy winter blues at bay; play members’ favorite songs, provide light refreshments, and get members up and dancing for a great second semester.
- Sharing is Caring: Use the first get-together as a planning opportunity. Share exciting updates, plans for the spring semester, and ways to get more involved with members.
- Awareness Activities: Use the B2BB event to remind members – and your campus – what Best Buddies is all about and how to get or stay involved. Host an activity with members to showcase their friendships at campus-friendly events, like attending the school play together or working the concession booth at a sporting event.
- Training: B2BB provides invaluable time for members to learn more about their work in the disability rights movement and their commitment to our mission of inclusion, friendship, and leadership. Back to Best Buddies events can serve as a more focused training opportunity to share details and information on nuances of disabilities, goals of the international organization, or leadership opportunities that may not have been further discussed at the start of the school year.
Share pictures and updates on social media using the hashtag #Back2BB.
To help chapters plan activities, Best Buddies has partnered with a number of organizations and adopted various initiatives to support and celebrate our commitment to friendships, leadership, and inclusive communities. Throughout the year, we take the opportunity to participate in new ways we can share our mission with our friends and neighbors. Explore the initiatives below and mark your calendars! We invite you to join us in new ways as we all work together to further inclusion for people of all abilities.
Best Buddies Month
Best Buddies Month is celebrated annually throughout the month of March. This month represents a time for our participants to honor their friendships, share their goals of inclusion with their community, and spread awareness about the Best Buddies mission.
- Update your social media profiles promoting Best Buddies Month
- Share your favorite Best Buddies photos and stories with the Best Buddies Family on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by tagging #bestbuddiesmonth!
- Plan your Best Buddies month using the BB Month calendar. Promotional images are available on the Resources page.
Spread the Word
For more than ten years, Best Buddies and Special Olympics have partnered together each March to promote inclusive thinking and to challenge thought on the power of language. The Spread the Word campaign was born out of a goal to invite discussion on how language can be hurtful and how our word choices should promote positivity for people of all abilities. Since then, the campaign has become so much more. This initiative invites leaders to share with their community ways that we can act and speak more inclusively every day and advance opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
This initiative serves as a great opportunity for chapters to reach new audiences outside of their schools and engage in thoughtful dialogue and activities to cultivate interest in Best Buddies and our work towards inclusion. Here are some ways that you can share in this work:
- Collect pledges at school or in your community. Using a laptop or tablet, encourage people to sign the pledge on the spot and/or create a banner for people to sign.
- Host a youth rally or disability awareness assembly at your school and invite local Best Buddies Ambassadors to speak.
- Connect with local sports teams to participate in a halftime event to promote the campaign.
- Spread the word using social media graphics and resources from the spread the word website.
- Follow, like, and retweet your support of the Pledge to Include movement on social media by following @PledgetoInclude on Instagram and Twitter, and Liking Pledge to Include on Facebook.
- Share your own impact on social media spread awareness. Click here for examples!
- Create a video in support of #respect and share it on our Facebook page so we can add it to the growing list of videos on the Spread the Word website. Share the link with your friends and family!
- Watch this webinar about how you can activate inclusion on your campus and in your community.
Harmony is a social-emotional learning program for youth that provides the foundation for safe and positive learning environments. Through tool-kits, trainings, and online platforms, teachers are provided resources to engage students in healthy relationship building. With lessons and age-appropriate activities, students develop the skills to communicate, share inclusivity, show empathy, and solve problems.
Best Buddies and Harmony have partnered together to provide all chapters comprehensive social and emotional learning kits to ensure students are participating in activities, games, lessons, and resources to engage students in healthy relationship building.
These kits are an incredible asset and a free gift from Sanford Harmony to all Best Buddies chapters. Additionally, teacher training, monthly webinars, teaching materials and strategies, and other resources are available to all of our volunteers.
Visit the Harmony website for more information.
Raising money for the chapter is important to help plan activities, parties, field trips, and cover Best Buddies Leadership Conference registration fees ($350).
Fundraising activities are a good way to not only raise money but also raise chapter publicity and awareness throughout the community. It is important to include all chapter members in your fundraising activity. The key to a successful fundraiser is to be organized. Plan the event in advance and make sure that everyone in your chapter feels a sense of responsibility for the outcome of the fundraiser.
Planning a Fundraiser
With fundraisers you can raise money and awareness for your chapter.
The key to a successful fundraiser is to be organized. Plan the event in advance and make sure that everyone in your chapter feels a sense of responsibility for the outcome of the fundraiser.
Other Funding Sources
A great place to start looking for funds for your chapter is campus resources. Research how other service organizations or clubs on campus are funded. You may be able to apply for funding through your student government.
An in-kind donation is a donation of goods or products that your chapter can use. Many of your chapter needs for parties and activities can be met through in-kind donations.
Examples of in-kind donations:
- Food from local supermarkets or restaurants for group activities
- Decorations from a party supply store for dances or parties
- Soap and sponges for a car wash
- Trophies or plaques for end-year prizes
- Gift certificates or merchandise for a raffle
A sponsorship is a financial contribution towards your chapter. For example, a local business might sponsor your chapter for $500 to cover all of your activities for the year. Sponsorships best suit needs that are purely financial, such as your chapter dues.
Best Buddies International’s vision is to put ourselves out of business. Our hope is that one day programs like Best Buddies are not needed to provide inclusion in our schools and communities.
How do I Bring Best Buddies to my school?
It’s simple! Here are some quick steps:
- Get school administration approval; connect with your principal about bringing Best Buddies to your school
- Find at least one teacher to provide guidance and support at your chapter as an advisor.
- Identify inclusive student leadership positions
- Host an interest meeting with the materials below and start recruiting chapter members; have all chapter members complete a membership application by visiting, bestbuddies.org/join
- Identify one to one matches in your chapter
- Host fun and inclusive events all school year long!
Providing quality training that can help you advance our mission of inclusion and friendship is paramount to our organization. We understand that our volunteers are the catalyst for impact around the globe, and without effective, clear tools to help you achieve our mission, the success of our work is challenged.
We hope that you find the trainings provided by Best Buddies International to be thoughtful, engaging, and supportive in guiding your work as a leader for this mission. Our priority is to ensure all involved participants feel empowered and prepared to partake in our mission and contribute to a world that is more accepting and understanding.
Best Buddies Member Training
The Best Buddies Member Training provides all participating chapter members the opportunity to gather, learn, and discuss what it means to be involved in Best Buddies and what to expect when they join. The goal of this training is to introduce members to our language, goals, and opportunities. It also addresses ways to resolve any challenges members might face when being matched in the Best Buddies program. It’s a fun, fast way to guarantee all members in your chapter understand what Best Buddies is all about; that is why we recommend all volunteers join the chapter leadership team in this training before becoming a member.
As a leader, we want you to run this training. It is especially good practice to have the Special Education Advisor or Host Site Coordinator involved in leading this training, as well. When sharing this training with volunteers, two videos will explain the program and best practices. A supplemental facilitation guide will help you in leading an engaging conversation around the themes of the videos.
Leadership Training Day
Kicking off your school year with a great team of empowered leaders is the first step to success. We think it’s important to provide all the chapter officers and advisors the opportunity to connect, learn best practices, and understand the tools that are available to them as leaders.
There are many ways this can happen:
- You can attend a regional training in your area to connect leaders in the state. Agendas and materials are available for this day-long training. This training may be led by staff or a lead volunteer. This setting provides a fantastic environment for networking, problem solving, and friendship building.
- You can participate in short webinars and/or conference calls hosted by your state staff. This will provide you with information on the expectations and goals of chapter management and ensure you know the resources you have available to lead with confidence.
- You can connect with small group learning sessions, hosted by lead volunteers in your region, which take place either one-on-one or in small groups at the start of the school year. These small group sessions provide an opportunity to connect with other Best Buddies leaders in your community and prepare for your year.
Your Best Buddies state contact – staff or volunteer – will provide you with details on the types of training available to you at the start of the year. The most important thing is that you and your fellow chapter leaders carve out time at the start of the school year to understand your roles and feel prepared to carry our the goals of your chapter.
Best Buddies Leadership Conference
The Best Buddies Leadership Conference (BBLC) is our organization’s largest, most exciting event! This global conference brings together leaders with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities from middle schools, high schools, colleges, and communities worldwide, providing chapter leaders and ambassadors personalized training that develops the leadership skills needed to organize a Best Buddies chapter and share the Best Buddies mission.
We expect that all chapter presidents attend this incredible event, held annually at the end of July in Bloomington, Indiana. All chapter leaders, advisors, and ambassadors are invited. At BBLC, you will meet leaders from every state and dozens of international countries who share your passion for an inclusive world. Throughout a weekend of workshops, training sessions, performances, and presentations by experts in the disability field, you are sure to learn all the skills needed to successfully guide your chapter in meeting the mission. You are also guaranteed to make life-long friends!
Learn more about the event – and save the date – by visiting the Best Buddies Leadership Conference website.