June 2, 2017

But I've already done that

experience optimism goalsOn March 1, 2017, Optimist International announced the International Candidates Qualifications Committee's nominations for those who might lead the organization in 2018-2019, the year leading into its 100th anniversary. The nominations included one candidate for president, eight candidates for vice president, one for each region; and two nominations for the two openings on the board of directors. After that date, individuals could self-nominate with the deadline of April 1, 2017 to declare their intention in preparation for online voting which started June 1 and runs through June 30, 2017.

Another candidate for president and four candidates for the board of directors were eventually added to the official slate.

In the past, I have indicated concern with this process. Sometimes I agree with the committee's selections and sometimes I do not; but more important, I believe that having a select committee proclaim certain people to be above others seems controlling and makes others, people who are well-qualified, unwilling to step forward and run at-large.

Of course, as many of my readers know, I am one of the few who have run at-large and won, but this post isn't about me or the candidates chosen by the CQ Committee.

The purpose of this post is to emphasize the importance of leadership selection at all levels of the organization.

As membership in all service clubs dwindles, the choices for those who will be our leaders are also diminished.  I worry, at times, that the choices have turned to the "rats that have not left the sinking ship" - people who would have otherwise never risen to the top of the leadership pool.

We cannot be complacent. It is easy to select from those who are left; after all, they have proved they are always there. It would be even easier to walk away; but we can't. I am calling on all old-timers who have succeeded in their year(s) of Optimist Club, District and International leadership to return to the helm. In the 100th year, let us step-up one more time  to do what made the years we served successful and what the organization sorely needs: grow.

When we grow in membership, we grow in revenue and service.

A friend often reminds those who will listen, "If it is to be, it is up to me." I think the time has come to heed his warning. Leadership at all levels is an honor, but it also a responsibility that must be placed in the most capable hands.

Ensure that your club and district are making the right choices. Don't be afraid to say no to the hangers-on and especially, don't be afraid to ask someone to return and turn things around. The make or break year is approaching. Don't let this opportunity slip away.

May 13, 2017

First impressions matter

experience optimismOnce a month, I share a membership retention and recruitment tip on the PNW District - Optimist International Facebook page.

Most, if not all, deal with communication. Over the years, I've discovered that many Optimist Clubs fail to keep their members informed, possibly because their projects and culture are so ingrained, the person leading project thinks that everyone already knows.

This is especially hurtful when new members join the club. Without direction, they feel left out. Perhaps unintentionally, they feel left out of the clique simply because they don't know where to go, what to do, or why.

The same can often be said for attending a regular meeting. If there is no greeter, people always sit in the same place, and inside jokes are being told, new members wonder what is happening and question if they've made the right decision to become a part of the group.

I  have always believed that the best way to attract a new member to an Optimist Club is to show them that its worth the effort to join; and that ten or more years from now, their service and friendship will be valued. That all starts with the first impression.

It doesn't take a big orientation process, but rather, I suggest that an Optimist Club should orchestrate a series of good first impressions. Send a welcome email with links that explain the club's projects, committees, and leadership structure. Highlight the core purposes of Optimist International and explain how the club practices those values. Include a calendar of events, membership directory, and suggestions for who to call to get involved. Remind the new member's sponsor to sit with the new recruit and and introduce her to others. Make a point to be open and inclusive with new members and veteran members and they will feel, and continue to feel, engaged, valued, and committed to the cause.

First impressions can make a difference in a lifetime of service.

Membership retention and recruitment tip #45: First impressions can make a difference. When someone joins your Optimist Club, they seek first impressions that validate their choice to join. From the first email, meeting or website visit, they need to feel welcome and valued. Orchestrate those first impressions and you will be on your way to engaging members for a lifetime.

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