May 31, 2010

Optimist Clubs promote patriotism

"Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure." - Abraham Lincoln

Did you know that the Memorial Day celebration hails back to the Civil War? First called Decoration Day because of the commitment to decorate the graves of our fallen soldiers, the name Memorial Day became more widespread following World War II possibly because more people had more connections to fallen heroes.  

In 1968 Congress decided to change many national holidays by giving them a three day observance in the National Holidays Bill thereby moving their commemorative date to the Monday of the week instead of the traditional calendar day.  It is possible this act made Americans more aware of the freedoms they have received. Thanks to the sacrifices of others, they are free to barbecue with their family or participate in recreational activities with friends on national holidays, secure in the knowledge that our nation is protected by a strong military.  

That is why it is especially important that service organizations like Optimist Clubs help our communities recmember the importance of Memorial Day by recognizing our fallen soldiers with our thanks and praise. One club that does so is the Optimist Club of McCall, Idaho. Thanks to the Optimist Club, this small resort town gives thanks by proudly displaying the US Flag throughout town.  They sent the accompanying pictures for all to enjoy.  

Please take a few moments to remember our fallen heroes and to give thanks to our servicemen and women in your own way.  And next year, encourage your Optimist Club to make a commitment to recognize our fallen soldiers in a traditional manner, with decorations. 

May 30, 2010

Patriotism and optimism

Author and amateur sleuth Mike Befeler recently spoke at an Optimist Club meeting.  He has done so before, but on this day, he remarked about how the club said the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meeting.  Mike attended a kindergarten graduation the same day and both activities included this honor to patriotism.  His comment was how few times this is done today.

Two days ago, I remarked how I felt that Optimist Club meetings were important because they allowed us opportunities to engage with one another and with our community.  In addition to sharing a positive way of life, Optimist Clubs also promote respect for government and patriotism.  That is an important part of what we do.  Whether we say the Pledge of Allegiance, Toast to Canada or a Toast to all Nations, we honor our countries for the safe havens that they are and we recognize our place in making the system work.  

Think about it.  If you want to honor your country, respect others, serve your community, and promote a positive way of life, I encourage you to find an Optimist Club near you and get involved. Your community needs you.  Patriotism and optimism go hand in hand.  

May 29, 2010

Optimist Club history in a slideshow

The Optimist Club of Centralia, Illinois is working on a new website.

They have decided on a WordPress theme and are working out the kinks.  One of the fun additions to their site is a neat slideshow that shows some of the history of the club with both newspaper articles and pictures.  You can enjoy their story here.

May 28, 2010

Meetings help us engage with our community

Meetings, meetings and more meetings!  Some people say they have too many and that showing up for an Optimist Club meeting is out of the question.  Personally, I attend at least one Optimist Club meeting a week because I enjoy the opportunity to come together with friends and colleagues who share similar goals.  We recite the Optimist Creed, hear from local organizations and initiatives and make plans for how we will serve the community.  Yes, I think meetings are important.

I am happy to report that in my travels and research, I have discovered that most Optimist Clubs share my belief and members make time to be present at weekly meetings.  Here's a picture submitted by the Quad City Morning Optimist Club of Iowa.  They enjoyed a full house recently for a presentation from Camp Courageous.  Camp Courageous is a year-round respite and recreational facility for individuals with disabilities.  The Quad City Morning Optimist Club is a supporter.

May 27, 2010

Official Google Blog: The 2010 Doodle 4 Google winner: Makenzie Melton’s Rainforest Habitat

I always enjoy the Doodle 4 Google contest. Students K through 12 draw their winsome depictions of the famous Google logo. Please take a few minutes to enjoy the color and happiness that radiates from their drawings.

Official Google Blog: The 2010 Doodle 4 Google winner: Makenzie Melton’s Rainforest Habitat

Don't you agree?  There's nothing more optimistic than young, inspired and encouraged artists.  

Seniors will party on

KBR - Keep the Ball Rolling is an annual celebration for high school seniors that takes place after the senior ball. The Optimist Club of Baldwinsville, New York is a proud supporter of the fun and games along with the Baker High School Parent Teacher Association.

Shown making a contribution to the party is Joyce Ramseyer, Ron Rumpf, Jim Johnson, Pat Dickman and Susan Ranous.    They will be assisting with the festivities on Friday, May 28.  Other volunteers are still needed.  Email for information.  

May 26, 2010

If I had a magic wand

Chantal M. Lovell, a staff writer for the Redland Daily Facts recently interviewed Jim Brown, President, Optimist Club of Redlands, California.

Her questions took Jim on his journey in Optimism, from "how did you get involved" all the way through "if you had a magic wand, what would you make happen?"

That last one could be a loaded question for any Optimist Club member.  We know of so many needs in our communities.  We see so many children that need a mentor, so many adults that could use more friends, and so many projects that would benefit from more helping hands.

With his magic wand, Jim Brown, "Wants everyone that takes the time to read this to go to our web page and see just what we do as a service club and who we are. To take the opportunity to join our efforts by providing a trophy sponsorship at this year's Optimists Car Show!"

Well, those seem like pretty simple requests.  How about you?  What would you make happen with your magic wand?  Please tell us about it here.

Image courtesy of  

May 25, 2010

Branding and optimism

You have probably heard about how subliminal advertising in the 1950s and 1960s hooked consumers on alcohol and smoking with nude women hidden in the ice cubes and sexy, sophisticated, fun-loving people flaunting their cigarettes. But have you paid attention to claims from newer ad campaigns that indicate when a consumer is bombarded by positive images of a product, he was more likely to choose the product that made him happy over the ones that didn't?  Even when the consumer couldn't recall the name of the product, he was drawn to the one that reinforced a positive place in his heart and mind.

It would seem with that type of reasoning, Optimist Clubs should be a slam-dunk for positive branding.  People around the world should be saying, "I don't know why, but I like it." Our organization should be growing by proverbial leaps and bounds.

Unfortunately, Optimist Clubs and all service organizations struggle for members despite the good they do in their communities and around world. Perhaps they don't publicize their good deeds in a positive manner or maybe they don't publicize their events at all.  Or maybe, just maybe, we fail to understand that the average consumer is just that: a consumer.

Consumers use things up.  They don't have to grow green beans to have them in their pantry.  They don't have to milk a cow in order to enjoy milk and cheese. Nor do they have to manufacture a computer or television in order to access the information and entertainment that they bring.

A service club asks you to give in order to receive.  Give your time, your hard work, and even your money and you will create positive, uplifting activities and events for your community and the world.  Your actions, your philanthropy, will create a positive brand that you will feel right to the core of your being.

So how do you turn the average consumer into someone who wants to foster good deeds and positive actions?  You do so through your own unending service.  We must lead by example and remind ourselves of  the often forgotten lines of the Optimist Creed:

  • To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud word, but in great deeds.
  • To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
Only then will our brand, our optimism be felt around the world.  

May 24, 2010

Is this an Optimist Club?

It is what it is.  I have never been particularly fond of that saying, but I am not sure how else to address the post that I am about to make.

I believe in Optimist Clubs because they allow volunteers to come together to share a positive way of life and serve their communities in the way that is most needed.  Always, always, share a positive way of life is first and foremost for being because we can join other groups or associations to do other things. I also believe the Purposes of Optimist International to be pretty clear on the subject.

When I see groups like the Putnam City, Oklahoma Optimists that have been "started for one reason, to share the joy of sports with the children of the local community," I have to scratch my head.  Is it a good thing?  Of course! Imagine all of the children that will have the opportunity to play sports and the infrastructure that will be added to the community due to this group.

But is it an Optimist Club? No, unfortunately it is not. It is a group that in the past Optimist Clubs might have sponsored or supported willingly, but the fact that they do not use the words "Optimist Club" is very telling to me.  They are a sports club that happens to take advantage of the benefits afforded by Optimist International's insurance policy.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing?  Does it add or detract from the mission that Optimist Clubs share under the Optimist International umbrella? That is not for me to decide; so for now, I will just say it is what it is; but you can bet I have an opinion.  Do you?

May 23, 2010

Three Optimist Clubs to serve you

Here's an idea for your community: why not have an Optimist Club that meets every day of the week?  The Optimist Club of Racine, Wisconsin is well on their way to making Optimism a daily reality.

The city boasts nearly 200,000 residents and three Optimist Clubs.  First came the Wednesday Optimist Club of Racine. The members of the Wednesday Optimist Club helped start the Tuesday Optimist Club who then fostered the Friday Optimist Club.

Each club has their own projects, leadership and identity, but they can be seen working together especially on Optimist International programs like the Optimist Essay and Oratorical Contests and the Youth Tri Star Basketball program and the community skateboard park.

According to 10-year member Deb Pitsch, " Interacting with the kids lets them know there is a face behind the name, and that there are people who care."

Working hand in hand with the community, the club members enjoy seeing the faces of parents as their children are honored or as they receive scholarships.  They are especially moved by watching students progress all the way through college.    

The Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday Optimist Clubs of Racine welcome new members.  Find out more, including how to visit and join here.  

May 21, 2010

To inspire respect for law

Many Optimist Clubs have recently been honoring police officers as part of the annual Respect for Law activities sponsored by Optimist International.  The Optimist Club of Greeley, Colorado recipients, Kris Haffner, James Campbell and Greg Miller, are shown here with Chair Ron Wittow, second from right.

Some other clubs that have honored officers are:

Optimist Club of Gresham, Oregon
Optimist Club of Rome, Georgia
Optimist Club of Warner Robins, Georgia
Optimist Club of Whittier, California

One of the purposes of Optimist International is to inspire respect for law.  Read all of the purposes here.

May 20, 2010

Spread the love with a Magic Hug Square

The Optimist Club of Birmingham, Michigan is honoring the Optimist International Childhood Cancer Campaign in a unique way. They are making Magic Hug Squares that promise the energy will transfer from the hands that made it into the child that needs it.

Every hand-made quilt comes with this message:
“Magic Hugs Square. This magic blanket was made especially for you. It is made out of hugs. When you are sad or mad or scared or bored, hold this square close to you and it will give you the comfort of a million hugs. It will love you no matter what!”
The Childhood Cancer Campaign began in 2001 with a commitment to raise $5 million to Johns Hopkins University Hospital to fund research to eradicate childhood cancer.  Since fulfilling the pledge, Optimist International encourages Optimist Clubs to do something special in their community to touch the lives of children and their families who are suffering from childhood cancer.  A Magic Hug Square is a charming way to spread love and caring at home.

The Saturday morning knitting circle at St. James Episcopal Church assists with the project. Extra squares are donated to the Michigan District - Optimist International for other Optimist Clubs with needs in their communities.

May 19, 2010

New Optimist Club shares their full glass of optimism

Here is a headline that any Optimist International Certified New Club Builder would like to see, "Port City Optimist Club going better than hoped."

After all, we are optimists so when we start a new club project, we expect it to succeed and going better than hoped is stupendous!  After four months in operation, the new club boasts 44 members and is still growing.

The secret to the Port City Optimist Club in North Carolina is probably the two secret weapons shown in the picture.  Andrew Nettleman and Lori Harris are dedicated to the project and they bring "a glass-half-full" attitude to the club. In fact so much so that combined, their attitude is a full glass and they have named their first fundraising event "The Full Glass: A Toast to Optimism." To be held on June 3, the event will feature wine tasting, hors d'oevres, entertainment and an auction.

Both Lori and Andrew had positive experiences growing up with Optimist Clubs and youth oriented projects.  They are bringing that same enthusiasm to the Port City Optimist Club with youth safety and internet safety programs, health access for teens, and looking forward to a large-scale mentoring project for youths.

What an inspirational story.  Here's hoping for more new Optimist Clubs with youthful people sharing the same optimistic spirit.

Find out more about the Port City Optimist Club and the Full Glass fundraiser here. 

May 18, 2010

New Optimist Club promotes youth safety

Bicycle safety has become a major activity for many Optimist Clubs. As I looked at the information that I receive from around the country, I noticed that this event from the Optimist Club of Eagle, Idaho was just a little bit different.

The Eagle Optimist Club joined efforts with the Landing Community Center to hold a Safety Day on May 8. In addition to bicycle safety, the club taught personal safety with defensive moves to help kids get away from a suspicious or aggressive person; and fire safety, with the Eagle Fire Department "smoke-house" to teach how to get out of a burning building.

The Ada County Sheriff's Department was on hand to assist with fingerprinting and child identification kits. They also helped with helmet fitting. The Boise YMCA assisted the Optimist Club with the bicycle safety obstacle course and provided free helmets for children who needed them.

The Landing Community Center has been in operation for about three years. The Eagle Optimist Club is in its first year. Together they are making a difference in their community by creating collaborative relationships and coordinating interesting activities that children will want to return to.

Thanks to Optimist Club member Jessie Horney for the pictures.

May 17, 2010

Relationship building is the outcome of networking

It should come as no surprise to my readers that I believe in social media and the importance of the social networking phenomenon.  Building relationships online is not the future; it is here. It is now.  This video explains it all.

Enjoy, and please, share your thoughts and comments.  I'm especially interested in how you believe technology might enhance your experience and involvement with an Optimist Club.

May 16, 2010

Optimist Clubs should be about optimism

Have you ever thought or said that someone just doesn’t get it?  Have you imagined that the person you are talking to doesn’t understand you or your position or perhaps doesn’t see the grand scheme of things? 

It really is a subjective phrase; one that is often used to dismiss an issue or conversation.  Perhaps the person doesn’t understand your position or perhaps they don’t agree with you; but to just move on as if an agreement has been reached helps no one.  You are dissatisfied as the person who has acquiesced and the person who has their way may or may not even realize they have secured a small victory.

Communication is much harder than it should be.  I have found this especially true in my role as governor of a district in Optimist International.   Optimist International is an umbrella organization with a set of bylaws and a board of directors to interpret policies so that being a member is fair and beneficial to all and so that the integrity of the organization is maintained.

The organization extends rights to the clubs organized under the umbrella to conduct programs in their communities using the name of the local Optimist Club.   The local Optimist Club has a board of directors that guide its mission based on their affiliation with Optimist International. There is a pecking order.  If a club says that they are conducting an Optimist International program, that program should be one that is outlined on the Optimist International website and has guidelines for how every club can participate.  If it is a program that is local and involves only your community or region, then it is an Optimist Club program. 

Some programs, as wonderful as they may be, are not recognized by the International Board of Directors as having a universal appeal.  They may not fit the purposes of Optimist International or may divert attention away from the cause that the organization has already chosen to support.  That doesn’t mean that an Optimist Club must abandon their program, but it does beg for respect and understanding. 

If your club has such a program, please ask yourself: do your club members come together to be an Optimist Club or do you come together to carry out the program? 

There is significance in this question.  In the article Choose your customers, choose your future, Seth Godin explains that your customers define you.  This is a concept that I inherently get.  I belong to an Optimist Club because I want to create and share a positive view on life with others and offer programs that help children develop into caring, positive-thinking adults.   I believe those projects may evolve and change with the times, but in the end the Optimist Creed will always be the reason that I attend an Optimist Club meeting. 

There are others who think that extending the Optimist Club umbrella to others with single-purpose programs will bring more members.  But at what cost?  I belong to an Optimist Club to share optimism.  Some people belong to a book club to read, discuss books and promote literacy.  Others belong to bowling leagues to bowl, or take cooking classes to learn to cook. There is room and need for many groups with many interests.  As Bill Cosby said, "I don't know the secret to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." 

Optimist Clubs do not need to be all things for all people, but they do need to be first and foremost an organization that promotes a positive way of life.  That’s in the charter.  It’s in the name.  I get it.  Do you?  

May 15, 2010

Visit the Oregon City Pioneer Family Festival today

I wrote about it in March, but this weekend is the time to enjoy the community event that  is a major fun and fund raiser for the Oregon City Optimist Club. The Pioneer Family Festival runs this weekend and it is jam-packed full of family fun and activities.

May 14, 2010

Bike "Roadeo" in its 37th year

The Lindsay Optimist Club of Ontario performed the 37th Annual Bike Roadeo for children on May 1.  The "Roadeo" offers safety demonstrations and also gives a little competition with an obstacle course.

Firemen were on hand to help with helmet fitting and police officers assisted with bike safety checks.  Helmets were given to children who were without or who had ill-fitting ones.  Six bicycles were given away and every participant, 97 in all, were given bike-related prizes to take home.

An awesome thing about a bike rodeo is the ability to involve children of all ages.  Shown here is fire prevention officer Tim Woodrow.  Submitted picture and story.  

May 13, 2010

Happy members make for happy work

The Optimist Club of Beaverton, Oregon set a new record for roadside clean-up with nine men and one hour.  What a positive way for an Optimist Club to make a difference in their community.  It sure looks like they are having a lot of fun doing it.

Photos courtesy of Alan Zehntbauer, Beaverton Optimist Club.

May 12, 2010

Within the lines

Yesterday I traveled to McCall, Idaho to visit the McCall Optimist Club.  They were a small, but interesting group of men with a special youngster to help keep the meetings on time.  Noah was there to ring the bell at the beginning and end of the meeting, eat breakfast and  to color.

Before the meeting got started, I helped Noah with his coloring tasks.  If you haven't colored in a while, why not give it a try?  It's calming and always interesting to see if you can stay within the lines.

Thanks Noah and the McCall Optimist Club for sharing your special brand of Optimism with me.  I look forward to my next visit.

May 11, 2010

Optimist Clubs promote bicycle safety

   Isn't this fun?    I found this entry today at

An article in the April 28, 1960, edition of the Herald Argus and Baltimore Countian noted a successful safety event for kids.
The Catonsville Optimist Club was host to 90 children of the Catonsville area last Saturday, April 23, for the annual bicycle safety inspection sponsored by the club.
The inspection, conducted by members of the Optimist Club, was held on the Catonsville junior high school grounds.
Safety stickers were attached to all those that passed the inspection. Free soft drinks and doughnuts were distributed to all children participating. James B. Murray was chairman of the affair.
Across the country this weekend the Worthington Optimist Club in Minnesota was one of many Optimist Clubs holding a safety event this month.  Shown in the picture are Schianna Baumgartner and Optimist Club member Steve Bassett.

You know the project is just right when it stands the test of time.  Bicycle rodeos and safety events do just that.

May 10, 2010

What are they selling?

According to the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce in Marianna, Florida it is time for the 5th Annual Boston Butt Sale.  Tickets can be purchased through May 25 from any Northeast Jackson County Optimist Club member at the smokin' price of only $20.  Purchasers will enjoy "the best butts in town."

Okay, put away your bad jokes for a minute and ask yourself why would anyone place such an ambiguous advertisement in their local community?

  • To draw attention
  • Because the activity is so well-known it doesn't need further explanation
  • For the shock value
  • To get the word out with a sense of humor

Wikipedia explains that the Boston butt is the cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the front leg and may contain the blade bone.  According to southern chef Paula Dean, it's a great cut to smoke.

I can think of so many other fun activities that might take place with this fundraiser such as a barbecue cook-off or recipe book.  I hope they have plans to grow their activity into a real community event.

May 9, 2010

The value of sponsors and manpower

Optimist Clubs conduct both large and small programs in their communities. Personally, I have always preferred the low and no-cost activities that truly involve working with the community in a hands-on fashion. I find it interesting that Kohls, Costco and other major employers have programs where they will donate to charitable causes as long as some of their employees volunteer at the activity.  They see the value of being engaged, giving vs. taking.

Since Optimist Clubs began to act more business-like, they also began to find more business-like ways of funding their programs.  Consider the Optimist Club of Truckee, California.  This club is well known for their cruise night where classic car owners and enthusiasts gather for several days of entertainment. As the project has grown, so has the marketing opportunities.  The Optimist Club serves as the event coordinator and makes money by facilitating the experience for all.

This year the Truckee Optimist Club will raise approximately $50,000 annually from two events: The Brew Fest (June 12) and Cannibal Cruise (July 9-11).  They have announced their sponsorship opportunities from $100 to $350 for the events.   Vendor spaces are available for $150 and nonprofit groups may receive space at no charge.

How does your club serve your community?  Do you raise funds through a major event or do you do smaller projects that require more passion than money?  Do you believe one way is more valuable than the other or does it just depend?  We love to hear your stories.

May 8, 2010

Chillicothe Optimist Club to host Red Carpet Event

The Town Theater in Chillicothe, Illinois will open tonight with a red carpet event.  According to the article in the Peoria Journal Star:

Plans Saturday night include the arrival, starting at 6 p.m., of dignitaries - a list that includes Chillicothe Mayor Troy Childers and the mayors of Lacon and Henry - who will be let out of shiny new cars at the curb and onto a red carpet. Paparazzi will be snapping their photos and microphones of interviewers will be thrust in their faces.
Restored and now operated by the Chillicothe Optimist Club, they will use the profits to fund youth programs in the community.

The opening night movies are "Ironman 2" with Robert Downey Jr. and "The Back-up Plan" with Jennifer Lopez.   The movies will begin at 7 p.m.

For more information on this project, please read:Experience Optimism: Optimist Club reinvests in their community first published October 25, 2009.  

May 7, 2010

Visiting friends and Optimist Clubs

I have spent a couple days on the road visiting Optimist Clubs more than 500 miles away from my home club.  It's fun to find how much alike our distant clubs are and of course how different.  We all share the Optimist Creed and a mission to provide services that benefit the children of our communities.  Some host formal meetings, while some host more casual affairs.  All are proud of their traditions and most are eager to learn about new opportunities.

Thanks to the clubs and presidents that hosted my visits to Portland NE, OR Optimist Club, Vancouver, WA Optimist Club and shown here, the Beaverton, OR Optimist Club.   I can't wait to visit again.

Read more and see a slideshow from the Beaverton Optimist Club meeting:  PNW Optimist Clubs: Governor visits and learns about Native American flutes

May 6, 2010

Large and small donations are appreciated

A smaller donation, but every bit as important and appreciated as the donation in the previous story, is being made in Corpus Christi, Texas by the Junior Optimist Octagon Club of Collegiate High School.

They are contributing $400 towards the gardens at Mary Grett School.  Mary Grett School serves  special needs students by providing tools and resources to help them move successfully and independently into the community.

The Junior Optimist Club is supported by the Corpus Christi Optimist Club.

May 5, 2010

Plant City Optimist Club makes playground donation

A very popular project for Optimist Clubs is building or refurbishing a community playground. In past years, participation usually meant fundraising and lending volunteer hands in its construction. Today, more often than not, Optimist Clubs donate to large playground projects in their community.

The latest group to donate a large amount is the Plant City Optimist Club of Florida. Their donation of $40,000 will take place over a three year period. According to the Parks and Recreation Department, the funds will go towards building concession stands and other park amenities. The park will acknowledge the Optimist Club support with signs near the project.

Here's a picture submitted by the Plant City Optimist Club of the donation being made to the city.

May 4, 2010

Optimist Club plans Horse Camp

The Princeton, Kentucky Optimist Club, in conjunction with the Caldwell County Animal Rescue and Kentucky Farm Bureau are planning a Horse Camp for beginning riders. Scheduled for the week of May 24, this camp is so popular that a lottery drawing is held to determine the 48 participants.  A registration fee of $30 is donated to the animal rescue and is due May 8. The children selected to participate will be notified that day.

During the week, beginning riders will learn the basics of horse-handling and care and riding skills.  The camp is hands-on and lecture and ends with a riding show and rodeo.  Local horse people and the instructors are expected to take part in the demonstration and rodeo.

No experience with horses is needed.  Selected participants are asked to wear jeans and boots and are given t-shirts and cowboy hats.

Optimist Club volunteers and others assist with the camp.  According to the animal control officer Abigail Tucker, the organizers are just trying to find different things for kids to do in the community.  With Kentucky being horse country, it seems like a perfect project to me. 

May 3, 2010

Benefit auctions are not free money

Charity auction. Benefit auction. Silent auction.  I have to tell you, I am not a big fan of auctions.  I think it is largely due to the fact that I was a small business owner for 17 years and the requests that I would receive to donate to auctions were overwhelming.

My business sold popular items, TVs, VCRs, stereo equipment, microwaves and other consumer electronic goods before they were commodities, when prices were still very high.  While we would try to keep stock on hand of lower-priced give-away items, donating to the many auctions that we were expected to support in our community was still a very expensive marketing proposition.

Then I got involved in an Optimist Club and went to one of those auctions that I had been donating to for so many years.  Guess what?  I bought my donation back.  The price that was being bid was so far below the asking price, that I decided I would take the item back and write a check to the club for the amount instead. I did so for every year that followed that I was involved with that club.

My request on this fine Monday morning is please don't ask your local merchants to give more than they can afford in this or any economy.  Think before you go to them time after time with the same request. Believe me when I say they want to support you and it hurts when they can't. It hurts worse when they are challenged by a less than tactful solicitor and sadly, that happens all too frequently.

Similarly, think about your fundraiser.  Who is coming to that auction?  Are they there for a bargain or are they there to help raise money for your cause?  Please make certain it is the latter or your time and money and the donations that you have solicited are not doing their jobs.  Auctions are not simply free money for the organization hosting the event. Auctions, or any fundraising event, become part of the relationship that you develop with others in your community.  Their success, failure, and relevance will contribute to how your organization is perceived.

Let me tell you a story that I heard about today from Paris, Texas.  The Paris Optimist Club is planning an auction for Saturday, May 8 to support a baseball program for children 8-14 and to support the Buddy Baseball program for individuals with Downs Syndrome.  The event supports a single purpose - baseball; and to that end, they have collected sports paraphernalia that the participants in the program and their family and friends are likely to want to own.  They have created a niche market and targeted consumers.

What is most exciting is they have an ongoing competition for which local school's spirit cap will raise the most money.  Last year that distinction went to the Prairiland School whose cap was bought for $550.

It sounds to me like this benefit auction is doing its job by raising awareness, raising money and raising spirits.  I'll be sending people to this example the next time I am asked if I think an auction is a good fundraising idea. My answer: yes, if you have a target market, identifiable support from merchants and consumers and a hook that generates fun and donations purely for the joy of giving.

May 2, 2010

How to share your happiness

Many Optimist Clubs have a curious currency known as Happy Dollars.

Happy Dollars are donations made to the clubs fine pot for telling a happy story to your friends at your Optimist Club meeting.  After handing over the contribution, the storyteller gets to share something positive that has happened to them since the last time that the club met.

I've heard happy stories about who is pregnant, who didn't get a speeding ticket, who got a job, who got a promotion, who retired, who got married, who got elected, who got new shoes, who went on vacation, who got a clean bill of health and who is happy just because the sun came out today.

It seems that Happy Dollars might be a less intimidating way to say what we are grateful for.  At the 2009 Optimist International Convention, author and motivational speaker MK Mueller gave an inspirational keynote presentation on her book 8 to Great.  She encouraged us to be responsible for our own happiness  by expressing our gratitudes every day.  She challenged us to reach deep and allow ourselves to recognize more than the superficial benefits of each day.

What an inspirational challenge!  Friends, Happy Dollars are a great way to start.  If your Optimist Club doesn't participate in the happiness currency, encourage them to give it a try.  After all, sharing positive news is, well, optimistic.  Isn't that the main reason we come together as Optimist Clubs?

Take a look at the West Tacoma, WA Optimist Club bulletin for some examples of Happy Dollars. 

May 1, 2010

What's in a name?

I will attend a regional competition for the Pacific Northwest District - Optimist International Oratorical Contest today.  That's rather a stuffy, old-fashioned program title, don't you think?

That's why these catchy titles of other Optimist Club projects caught my attention this morning:
  • Talk Derby to Me:  Marco Island, FL Optimist Club fund raiser on Kentucky Derby Race day
  • Safetypalooza: Free bicycle helmets and safety programs from the Christian County Optimist Club, Nixa, MO
I will enjoy the thoughts and poise of the students when they speak on the international theme "Cyber Communication: Progress or Problem?" at the contest,  but I will be wondering if we would have more entries in the contest if it were called something else.

With a nod to the popular television program Glee, maybe "Speak" would get the message across.  I've personally always liked the name of the program aimed at younger children "Kids Speak Out."   Lose the "kids" and "Speak Out" would do quite nicely for all age groups.

The role of advertising is to create interest; therefore, we need to be more creative in our approach.  What do you think? Do you have a great title for an oratorical contest in mind?  Please share it here.


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