August 11, 2011

Friend or foible?

Friend of Optimist
I have mixed feelings about this strategy adopted by Optimist International to recruit new members. Called "Friends of Optimists," the program asks club members to seek out businesses and individuals in their community who may not want to volunteer to participate in Optimist Club activities, but want to contribute to Optimist International's mission.

For $100, such people or groups may be affiliated for one year with the local Optimist Club through Optimist International. Sixty dollars of their contribution stays with Optimist International and $40 is returned to the club.

Herein lies my concern: that is a mighty cheap way for a business to have their name associated with the good deeds of Optimist International clubs. Does that diminish the value of the opportunity? Is Optimist International enhancing their public image or have they set a limited expectation of what it takes to operate an Optimist Club by asking for such a small amount?

I think the decision to add Friends should be made by Optimist Clubs because individuals do not belong to Optimist International; individuals belong to Optimist Clubs.  Optimist Clubs belong to Optimist International. Optimist International has gone to great lengths to ensure that each club is autonomous and this decision, therefore, should be a club decision. Likewise, the investment amount should also be a club decision for only they know the true value their club has in their own community.

Several weeks ago, Optimist International advertised an incentive: Any Optimist Club that recruits 20 Friends before September 30, 2011 will receive a personal visit from Optimist International President Danny Rodgers.

One club, the Optimist Club of Greenfield, Iowa, has already met the challenge. Their community of 2,000 individuals now has 20 new Friends of Optimist. I congratulate them for their spirit and I envy the visit they will receive.

Danny is a dynamic individual. His visit to your club is well worth a $2,000 investment without adding an oblique membership into the mix.

I hope that the Optimist Clubs who use this membership recruitment strategy also capitalize on Danny's strengths during his visits. His charisma, commitment and stories may attract even more new members and innovative ideas to help make their clubs the best they can be.

Photo credit: Sorenson Studios


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