May 31, 2014

Membership growth through social media: Elect Linda Vaught Jackson

The first online elections for Optimist International will begin on June 2, 2014. This year, for the first time ever, Optimist Clubs will be able to vote online for the offices of International President-elect, International Vice Presidents-elect, and Board of Directors.

This is a positive change that offers the opportunity for more engagement throughout all levels of the organization, but it is only a beginning.

The wise leadership of a social media practitioner and public relations communicator is needed to promote the value of belonging to an Optimist Club and convert viewers to members. I believe that I have the skills needed right now for the Optimist International organizations and I would sincerely appreciate your Optimist Club's vote.


Elect Linda Jackson, Vice President, Optimist International.

May 27, 2014

Plan ahead and enjoy more success

One of my alerts returned the following headline today, "Optimists conducting coat drive." I clicked because I wondered why would I get such an old alert. I thought I might need to tweak it and then I saw that the Wahpeton/Breckenridge Optimist Club was indeed collecting coats in May. The article said that they were doing so "to ensure students have warm coats to go along with their school supplies in the fall."

I think I would have been equally surprised if the alert had said that the Optimist Club was collecting school supplies; kudos to them for their excellent planning. Right now, people are packing away their winter gear as they prepare for the summer months ahead. What better time could there be to donate a gently used jacket or coat?

So often our Optimist Clubs use just-in-time planning approaches. That means, as an event grows closer, the club members divvy up the tasks to get them done just in time for the big day. However, doing so limits the opportunity to market the event appropriately, save money on supplies and sell tickets when appropriate. And even though this method works to some degree, it doesn't allow the opportunity for outreach and communication beyond the club's immediate circle of influence. It also focuses on tasks instead of objectives and never gives the opportunity to ask, should we be doing this?

The goal of any plan is to help an organization or individual reach certain identified objectives. In the case of event management, the goal isn't typically to merely hold the event, it is to hold a successful event determined by the number of people engaged and the quality of the time that the attendees spend there, among other things. The end objective is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the event organizer and its guests.

Every year, an Optimist Club should take time to evaluate its goals for the year and then systematically look at the events or activities they conduct to see if they will help it reach its goals. Then, and only then, can the club assign chairpersons and committees to carry out the tasks that bring an event to life.

Early analysis should include a plan for outreach. We don't plan events for ourselves; we plan them for others to enjoy, be nurtured and engaged. One of the first steps should be to ensure our stakeholders, from potential sponsors to the anticipated audience, are aware of activities that are being planned for them so that when the activity arrives, they already have them on their calendar.

Early planning should also include early deadlines and a tracking mechanism to be sure everyone involved is accountable for what they've been assigned. When the committee meets, go over the tasks and celebrate the progress that has been made. Celebrating small steps will build enthusiasm and give more talking points for word of mouth marketing. It will also increase buy-in. Members will feel good about what they are doing and when we feel good about what we're doing, we ask others to get involved.

The overarching goal of any Optimist Club is to increase membership so that it can do more in its community. By planning ahead and focusing on objectives instead of tasks, your Optimist Club will achieve its goal and be better prepared to deliver on its promises for providing community service.

May 23, 2014

Why would you want to do that?

Linda Vaught Jackson
Why would you want to do that? 

This seems to be a popular question for me to answer these days. You see, at the recent PNW District - Optimist International meeting, more than a few fellow Optimist Club members wanted to know why I would want to be an international vice president. Some said no explanation was needed; they got it - they understood the drive to fulfill every step in one's Optimist journey. 

For me, that is part of it; it is the next step, but there is more. Please, let me explain to you why I want to be the next Vice President, West Coast Region, Optimist International.

Being an Optimist Club member is in in my blood. Throughout my adult life, my Optimist Club involvement has always been a support system for me. When my mother passed away, my Optimist Club asked me to be president. It would help me through the grief they said, and they were right. I had just begun working at Optimist International when my father passed away. It provided direction for me at that challenging time. And the decision to relocate to Idaho, away from the Midwest, was because of a relationship I made at an Optimist International Convention. Optimism has helped me navigate through life's events. 

I believe that what Optimist Clubs do makes a difference in the communities they serve. By extension, I make a difference. I want to share both that opportunity for involvement and feeling of accomplishment with others. 

Finally, and most importantly, I have a skill set that our organization needs right now. As an experienced blogger and social media practitioner, I can share the good work that Optimist Clubs do by writing and telling our stories through traditional and digital media. Moreover, I can teach others to do the same. 

At the recent PNW District Optimist Oratorical finals, one young man explained that passion drives us to develop our skills and our skills lead us to greater achievements. Sharing Optimist Club stories is my passion. I want to be Vice President, West Coast Region, Optimist International so that I can share my skills with others.

What does success look like for an Optimist Club? 
More members? Yes. 
More projects? Yes. 
More revenue? Yes. 
More children served? Yes.

How about more recognition? Yes. Recognition and awareness will allow us to do all of the above because it will lead to growth and growth will allow Optimist Clubs and Optimist International to be relevant to new generations far into the future. 

Bottom line: I want to be Vice President so that I can help Optimist Clubs grow, do more in their communities and gain the recognition they so broadly deserve because everyone deserves the opportunity to be involved with this amazing organization. 

I would sincerely appreciate your vote on June 2 - 30, 2014. Thank you.

May 20, 2014

How our passions impact the world

Students compete in oratorical contest in the
PNW District - Optimist International
On Saturday, May 17, 2014, I attended the PNW District - Optimist International Finals for the Optimist International Oratorical Contest and Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Sixteen young adults told us how their passions impact the world. Early in the competition one young man explained, "Passion determines skills. Spend time with what you like and you will develop skills that lead to accomplishments."

That is so true. The quote reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's definition of expertise being 10,000 hours of practice and I thought how perceptive that he sees that without Gladwell's encouragement.

Another played on the same line of thought saying, "Passions impact our lives through the accomplishments we achieve." I found it interesting that for our young speakers, passion equaled achievement.

Other speakers drove more into their personal passions. For the hearing students, that included such things as robots and innovation, art, reading and journalism. For the hearing impaired, their passions were similar and included such things as education and technology, but they were also much more interested in causes ranging from animal rights to obesity, anti-bullying and activism.

Closing out the competition was a young man, hearing impaired, but delivering his speech aloud. Wise beyond his years, he spoke like a true optimist when he said that he'd seen hardship in his life and realized it was his responsibility to rise above it. He explained that it is every individual's responsibility to change the world around them. If everyone would do this, then together the impact could change the whole world.

"Stand up when you know something is wrong," he said. Quoting Gandhi, he concluded, "You have to be the change you want to see in the world."


Well done, students. Thank you for your thoughts and the promise you give our future.

May 14, 2014

A special fishing derby in Idaho

I belong to two Optimist Clubs. One is near where I live and I attend regularly and participate in nearly every activity coordinated by the Middleton Area Optimist Club.

However, my other club, the Jerome Optimist Club is two hours away. That's not a terribly long distance when you consider the rural state that is Idaho; however, it is too far for general participation, especially on weekdays.

On Monday, May 12, 2014, the Jerome Optimist Club put on one of its most cherished events: the Special Needs Fishing Derby. Sheri Mitchell, club president and activity manager, is shown here with the some of the participants. They're showing off their small catch of the day.

More than 100 fishermen and women were at this year's Fishing Derby. They were joined with at least 50 or more fishing buddies, adult volunteers who help the kids land their catch.

Clear Springs Foods supplies the trout and Idaho Fish and Game and Sportsman Warehouse help with supplies, and high school students assist with onsite activities; but it is truly the passion of the Jerome Optimist Club, and Sheri, that brings this remarkable event to life.

The kids appreciate it; the community appreciates it; and so do I. Great job my friends, the Jerome Optimist Club.

May 8, 2014

Optimists help first responders help kids

Every year, at a Boise State University basketball game, the Boise Noon Optimist Club will collect hundreds of teddy bears during its program aptly named Operation Bear Care. These plush characters are then given to first responders who keep them in their vehicles and give them to children when they are in an unfortunate or traumatic situation. Other Optimist Clubs and service groups around the country perform similar projects, reaching out to kids to help relieve their anxiety and bolster a comfortable relationship between youngsters and law enforcement.
From L to R: Brandon Blanchard, David Wilke,
Blaine Shutts, Andrea Brownlee and Lorraine Sinnott.

The Optimist Club of Oskaloosa, Iowa has taken this program a step further. They have created an activity kit backpack that is filled with small toys, crayons and coloring books. Serving the same purpose, its approach reaches across a broader age-range. According to Police Chief Jake McGee, the backpacks help distract children when they are in a stressful situation so that he police can do what they need to do. "Hopefully, [it] comforts them a little bit," he concluded. 

Optimist Club President Andrea Brownlee said, "We thought it was a good idea. Something we could do to help the community."

Understated, but there when needed; yes indeed, Ms. Brownlee,  it is a great way to be of service.

Photo credit:

May 2, 2014

Let your passions drive you

We often ask the media to attend our Optimist Club Oratorical Contest, among other events, but rarely do they come. Not so for the Mount Clemens Optimist Club, Michigan. The Bath City Beat came and reporter Hannah Smith gave a great review of the activity.

Optimist Club president Jerry Kuhl described the path that contestants take to reach the $2,500 scholarship that can be earned at the district level and contestants explained how their passions led them to complete their speech and compete in the contest.

The topic changes annually and this year it is "How my passions impact the world." Mount Clemens contest winner Austin Rieck reflecting after his victory said, "Let your passions drive you. Always be happy about life."

Great advice, Austin. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. 

Click here for the video on YouTube courtesy of the Bath City Beat.


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