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Friday, March 24, 2017

Communicate, communicate, communicate

The top 5 reasons leaders don't communicate by Sherry Scott
On the Experience Optimism website, I have commented about the communication tactics of Optimist International many times. I fully believe that it could communicate more effectively with the members of the Optimist Clubs that make up the organization.

Specifically, it has a habit of sharing some information only with district leaders in the hopes that the information will trickle down as needed. Once someone is no longer in a leadership position, the information pipeline stops. The disappointment with this model is twofold:
  • the information does not trickle down in an effective manner
  • when it does trickle down, most information is prescriptive and does not engage members in the decision-making process
Plus, with the annually-imposed stop and start date of September 30 and October 1, it is as if one day you're in, and the next day you're out. Or is it? I've come to realize that perhaps, sometimes, one is never in the communication loop at all.

Some may have noticed that this administrative year has been especially non-communicative. It seems that very little information has trickled down to our clubs because as a club president, I have yet to see a district bulletin or even an email message from the governor. Almost six months have passed and while I know to go to the district website for information and meeting registration, I'm especially disillusioned to see that there is nothing listed, as of this writing, for the 3rd and 4th quarter district meetings, no minutes from the first quarter meeting, no financial reports, and no district goals or expections, among other things.

Districts have two purposes in Optimist International: to help Optimist Clubs succeed and to help Optimist International grow. Optimist International President Jim Kondrasuk has bundled the two purposes together this year by declaring it to be the Year of the Honor Club. When an Optimist Club earns Honor Club recognition, it has availed itself of the services from Optimist International and its District to host effective programs and recruit and retain members. Without communication, we don't know the specifics of the programs for the year including how to involve our youth contestants in the International Scholarship programs. Or, for instance, do you realize that Optimist International is awarding $500 each quarter for membership recruitment? 

Communication is crucial to success. Moreover, communication is a key that brings satisfaction to our decisions, including the decision to be part of an Optimist Club. In an article written for the Institute of Public Relations, Sherry Scott identified the top 5 reasons that leaders don't communicate as:

  1. The business strategy is complex
  2. They are uncomfortable with messiness
  3. Someone might ask a question they don't know the answer to
  4. They view their "goal" as communicator as delivering information, not hosting a conversation
  5. They don't want to deliver bad news

If I relate these to Optimist International, and more specifically to the governors of each of its 49 districts, I offer the following line item rebuttal:

  1. Honor Club is the business strategy 
  2. The business strategy, Honor Club, is about as straightforward as it gets
  3. Don't know the answer? I'll find out and get back to you is an answer
  4. Any information would be helpful and we can work on the rest if one is open to the ideas that others may have
  5. We can't fix the problems or celebrate the successes if we don't know about them

This year marks 30 years that I have been a member of an Optimist Club and over the years I have watched club presidents, district leaders, and international leaders approach their roles with various styles. The most successful are the ones who communicate their goals, restate their goals, work toward their goals at every turn, and monitor progress, reviewing it with others all along the way.

Some do that by creating, following and reporting on a published strategic plan. Although some might want to do more during their leadership term, I suggest that Honor Club is the baseline. Once a leader starts communicating that, the rest of the story to be communicated will fall into place.

Need help developing a communications plan? Contact Linda Vaughtpublic relations communicator at Experience Optimism.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why not NOW?

NOW is the acronym for New Optimists Welcome, a long-standing membership development program for Optimist Clubs. For as long as I can remember, Optimist Clubs have sponsored NOW activities for membership recruitment.


The NOW concept is simple - Your Optimist Club invites a group of prospective new members to a single event, explains what the Optimist Club is and what it does in the community, and then asks those assembled to join. When one person says yes, the group dynamics emboldens others to join as well.

Over the years, it has proved to be quite effective; however, it is important to follow the guidelines. Straying far from the recipe can lead to poor results as potential members become lost in the program delivery.

Here's what to do for a successful NOW program:

  • Set the location, date and time of the event - allow ample time for invitations, but not too long for enthusiasm to wane. Three to four weeks in advance seems about right. 
  • Identify potential new members
  • Send a letter to each prospective new member inviting them to the event
  • Follow-up by phone and email to remind invitees to attend
  • At the event, serve a meal, appetizers, desserts, drinks, or the like in order to allow time for networking
  • Begin the presentation on time
  • Show and tell about the Optimist Club's programs in short, no more than three-minute stories
  • Have a closer wrap up the stories, explain the dues and fees, share a personal testimony, and ASK for the sale
  • Have applications already at the tables, within reach, with Optimist Club members available to help the potential new member complete them NOW
  • Raise hands and voices when someone joins so that others catch the wave of excitement and join as well
  • Follow-up after the event with those who don't join at the event to extend the New Optimist Welcome pitch
  • Click here for the NOW brochure from Optimist International. 

The entire activity should be approximately one to one and one half hours long. It's important to respect your attendees time and to offer them value for their attendance. Networking and learning about something good in their community are benefits for small business owners and the efficient timeline allows them to move on to their next appointment in a timely manner. Such a first impression will encourage busy, career-minded individuals to give your Optimist Club a try.

NOW all you need to do is give them the opportunity to join an Optimist Club.

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's the Year of the Honor Club

pnw optimist clubs honor club
honor club goal setting

Optimist International President Jim Kondrasuk has declared the 2016-2017 administrative year to be the Year of the Honor Club.

What's this? Isn't every year the year of the Honor Club?

Each year, less than 25% of all Optimist Clubs earn the Honor Club recognition, so that means even fewer go on to receive the Distinguished Club designation. We can do better than that!

Clubs that meet the Honor Club designation have completed the minimum steps to ensure their Optimist Club is healthy and growing to serve future generations. Clubs that earn the Distinguished Club designation have served not only their club and community, but they have also expanded the reach of Optimist International by starting a new Optimist Club or adding fifteen or more new members to their club, equivalent to starting a new Optimist Club.

In an effort to encourage more Optimist Clubs to seek the best in administration, community service and growth, President Jim created a Goal Setting Plan for 2016-2017. In case this is the first time that you have seen this plan, be assured, March is as good a time to get started as October. There's plenty of time to make your Optimist Club an Honor Club.

Click on the pictures to enlarge and print. Here are the eight steps to Honor Club:
  • Complete three or more service projects each year 
  • Complete the President’s Pride Report and Club Officer-Elect Form 
  • Recognize a Club member or local community individual 
  • Grow Club by Net of +3 in membership
  • Appoint a Club Foundation Representative and make a non-restricted contribution to the OIF or CCOF 
  • Conduct a Membership Recruitment/Drive such as a NOW Program 
  • Club President or Club President-Elect (or two Designees) attend District Convention (or two other District meetings/conferences) 
  • Be current on District and OI Dues and Fees
Add one more step and be a Distinguished Optimist Club:
  • Add Net + 15 in membership OR Build one or more new Clubs OR 
  • Increase by Net + 8 and build two or more JOOI Club
Please do your part to make certain that your Optimist Club is an Honor Club.  

Together we can make our communities and our organization healthy, vital and brimming with optimism. Together we can. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Teachers are encouraged to #JoinanOptimistClub

Teachers matter Optimist International
For nine months each year, and sometimes more, teachers inspire children to learn and achieve. To me, it sounds like they are ready-made Optimists. For the second year, Optimist International agrees, and it has extended its popular Recruit-a-teacher membership incentive for the third quarter of the 2016-2017 administrative year. 

Beginning April 1 and ending June 30, your Optimist Club may add teachers or any school personnel to its roster for only $30!* 

What a great deal to connect your Optimist Club to a veritable firehose of service opportunities. According to Optimist International, connecting with teachers will provide: 
  • A strong connection with local schools is extremely beneficial for your Optimist Club. More teachers on your roster strengthens this connection.
  • They can open doors for attracting more students to our youth projects - including Oratorical, Essay, Sports and other programs.
  • Teachers are able to provide first hand insight into the needs of the children of your community.
  • Provides the foundation for new Junior Optimist Clubs.
  • Your Optimist Club will serve more children!
I think there are even more reasons than above. One that especially stands out to me - we often hear that teachers reach into their own pockets to provide school supplies to their classrooms and students. Wouldn't that make a wonderful project for your Optimist Club? If only the teacher knew how to get in touch with you!

Expand the reach of your Optimist Club and provide more service to your community through the Recruit-a-Teacher incentive. Together we can make a difference in every school throughout the land. Happy recruiting!

*This promotion is for new Optimist Members only. It may not be used in conjunction with any other membership promotions, including "Friend of Optimist." Clubs will be billed $30.00 at the time the teacher is added to their roster and then will not be billed dues for that Member for a calendar year. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

30 years of women in optimism

optimist international women 30 years
In 1987, women petitioned to join service clubs. Rotary International took on the fight all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. A decision was made that women could not be excluded from these austere groups.

Several weeks ahead of the decision, at its 1987 convention, Optimist International voted to allow women to join. I've heard stories about how the motion failed, and failed, and failed, only to be brought up again and passed at the business session that, by some accounts, ran as late as 2:00  in the morning.

On International Women's Day 2017, I salute those who fought to do what was right and thank you for the opportunity to serve as an Optimist Volunteer.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What did and didn't happen at the Washington Super Zone meeting

On Saturday, March 4, 2017, I attended the PNW District Super Zone Meeting for Washington. There were about ten people there who were not serving in a district leadership role, an additional seven who were representing the district, two visitors from the Oregon Zone, and four or five local club members who stopped in for lunch. That's right, the Washington Super Zone attendance was under twenty-five people in total.

The meeting began with with a recount of club activities. Only those from Washington reported.

  • We heard that the Chehalis-Centralia Optimist Club was busy with its bicycle and motorcycle rides and that they were especially excited to have been given the Santa House from the disbanded Auburn Optimist Club. They'll be renovating the building for all types of Christmas activities this year. 
  • We heard that the West Tacoma Optimist Club was deep into Essay and Oratorical Contests, working with Covenant School and accepting the at-large entries in the northwestern part of the state. It treats more than 600 students to Tri-Star Basketball. In addition to its Boy Scout troop, they've adopted a Sea Scout Crew and are readying for two standing fundraisers, the Joeseppi's takeover in April and Pancake Breakfast in August. 
  • We heard about the Vancouver, WA Optimist Club's Youth Camp and their success with the Oratorical Contest and CCDHH Contest. Their Junior Optimist Club - the Mob - was touted as was their work with the Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts. 
  • We heard that the Share-a-Smile Optimist Club is unconventional as their purpose is to promote a positive way of life among adults. It has a pet parade in the summer, and nothing is planned with children.
  • Dick Disney and Mary White reported that the Zone Oratorical Contest will be held in Vancouver, WA April 22, 2017. 
  • Dick also mentioned the Optimist International Convention, Albuquerque, NM, July 5-8 and encouraged anyone considering attending to make their hotel reservations.
Governor Rick Matkin discussed the changes in the Honor Club (ICD-135) program from Optimist International. The policy is set by the Optimist International Board of Directors for a five-year span. This year represents the first year with the following changes for Honor Club recognition:
  • Must end the year with net +3 members
  • Must hold an organized membership drive or NOW event (Governor Rick recommends a free lunch voucher card to entice new member prospects)
  • Must appoint a Club Foundation Representative
  • Optimist Club must make a CLUB donation to the Optimist International Foundation or Canadian Optimist Children's Foundation
  • Must attend 3 District Meetings or the Convention (Not mentioned, but required and new)
w tacoma optimist club distinguished clubThe meeting segued to awards from the prior year. The West Tacoma Optimist Club was recognized for being an Honor and Distinguished Optimist Club. President (of record) Jim Ferris and secretary-treasurer John Hickman were present to receive the award.  Citations were given and a promise of the special award, the Distinguished club officer watches, was given because the past governor forgot to bring them. 

optimist club anniversaryFellowship and conversation was enjoyed by all at lunch, followed by more than one hour of leadership training by Lynn Viner, Leadership Development Chair and a reimbursement reminder from district secretary-treasurer Sharon Gray. Somewhere along the line, we heard that the District now has a different website in addition to the website maintained by Michael Gray.

We then celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Chehalis-Centralia Optimist Club with cake. Club president Monique Connors led the group in a fun, get-to-know-you activity before Lt. Governor Gary Smith called the meeting to a close by leading us in the Optimist Creed.

All-in-all, some might proclaim this a successful meeting, but let me tell you what we didn't hear:  
  • Any information about the upcoming third quarter meeting - where it is being held, registration costs, etc. 
  • Any information about the District-level Oratorical and CCDHH Contests. I don't know about others, but I'm wondering where the contestants will be housed, and if the second CCDHH contest has been funded. 
  • How children may participate in the PNW District Optimist International Junior Golf Championships and the role of individual clubs, if any.
  • Any information about the location, date, or anything at all, about the District Convention. 
  • District financial information.
  • Administrative information such as club officer elections, district and international dues, or District leadership recruitment (Catch a Rising Star) for the coming year.
  • Anything about publicity and press releases, which, in August 2016, Governor Rick told us was a priority for him. 
  • News from around the district, what's happening in other zones and with other clubs.
  • District or Optimist International special incentives.
  • Where the District stands in growth. 
Above all, I did not hear any encouragement to go out and add a new member, host a new project or program, or attend a District event; which brings me to the few words that Governor-elect Bruce Gilbertson shared. He asked us to ask our fellow club members:
  • What will it take to get more members (you) to attend a district meeting? Is it cost, training, or something else?
  • What needs to be done to assist clubs? Does your club need help?
  • Are you willing to help your club and others?
That's a start. If the PNW District and Optimist International is to continue,  the passion of long-time members is not enough; we must answer the attendance question not only with new members, but most important, with relevance to the changing technology, needs, and priorities of our members and the communities we serve.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Wild Bill rides for kids and the Oregon City Optimist Club

Bill Upton is 75-years-old. When he was 51, he had a heart attack and at 55, five stents were placed in his heart. Seven years later, two more stents were put in, but none of the surgery has stopped Bill from raising money to support youth programs in his home town of Oregon City, Oregon.

His latest effort is a cross-country bicycle ride in honor of the Oregon City Optimist Club, especially its pay-to-play school sports grant program. "I should probably be raising money for the heart people, but I really admire the Optimists and their dedication to kids," explained Bill.

A former teacher and coach at Ogden Middle School, Bill likes that the Oregon City Optimist Club is always available to help with youth and community service projects. Some of its projects are the Oregon City High School's JROTC program and graduation party, Pioneer Pantry, the Oregon City Public Library, Angels in the Outfield, Building Blocks for Kids and the Sycamore Lane Therapeutic Riding Center, among others.

Bill and six friends are leaving on March 5, 2017 from San Diego, California. They will take a 50-day, 3,100-mile journey to St. Augustine, Florida. He is confident that he can make the trip and asks that you cheer him on by making a donation to the Oregon City Optimist Club in honor of "Wild Bill," as he has been dubbed by the Oregon City Optimist Club members.

You can cheer Wild Bill on at this link: Wild Bill's Ride for Kids

The Oregon City Optimist Club would like to thank you for your support.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Let's work together

Reciting the Optimist Creed will always lift your spirits and give you hope. Today's post is to also give you a reminder to talk about good things: health, happiness and prosperity.

It's rather easy, given today's political climate, to talk about negative topics. Fake news, alternative facts, and indiscriminate practices seem to take the forefront.

As optimists, we must fight back. We've often said, why can't there be more good news on the television and in the newspaper? Why can't there be more good news in my Facebook feed?

I ask, why aren't Optimist Clubs more widely sharing their projects and positive way of life?

As I pondered that question this morning, I realized that in the Pacific Northwest District, only fifty percent of the Optimist Clubs have an online presence. That's not enough!

Here's my offer!
Let me help you get your Optimist Club online. There are low and no-cost options for your Optimist Club to pursue.
Send me a note and let's get started today.

Let's share optimism by talking about health, happiness, and prosperity to every person we meet, in person, online and beyond. Let's work together to make the real news good news.

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