My Turn: Running the Numbers

Our mission is about people, not numbers.

By Michelle (Miki) Baker, ATMS

If I hear one more person talk about “running the numbers,” I am going to scream! This is not a good response from a Toastmaster, I admit, but it reflects my extreme frustration with the shortsightedness of so many Toastmasters.

The mission of the club is “to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop and practice communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.”

Our mission is about people, not numbers. The club provides the opportunity for its members to grow and learn – the members don’t provide the club with the opportunity to “make its numbers.”

The Distinguished Club Program supports the goal of the club, it doesn’t replace it. If a club is doing what it should, fulfilling the goals for the DCP will be automatic. The Distinguished Club Program helps the officers and club members focus on what needs to be done. The educational content of award requirements helps all of the members learn and grow, and ensures that members get information that is beneficial. There is no competition here, just common sense.

The Toastmasters organization is about people. The quality of their experience is of the utmost importance. If someone gets their 5th Competent Communicator award by simply running through a series of speeches, have they truly benefited? Has the club that “earns” that CC truly benefited? It would be better if four relatively new members get their first CC. If a new member is extremely shy, it may be enough in that year for him/her just to give an Ice Breaker and participate in Table Topics. At some point the CC will come.

Just for fun, let’s take a look from a preposterous perspective. Let’s visit the “Numbers Toastmasters Club.” Because this club cares more for numbers than for people, once eight new members have joined, there’s no reason to solicit more members. Guests aren’t greeted or asked to join. After all, they’ve reached their new-member goal, so why bother? On April 1st, with only three months left, no Ice Breakers are scheduled. There is no chance of earning any further CC awards that year, so why bother? This club is focused only on immediate rewards. The future seems too far away to care about. (Actually, since there are no new members, there aren’t any Ice Breakers to schedule, anyway.) 

                    "The Distinguished Club Program supports
                    the goal of the club, it doesn't replace it."

It gets worse. Because only four officers have to be trained per training period to meet the numbers, why encourage all of the officers to attend? After the first four officers go, no one is encouraged to participate. Those who don’t attend the first time can always go the second time.

Officer lists are sent in on time, and the October dues renewals are submitted on time, but what about April dues renewals? Well, the treasurer wasn’t one of the officers who went to training, and he or she doesn’t know about submitting them online. Besides, the numbers have already been met, so who cares?

Send new-member applications in promptly? Huh? Where is that in the “numbers?” As long as eight get sent in sometime during the year the numbers are made.

Run productive meetings? Have interesting Table Topics and good evaluations? Huh? Where is that in the “numbers?” Besides, the VPE wasn’t one of the officers trained, so why bother with themes? Who cares about structure? It’s not in the numbers.

As you can see, the numbers game doesn’t really make any sense. Even an accountant (and I’ve been an accountant all of my life) wouldn’t want to be a member of the “Numbers Toastmaster Club.”

If your club is not making the numbers, step back and look for the true causes. Why aren’t new members joining? How do you treat guests? Why didn’t the officers get trained? Do they take their office seriously? Why aren’t there any CCs/ACs? Does the VPE encourage all members to continue to make progress? Is there a progress chart displayed?

Let’s not be short-sighted about “making the numbers” this year. Let’s strive toward quality Toastmasters clubs where “every member has the opportunity to develop and practice communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self- confidence and personal growth.”

The numbers will follow the people, as it should be.

Michelle (Miki) Baker, ATMS, is a member of Camden County Toastmasters 1189-38 in Haddonfield, New Jersey. She can be reached at