It’s that time again. The time when we finish out the old year and get ready for the new—the new Toastmasters year, of course. If you have been around for a while, you know this leads to a club discussion on the Distinguished Club Program, or DCP.
In short, the DCP measures a club’s success in meeting Toastmasters goals. If you are relatively new to the organization, you might be wondering what the fuss is all about. Then again, if you have been around for some time, you might be wondering the same thing.
It is easy to look at the program as something for Toastmasters International’s benefit, and nothing more—a management tool for the District leaders.
Or do the requirements primarily benefit the individual member? I believe they do.
The club’s primary qualifying requirement of the program is that a club needs to have 20 members or a net growth of five members on the club’s roster as of July 1 (see page 6 of the Distinguished Club Program and Club Success Plan manual for more detail). While 20 may seem like an arbitrary number, I noticed something interesting when I was President of a club with 15 to 25 people attending any given meeting. When we had 20 or more attendees, the meeting was livelier. The energy level of the group was noticeably higher than when we had fewer than 20. That meant that the meetings were more fun and, as a result, the speakers did better. As it turns out, 20 members is a good minimum target.
The DCP is made up of 10 goals. Six of them focus on education achievements in the Pathways learning experience. The various award targets encourage newer members to get started in the education program (that is, Pathways) quickly, and longer-term members to continue to grow.
This isn’t just about club goals. We all have our own personal objectives with Toastmasters. Those are primarily achieved by progressing through Pathways. The DCP criteria incentivize the club to have members achieving in the five levels of a path, but it is the individual members who advance in those levels. Thus, we encourage one another to grow when we work toward the DCP goals.
The next two goals pertain to membership. Both involve adding new, dual, or reinstated club members to the roster. This is primarily to replace any member attrition. It keeps us focused on growth. There is nothing like a new face and perspective to energize everyone.
The remaining two goals have to do with leadership activities. One involves leadership training. Every six months, at least four of a club’s seven officers need to attend training. If you are new to a position, it is good to know your responsibilities. If you are continuing in your same position, you might pick up something you missed the first time.
The final goal is to submit your dues renewal and officer roster on time. If you don’t submit the roster, your officers will not have access to the officers section in Club Central on the Toastmasters website. This means that, among other tasks, your club won’t be able to log new awards and sign up new members. Although this looks merely like a paperwork task, it is vital to make sure that your club can operate smoothly.
When you fulfill these various goals, your club can achieve specific Distinguished award levels—Distinguished, Select Distinguished, or President’s Distinguished. That, again, gives the club targets to shoot for. Achieving five of the 10 goals makes you a Distinguished club, while achieving seven makes you Select Distinguished; meeting nine goals qualifies you as President’s Distinguished.
But what if, as you approach the end of the program year, you already have your nine, and a member is about to enable you to achieve your 10th? It won’t change your club’s status. But while it may be tempting to hold back “excess” awards until a new program year, I believe you should submit all awards right away so that the members get immediate recognition for their achievement. If that means that you have to stretch yourselves the next year, good! Challenge yourself and your fellow club members to grow beyond your initial objectives. After all, we are in Toastmasters to grow.
The DCP is not a task. It is encouragement to each individual member to continue growing. It is a ladder to greater success.
Bill Brown, DTM is a speech delivery coach in Gillette, Wyoming. He is a member of Energy Capital Toastmasters in Gillette. Learn more at www.billbrownspeechcoach.com.