It’s as predictable as the equinox. Every six months, Toastmasters dues are due. In effect, this is a report card for each club, even more than the Distinguished Club Report, for it measures the member’s commitment level.
I recently received a call from a member of one of my former clubs asking for my advice. He was concerned. His club is a perennial President’s Distinguished Club. But membership had fallen off, including the loss of many longtime members. In fact, attendance was such that they didn’t have enough attendees to cover all of the meeting roles. Yet, his biggest concern was that they would not be distinguished. I suggested a different focus.
First, if you don’t have enough members to cover the roles, double up. My club is a small club. We never have enough attendees to cover the roles. That is normal for many clubs. Do what you have to do.
I was more interested in his concern about losing distinguished status. The Distinguished Club Program, or DCP, is a major focus in Toastmasters. It is a system that guides clubs to address the issues that contribute to a healthy club. It encourages officer training. It promotes progress in Pathways. And it rewards recruiting new members. The DCP is a roadmap to the destination of a healthy, vibrant club. It is not, however, the ultimate destination.
All too often the sole focus is on progress toward the DCP. The problem is people don’t join Toastmasters to help a club achieve a Distinguished Club award. They join to achieve their own objectives. And they will remain a member as long as their personal objectives are being met. When they have met their goals, they may leave. Some may continue to attend because they like being a part of the club family, but a time may come when life dictates that they focus their attention elsewhere.
It is important that our focus is on making sure that every member is achieving their personal goals. And that means you need to understand those goals to make sure that this is happening.
If you focus on helping each member succeed, the club will succeed in the DCP. Focus on member success, not DCP success. The one feeds the other.
As a former member of the shrinking club mentioned earlier, I can understand the member’s concern that some of the longtime members are not returning. Some are original members and serve as the brain trust of the club. I am sorry to see them leave.
The question is: Why are clubs like this struggling? Why would mainstays of a club leave?
We old-timers tend to hang around until something happens to trigger a decision, something that suggests that it is time for a change. The pandemic has triggered that decision for many. COVID-19 has caused many people to make changes in their lives. Their schedules may have changed; their commitments may have changed; they may have made directional changes in their lives, including moving away. It may not be possible for them to continue to attend. Sometimes life gets in the way of club membership.
Focus on member success, not DCP success. The one feeds the other.
Another factor is that the change from manuals to the Pathways learning experience has been a challenge for many longtime members. You get used to one way and then it is no longer available. We can learn the new way, but do we want to make the effort? As a club, we need to make sure that all members understand the Pathways and Base Camp basics. One characteristic of the new system is that you can get to a particular section a number of ways. That is great, but it can also be confusing and complicated. Teach us one way. Some of us like simple.
Some members may leave because they are not excited about the online format. That is why I strongly suggest that, if you haven’t already, get back to meeting in person as soon as possible. Hopefully that alleviates the problem. But online meetings may have weakened the commitment of some of your members. In-person connections are stronger than virtual connections. Work to strengthen those connections.
What if all your members are fully committed? Fantastic! Still, focus on making sure that their personal goals are met. That is why they joined Toastmasters in the first place. And that is why they will continue to be happy, committed, and supportive members for a long time to come.
Bill Brown, DTM is a speech delivery coach in Gillette, Wyoming. He is a member of Energy Capital Toastmasters in Gillette. Learn more at billbrownspeechcoach.com.