Reaching Out To Today’s Teenagers

teenagers (free clip art)

teenagers (free clip art)

By Linda Bradshaw, Past District Governor (Rapidan District, 2015):

As I traveled to the various local Ruritan Clubs in the Rapidan District, to Leadership Conferences, AVR fellowship meetings, and National Conventions and talked with members of other community service organizations, I’ve found myself discussing the needs of all Community Service Clubs to become attractive to a younger demographic. Whether we like it or not, if our clubs are going to survive much longer, all of our clubs are going to need to find ways to recruit and retain younger members.

Most of the people I’ve listened to tell me that they are convinced that the younger generation, the teenagers, and the young adults in college are too self-absorbed, are too deeply engrossed in their iphones, ipads, and other electronic devices to be interested in performing community service.

My reply, to this statement, has been “I understand what you are saying, and why you are saying it, but I disagree.” I firmly believe that today’s youth are extremely interested in performing community service. We just need to find a way to reach these younger people, become attractive to them, recruit and retain them.

Doing this is a multi-step process.

First step is “reaching” the younger people. One of the best ways to do this, using today’s resources, is through Social Media. Smart, efficient use of the Internet, by creating a blog-style website, (using the right formats and Search Optimization practices) that will cross-post to a Facebook page is a cheap (as in free, or almost free) way to make ourselves easily found by anyone who is looking for our clubs.

In the recent past I found myself discussing that situation with my 28-year-old son. He has always been interested in, and involved in, community service projects through his schools, and his life. I asked him for some insights and suggestions on the subject, and he gave me a lot to think about, which I have shared with the Ruritan organization in various ways during the past several years.

Shortly after the discussion, he sent me an email, suggesting that I read this blog post about 5 ways to inspire teenagers to take an interest in community service. I just finished reading it, and felt that the article certainly has enough good points and value that it is worth sharing here. Please click on this link to read the article: 5 Ways To Take An Interest in Community Service.

Reading the article may be helpful as you consider ways to appeal to the younger generations that our clubs would be wise to include in our membership.

In the near future I hope to provide a post that discusses ways to make our Ruritan Clubs attractive to another demographic group – the empty nesters. In the mean-time, please consider the fact that almost every one of your friends, family, and neighbors is someone who can provide some type of value to a community service club. Please don’t just dismiss them because their skill set is different from your own.

The world, and our clubs, need a variety of people to survive. Creating and running a community takes a lot of different people.

We need to find ways to embrace the differences, include the variety, welcome the unique individuals, not exclude them, scorn them, shun, or curse them!


Membership Drives – Look To Home-School Families

Home School (free clip art)

Home School (free clip art)

From the Desk of the District Governor:

Many local Ruritan Clubs are interested in increasing their membership numbers. Consider reaching out to local Home-School families.

There are over a million Home-School children in the United States. There are a lot of websites that have statistics about how many there are in each state. One such website that we have looked at, a2zhomeschooling dot com, has a chart, broken down by state, that shows how many children are home-schooled in the United States. Here is a copy of that chart:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Home Schoolers are going to need Community Service credits to get into college. Their parents will want to be involved, too, and (if we play our cards right) the parents are likely to stay members of the Ruritan Clubs after their kids leave for college! In today’s society, the young generation that is going off to college now (referred to as the “millennial or boomerang generation”) are expected to come back home to live with their parents for a significant number of years before moving out on their own. According to Forbes magazine, a full 24% of 25 to 34 year-olds now live with their parents!

One benefit of reaching out to the Home-Schoolers is that they can stop what they are doing in the middle of the day and come help you with your middle of the school day events without worrying about missing school! There are thousands of potential members to be found in the Home-School community, and they are not hard to find. You can find them by Googling “Homeschool (town name) VA.” You will be surprised how many Home schooling groups you will find! You will find contact names and emails and telephone numbers!

One online resource to find Home School Support Groups sorted by Counties in Virginia can be found on the Home Educators Association of Virginia’s website here: Home Educators Association of Virginia’s Support Group Directory

One online resource to help find Home School Support Groups and Resources anywhere in the USA can be found here: Local Homeschool Dot Com’s Website

Reach out to these groups, offer to come visit their groups to talk about the Ruritan Clubs, or invite them to come to a Ruritan meeting!

When you recruit these youths, don’t just assign them to stacking chairs and tables, or cleaning up trash. Ask them what their passion is, and let them choose (or create) a project about their passion! Kids are passionate about something – maybe animals (a project about humane society,) the environment (recycling and road-side clean-up,) homeless people (homeless shelter,) hunger (food drive for local food pantry,) or elderly (care packages for nursing homes, or busy aprons for alzheimer’s patients) are just a few ideas that the kids can spear-head. Or make them the webmaster of your new website! Get them (and their parents) involved in something the kids are passionate about, and their parents are likely to stay on as club members to continue those projects after the kids have left for college because it will help the parents feel connected to their kids after they have left home (helping the parents cope with empty nest syndrome and it will give the parents something to talk about with their kids when the kids call home!)

There are literally thousands of potential Ruritan members in the Home-Schooling community. We just need to reach out to them and invite them to join with us!


A word about marketing local Ruritan Clubs

From the desk of the Rapidan District’s Publicity Chairperson, Linda Bradshaw:

I’d like to discuss publicity for a few minutes with our Ruritan Clubs today.

Whether we like to think about our Ruritan Clubs as businesses or not, they are, in fact, a type of business.

Target Market (free clip art)

Target Market (free clip art)

The primary goal of any business is to stay in business! In order for our Ruritan Clubs to “stay in business,” we must increase and maintain our membership!  We must “market” our clubs to the right “target market” in order to do that!

In order for our Ruritan Clubs to grow, we need to appeal to the younger, more technologically savvy generations. Those generations are our “target market.”

One of the most effective methods to market anything in today’s technology-heavy world is by using the Internet’s Social Media platforms.

Social Media (free clip art)

Social Media (free clip art)

Ruritan National workshops held at conventions advised the attendees to use websites, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to promote awareness and membership in our local Ruritan Clubs!  There is little doubt that Social Media is THE KEY to the future of Ruritan membership!

I would like to encourage each club to have BOTH a website and a Facebook Page.

Facebook (free clip art)

Facebook (free clip art)

Consider this:  Everyone that reads Facebook uses the Internet, but not everyone that uses the Internet reads Facebook!  Only 25% of Facebook users are in the United States, and 25% of Facebook users are under the age of ten. Although Facebook is still a valuable resource, there have been several articles this year that suggest that Facebook’s popularity is waning.  Of my own personal circle of family, friends, and neighbors, the majority of them have Internet access but refuse to join, or use Facebook. Yet they all use the Internet’s Google’s Search engine to find information that they need.

Internet - man searching online (free clip art)

Internet – man searching online (free clip art)

Having a “real” website that has the proper keywords built-in will help people find the information they are seeking about your club quickly and easily without having to search multiple posts through a long timeline on Facebook. “Real” websites can have “search” features and multiple pages that Facebook simply does not have. Don’t get me wrong – Facebook is a valuable supplemental resource that can enhance the publicity and marketing of a club. A “real” website, however, is the keystone of an Internet marketing campaign.

Sharing options on WordPress websites

Sharing options on WordPress websites

One useful feature of some websites I’ve developed (using the free, easy, user-friendly WordPress platform) is that they can be set up to automatically cross-post to their associated Facebook pages.  This is done on their “Sharing settings” page under the “Publicize” option (see photo above.) They can also be set up to cross-post to other platforms as well, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and more! That feature eliminates duplicity of work.  You can publish a post to the website, and be done with it! The information goes everywhere you can possibly want it to go!

Calendar of events (free clip art)

Calendar of events (free clip art)

The websites can also have calendar of events features, so your club can use it as a resource to publicize upcoming meetings and events.

Now, I understand that some clubs may have concerns about the costs and technical difficulties of buying, creating, and maintaining a website.  Not very long ago, websites WERE expensive, and difficult to buy, create and maintain.  Today the annual cost is very affordable.

For example, GoDaddy is selling domain names (dot coms) this month for $2.99 for the first year. Their renewal fees typically are below $20 per year.  (The prices vary, depending on sales and promotions at the time.)

Internet (free clip art)

Internet (free clip art)

By having the local clubs purchase their own domain, the local clubs can maintain total creative control over their own websites, and can create as simple, or as complex, a website as the club desires. The WordPress platform is free, and easy.  The WordPress Platform can be used to create a static page website for a club that only wants to have one or two pages that don’t change, or it can be used to create a blog-style, dynamic web page that can be updated with posts about current news and events.

The Rapidan District Cabinet will purchase a “real” domain name for the District, and purchase the web hosting service plan that will allow the Rapidan District to host unlimited websites on their server. The Rapidan District is offering to host the websites of local clubs within the Rapidan District on the District’s server for free. This offer applies to both existing sites, and new sites.  Hosting the local club’s websites on the District’s server will save local Ruritan Clubs a significant amount of money each year. (GoDaddy’s least expensive web hosting plan is $84/year, although it sometimes goes on sale for 50% off.)

By putting the local Ruritan club’s website on the District’s server, the local club can then spend the money saved on some other important Community Service Project! That is a win-win situation!

workshop (free clip art)

workshop (free clip art)

One free workshop was held in July 2014 to help local club’s volunteer webmasters understand the basics of creating a WordPress platform website.  Another free “make-up” workshop will be scheduled in the near future for those clubs whose webmasters were unable to attend the first one.

If your Rapidan District Ruritan Club is interested in participating in a future  free (yes, free!) workshop, please use the contact form below to express your interest and to advise when your volunteer webmaster would be available to attend a workshop!

[contact-form subject=’Contact from Rapidan District Website’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]


SHARE Food Network Is a Great Way to Provide Community Service To Local Communities

SHARE Food Network Menu July 2014

SHARE Food Network Menu July 2014

The SHARE Food Menu for July 2014 (above) has been released.

The SHARE Food Network is a way to buy quality food at about half price. We can purchase it for personal use, but we can also use it to help needy families, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food drives, etc. How about instead of donating $100 to a local homeless shelter/soup kitchen/food pantry, we spend $100 on SHARE Food and donate $200 worth of food to the homeless shelter/soup kitchen/pantry? This is a great way to double the value of our contributions to good causes!

The Jefferson (VA) Ruritan Club uses the SHARE Food Network to help feed their sponsored needy families. Some club members use SHARE Food for their own families as well.

This is a great way to save money on food – and you do not have to disclose income. You do not need to be receiving food stamps. The food is top-quality. If you are not taking advantage of this opportunity to get good food for little money. This is run by Catholic Charities, but you do not have to be Catholic. Many of the distribution locations are in churches that are not Catholic. This is a TRUE community service project!

There are SHARE Food Network Distribution locations in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virgina, and West Virginia. Details for them can be found on the SHARE Food Network’s Find SHARE Site Page.

SHARE Food Network is currently looking to expand their distribution areas, and would be glad to send speakers to Ruritan clubs in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, with the hope that Ruritan Clubs might consider helping to support setting up new distribution areas in their own local communities. If your club is looking for speakers, you may want to consider SHARE Food Network for that!

If you are interested in having a speaker come to YOUR club, you may use the contact form below, and a representative from SHARE Food will contact YOU.

[contact-form to=’winona1@yahoo.com’ subject=’Request for more information about SHARE Food from a Ruritan Club member (from Linda Bradshaw’s website)’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]