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!
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:
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!
From the desk of the Lt. Governor:
Earlier today I received an email from the President of one of the local clubs in the district. The email requested information about membership statistics within the clubs in the Rapidan District. There was no easy way to pull the requested information from MMS, as some of the data was inaccurate. So I ended up combing through the records of each club, correcting obvious mistakes (for example there were many instances of members being identified as male when I know they were female, and vice versa – because I know them personally!) And there were a lot of members that were not identified as either male or female! So I have spent about three hours (more or less) combing through the records, correcting the ones that I knew were inaccurate. Then I was finally able to pull the corrected data for the District from the MMS database.
After all that effort, I decided that the information may be of interest to more than just one club in the Rapidan District, so I decided to post it here. Why re-invent the wheel later on? So…. without further ado, here are the results as of today’s information from MMS:
Number of Clubs in the Rapidan District: 24
Number of Clubs in Rapidan District with female members: 20
Number of Clubs in Rapidan District with male members: 24
Number of Clubs in Rapidan District with business members: 4
Number of Clubs in Rapidan District with youth members: 6
Total number of members in the Rapidan District: 615
Number of female members in Rapidan District: 175
Number of male members in Rapidan District: 427
Number of Business members (counted as neither gender) in Rapidan District: 13
Number of Adult members in Rapidan District: 584
Number of Youth members in Rapidan District: 18
Number of Business members (counted neither as adult or youth) in Rapidan District: 13
I hope these numbers will prove useful to the local Ruritan Clubs as they look towards the future of the membership needs of their clubs!