A Very Successful Open House at Charles Co. La Plata

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Past President, jeweler, and super Rotarian Josh Joson wowing the guests at the Charles County La Plata Open House by telling his Rotary story.

Rotary membership seems to be floating to the top of the list lately as I ramble around District 7620 in my usual dazed and clueless fashion.  On Monday evening I attended Membership Chair Darrell Nevin’s terrific seminar on membership called, From Yawn to Wow!  (I will be writing about Yawn to Wow in the next Ready, Fire, Aim.)  What made it even more interesting was that two weeks ago I attended an Open House by the Charles County La Plata Rotary Club, and it went so well you would have thought they had attended Nevin’s seminar.  Now that I think about it…..they did.  And therein lies the beginning of my tale.

It turns out that Club President, Jamie Reidy, and President-Elect, Jim Cook, DID attend Darrell’s seminar last year, as well as attending all of the District training and conferences.  They reached the conclusion that it was time to do something about the fact that the club’s membership had fallen from a high of 50 members to a low of 39 members.  (Sound familiar?)  So, they took the idea of doing something about it to the club’s Board, and the idea for doing an Open House was born.  Notably, two long-time members, Dr. Barry Aron and Josh Joson took the lead on the project.

Here’s how they did it.  First they came up with an announcement to the local business community that the club was having a “Rotary Awareness and Appreciation Night” to be held at the Green Turtle restaurant.  The invitations were nicely printed formal cards.  Then they HAND DELIVERED the invitations to small businesses in the area.  As I understand the story, Aron and Joson dropped invitations off in the local business district while other club members invited people they knew and other business folk they met at local business networking events.   (Note:  Back in the days when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was a District Trainer, I used to tell the story of a club president who wanted to do an Open House.  To make a long story short, in my narrative I said the invitations would be mailed to local businesses.  A few years ago, Past RI President, Ray Klinginsmith, follows me to the podium and tells everyone not to mail the invitations, but to hand deliver them.  At the time I was thinking, “you may be a past RI President but you are nuts.”  Now I’m thinking, he was right…and I was wrong…..again.)  But I digress.

As a result of the inspired leadership of Aron and Joson, along with the participation of the rest of the club, they had between 15 – 20 guests show up during the course of the evening.  It’s a beautiful evening on the deck of the Green Turtle, the Rotary signage is prominently displayed,  the food is good, the drinks are flowing.  The program was Yours Truly talking for less than five minutes about Rotary International and the Rotary District,  followed by three different club members telling their Rotary story.  They were very compelling.

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L-R: Dr. Barry Aron, former Rotarian and guest Ray Dickerson, Lee Bridget, son of Dennis and Becky, Dennis Bridget, his wife, Becky Bridgett, and Richard Smyser, all enjoying a lovely evening.

What was the result?  How about two new members and two who are likely to join any day now!  My math stinks, but that’s about a ten percent increase in club membership due to one successful membership event.  AWESOME.

When asked, PE Jim Cook tells me they are now snowed under with planning for the club’s upcoming Lobster Fest, which is the club’s signature event where about 1,300 guests show up for all the lobster they can eat.  There will  be a “What is Rotary” table at the event as they combine some great PR, a great party, and a fundraiser that netted $63,000 last year for the Birthing Center for the University of Md. Charles County Regional Hospital.  (Note:  I just paid $12 for a four ounce tail along with my filet.  All you can eat?  Lobster? Really?  Linda and I will be there on the 28th to check it out.)

So, here is some completely unsolicited advice for the La Plata club, offered in the context of a teachable moment for all concerned:

Make sure you get the names of everyone who attended, everyone who said they would attend and didn’t, and all of the Rotarians who were their hosts, and create a spreadsheet with all of the information.  Follow up is key!

Next time you do the Open House have someone from the Hospital as a speaker talking about what Rotary means to them.  This is a great idea direct from the Darrell Nevin storehouse of amazingly good membership ideas.  Apparently having the charities that benefit from your work tell everyone how important you are to them is the most moving tribute to Rotary you can get.

I know you are busy planning Lobster Fests and Dictionary Projects, but put your next Open House on the schedule now.  Six months from now should do it.  Don’t lose your momentum.

Concentrate on integrating your new members into the club.  Make sure you do their Fireside Chat and have them follow the New Member Checklist.

Dear District 7620 Rotarians, the La Plata club is just one of several clubs in the District successfully running Open Houses and growing their clubs.  You can do this!  You CAN DO THIS!

Congratulations to President Jamie and PE Jim for taking the initiative to bring this to the Board and getting the troops “fired up.”  And congratulations to the rest of the club for taking action.  We don’t call this blog, Ready, Fire, Aim for nothing.

More on membership next week…..

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Nice crowd. Nice evening. People kind of flowed in and out after work.

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