They gave statistics about the membership decline and without explaining why any of this would help, they asked those assembled to consider four options for the future:
- Do nothing - continue along the same lines and watch the membership dwindle away.
- Restructure the organization into regions, eliminating the district administrative structure.
- Allow Optimist Clubs to opt out of the district structure thereby achieving the second option eventually.
- Send us your ideas.
Most at the convention were dumbfounded. We know that membership is slipping. We know that our districts are ineffective. We know that there is not a magic bullet that would address membership decline or Optimist International and other service clubs would have already found it. But what we do know about our service club of choice is that it is one of positive thoughts and actions.
As Optimist Clubs, we share optimism and none of that spirit was coming from the stage that morning. As we looked about at others' faces and spoke in the halls afterward, we said, don't they get it? The problem is communication! Optimist International has a problem communicating with its members and when it does decide to enlighten its membership it does so with flourish and bravado as if those who came up with an idea are the only ones who have ever addressed it. There is no engagement, only orders and expectations.
If I write to email@example.com with my ideas, it will be to suggest better communications and a strategic public relations plan. I will also say, keep optimism alive, at all times. The greatest benefit of belonging to an Optimist Club is to be uplifted by the positive spirit of others who share similar goals for making their communities a better place to live. That begins with positive people at the top.