Divisions to District

POSITION PAPER By Andrew Bolotin DTM

1st June, 2009

PURPOSE OF THIS POSITION PAPER

The purpose of this position paper is to provide a possible blueprint for the transition to becoming a viable WA district and to consider a pathway to success for its first few critical years.

PREAMBLE

Everyone involved in the preliminary work and negotiations to get WA approved as a District deserves sincere congratulations for their efforts. This is only the 3rd time in the 50 years of Australian Toastmastering such an approval has occurred and it ought to be seen for what it is – massive.

Now the hard work really begins…

OUR REAL STRENGTH

While it is true that WHQ (and therefore) Districts have an unholy obsession with club numbers, any experienced Governor will tell you it is actually membership numbers that determine success at any level of Toastmasters.

If we currently claim perhaps 55 Clubs (and don’t forget we can’t afford to lose even one for the next two years), we ought logically to have 55 X 20 members = 1100.

But the D.73 average is a trifle over 15 memberships, so we are more likely 850 at best. Unfortunately due to so many dual, triple, quadruple and even quintriple members in WA, I would estimate our real strength at no more than 700. If we then feed the membership back into charter club numbers, we quickly arrive at 35 “real” clubs.

That might be OK – well it isn’t – but it is acceptable to count like that in a mature district like D.73. In Western Australia it’s like relying on the false body count in Vietnam. If we need to exaggerate to everyone else in the TM universe, fine and dandy, but let’s not start out by misleading ourselves!

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF

In 1974, Melbourne was a division of D.70 (NSW) and it went through exactly the same process WA has in trying to become a district of its own. Eventually approval was provisionally given by WHQ (that’s why we were D.73P for our first ten years) and the district was chartered as follows:

Melbourne = 25 clubs
Tasmania = 2 clubs
S.Australia = 4 clubs
W.Australia = 4 clubs

Because D.73 also used (AND BELIEVED) the above rubbery figures, this was the result when I became Administrative Lt Governor (the 3rd most senior district position) on 01.07.1983:

Melbourne = 24 clubs
Tasmania = 2 clubs
S.Australia = 4 clubs
W.Australia = 4 clubs

Another words, in the first seven completed years of D.73 we had negative growth – and not a single new club had been chartered outside Victoria. Worse, the effort of all the preliminary work and negotiations had patently exhausted all the “pioneers” who were wedded to the “rubbery figure system” in the first place. Essentially we followed the familiar pattern of mediocre districts – add a club, lose a club, keep winding up in much the same place.

THE ABSENCE OF IMAGINATION

As I have said consistently over many years, Toastmasters in Australia is a small, self-indulgent shockingly under-funded organisation that exists almost in spite of itself.
After 50 years of trying there are literally more registered sex-addicts in Australia than Toastmasters – and they have more fun at their meetings!

One of the first principles of ALL voluntary organisations is that a city of 1mill people will support about 100 clubs of 20-30 people. There are 10mill people in D.73 and it takes four states to maintain 150 clubs, when really the “correct figure” ought to be around 1000. So what about WA?

I calculate we should be thinking in the order of 200 clubs, of which about 150 should be community-based and we should be there within the first five years of chartering the new district. And please bear in mind that we currently have only 55 clubs after 38 years of trying since the original City of Perth club chartered in 1971 at the Parmelia Hilton.

So how the hell do we do that?

A QUANTUM LEAP

The reason we call breakthroughs quantum leaps is that they leapfrog previously held positions by changing our thinking. The resulting actions can then sometimes compress into a few months what the old laborious system took literally years to accomplish. And usually the outcomes show better quality results, too.

We really need a quantum leap in club and membership building in WA. Not the day after we charter as a district, but now. If we fail to take this step, not only will we also exhaust our “pioneers”, but the idea of building a clone of D.73 is, quite frankly, unworthy of the personnel involved in this effort.

THE HISTORICAL SYSTEM

Essentially it works like this:
1. some members, usually of an existing club, decide to set up a new one
2. they advertise and work hard and run around and then run a demo meeting
3. they get a few people to join and start holding club meetings
4. at some point they get 20 members, including the original members
5. They charter to great fanfare!
6. It works or it doesn’t and if it doesn’t….enter the club specialist etc.

WHAT ARE WE ACTUALLY VERY GOOD AT?

1. We are actually very good now at running speechcraft courses
2. We are actually very good now at holding demonstration meetings

It doesn’t take the greatest of planning models to postulate combining both things we are really good at with huge volume over 4-6 months of meaningful activity at a time.

WHAT IF?

First we isolated 10 venues in 10 aspirational suburbs. Examples include Nedlands, North Perth, CBD (community club), Floreat and South Perth.

Second we found quality venues in all 10 suburbs capable of holding meetings.

Third we matched each of these potential new clubs with a member of the WA leadership team AND an existing TM club.

Fourth we had each existing TM club run a 5w speechcraft course at the local venue, using the accepted or new technology, and aiming for 20 speechcrafters each paying $99 each.

Fifth we held a graduation/demo meeting at a central spot (eg. Hyatt Ballroom) which would be the final speechcraft course meeting for everyone. Don’t forget we have a budget of $99 X 200 = $19,800!

Sixth we then give the roughly 200 participants the option to join one of the 5-10 VIABLE new TM clubs at a concessional rate, good only for the next 7d. I estimate that if the process were done properly, up to 50% of the speechcrafters would join – 5 new instant clubs. Bear in mind, that each of these new Toastmasters is also starting at a much higher educational level than normal, too.

Seventh, repeat the process as needed until we do have 1000 real members in D.89.

WA CONVENTIONS

Another thing we are actually very good at is running conventions. I believe it is imperative to run a 2010 WA convention just prior to the annual convention in Ballarat. There are a number of interrelated purposes that present themselves:

1. The putative D.89 leadership needs to make absolutely clear why this district is being formed and the advantages for every WA Toastmaster. Among other things, this certainly must include a 20min set speech delivered by the consensus choice of the first D.89 Governor.
2. It allows Convention technology to be updated which we will need every year after chartering.
3. It ensures high local attendance if we schedule the international speech contest as follows:
a. Friday night- area contests
b. Saturday day – divisional contests

NOMENCLATURE

Names and symbols ARE important. In the three years I effectively ran D.73, I invariably referred to it as “District 73 Australia” to underline the fact that the district was far more than just Victoria.

I strongly recommend we use (and write) the term “D.89 Western Australia” for all purposes after chartering and the term “D.89 (pending) Western Australia” for all purposes prior to chartering.

GETTING THE FUNDING “RIGHT”

I have remarked many times that Toastmasters is its own worst enemy in terms of creating a perception of value for its educational program in the community. The absurdity of extraordinarily low pricing combined with the homogenisation of fees throughout the district, coupled with the idiocy of physically collecting membership cheques twice each year really takes some beating.

Naturally this subject needs a great deal of debate – well again it really doesn’t – but I would have thought three principles were only common sense:

1. A variation in fees between clubs of at least 1000%.
Eg. Club1 = $100; Club 25 = $250; Club 50 = $750; Club 100 = $1000.

2. A non-refundable joining fee identical throughout the district of perhaps $200.

3. Collection of fees only by monthly or yearly credit card debit.

I would also suggest the concept of district – rather than club –memberships ranging from lifetime ($5000) down to 2y ($1000) entitling that Toastmaster to any and all events run by any club within the district.

THE COMPLETING ELEMENT – OUR CEO

It is absolutely obvious we need a salaried, qualified, experienced and capable CEO – just like Toastmasters International. It is equally apparent there is no such constitutional position within ANY district structure.

I believe there are a number of ways of creating such a position, but for the purposes of this paper, let us instead concentrate on what our CEO should actually do. I suggest there are five important functions:

1. Sponsorship solicitation and commercial funding of the district
2. Membership building and internal communications
3. Raising of the profile of Toastmasters in Western Australia
4. Permanent procedures and organisational development
5. Locating and purchase of central premises for the new district

As all of these are multi-year enterprises, it is imperative that the CEO not be a current servicing Toastmaster, have a track record in a similar voluntary and sporting organisation and be appointed for a fixed term.

CONCLUSION

All over the western world, voluntary organisations are dying because they insist on obtaining (from quality people) a very large time commitment and ridiculously low monetary requirements – the exact opposite of what is needed to recruit those sort of people. Low-cost clubs in the poorer socioeconomic areas of Perth need always to be available; let us begin in the main as we ought to continue. I believe D.89 Western Australia represents a unique opportunity to “do it right”.

Let us think about the sort of district we really want, not attempt a clone of D.73. Let us consider NOW how to fund it, populate it, maintain it, govern it and succeed with it.

Finally, we already have a WA leadership group more than capable of implementing realistic solutions – let’s just make sure we fully understand and agree on the problems FIRST.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Bolotin DTM was the 1985/86 D.73 Australia Governor. He holds the 2094th DTM ever awarded, was the second person in the world to sponsor 10 new Toastmasters clubs and was the first Toastmaster outside North America to be a Distinguished District Administrative, Educational and District Governor. He has also previously served as a club president, area governor and divisional governor.

2 Responses to “Divisions to District”

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  1. Mike Helm says:

    I think there are some great ideas to build membership, Andrew, and I’m prepared to support any creative ideas which are consistent with TI policy. It might not surprise that we have plenty of other great plans but they are gathering dust. What we are not good at is getting people to get on and do something. That, I believe, is our biggest challenge – to marshall our leaders and other talented Toastmasters to select a project, set goals and take the first step. A number of initiatives in your proposal could be trialled NOW! Who is going to take the lead?

  2. good article! I’ve really liked it!

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