District control goes back East

District elections will be held this Saturday

A golden year for WA Toastmasters is moving to its close. Elections for 2008/09 District Officers will be held in Melbourne this Saturday, May 17, 2008.

The current top Officers include these from WA
District Governor Mike Helm DTM
District Secretary Jeanette Farrar ACS
District Treasurer Alan Smith DTM
District Public Relations Officer Leonor Ragan ACS

There are two other top Officers
District Lt Governor Education & Training Bernard Marmion DTM from Victoria
District Lt Governor Marketing Damian Chong from Tasmania

The District Nominating Committee has recommended these candidates to the Elections
District Governor Bernard Marmion DTM from Victoria
District Lt Governor Education & Training Damian Chong DTM from Tasmania
or Jacqui Gullick DTM from Victoria
District Lt Governor Marketing Carole Jones from Victoria
District Public Relations Officer – no nomination but my information is that a Victorian will be put forward

The incoming District Governor appoints the Secretary and Treasurer so we can reasonably expect them to be Victorians.

So the District Management Committee will have no-one from WA or South Australia.

Will that be a problem for us in WA next year?

Not at all. We are used to that. We are heavily engaged in building up the numbers of new clubs in our state, and assisting weaker clubs to recover. We will get on with this, with the medium term target of becoming a District in our own right.

7 Responses to “District control goes back East”

  1. Avatar for Mike Helm Mike Helm says:

    After a good representation from WA on the District 73 management committee this year, this year’s Lieutenant Governor Education and Training Bernard Marmion has been elected District Governor for 2008-2009. The elected positions on the management committee include one other Victorian, Carrol Jones, as Lieutenant Governor Marketing. Damian Chong from Tasmania has been elected as Lieutenant Governor Education and Training and our own Mark Richards as Public Relations Officer. Bernard Marmion has told me that he is keen for me to be involved at District management level as Immediate Past District Governor. I think WA Toastmasters should be pretty happy with our ongoing role in District 73 leadership. Mike

  2. Avatar for Andrew Bolotin Andrew Bolotin says:

    I agree with Mike: a proper succession of executive positions has been observed this year – and one would have naturally expected the focus to revert away from WA. Obviously the ultimate solution is a District in our own right, a subject that has been canvassed by many, many people over the last year or so. Everyone seems to be focussing on the exact number of clubs we need or the precise number of years to achievement. And everyone is wrong. The question is not when we get there, it’s HOW. In my opinion, if we concentrate on creating the process to govern a District rather than throwing together as many clubs as we can in the shortest possible timeframe, we would provide ourselves with a much greater chance of success. In a nutshell, we need to define the following issues before we do anything else:
    * How do we intend to fund this District? Do we really intend inb the 21st century to rely on a commission from WHQ for each per capita or can we develop large scale sponsorship and other financial opportunities as well? I think a realistic annual District budget in a state of this size should begin at $100,000 and if we’re really serious $250,000+
    * Where will the leadership come from? And should we consider a paid, executive director, just like Toastmasters International has? That job alone would have a starting salary of 100k. On the other hand, suppose the successful applicant actually brought some proven commercial development and sponsorship skills to the table..
    * What success factors should any new club have to have in place before chartering? 20 members and a place to meet is clearly, clearly insufficient.
    * And the most important question of all: if we want to be a District, when should we start filling the positions required to actually run a District?
    Let’s start thinking about the answers to these questions.
    (Opinions in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the St Georges TM Club or Western Division)

  3. Avatar for David Nicholas David Nicholas says:

    I’m very sympathetic to your views, Andrew. But!

    I know that World Headquarters has a paid executive director. Have any Districts got such a person? I don’t know of any. I think that there’s a good chance that Toastmasters International would prevent it occurring, because of fears it might encourage a profit making approach which would threaten their tax free status in California.

    Funding for the kind of structure you suggest is a big problem. We can’t raise funds by anything that remotely resembles a levy on clubs or members. WA has been through that in the past and been officially reprimanded by World Headquarters. The refund of Member fees that comes from World Headquarters comes to a trivial amount in the overall scheme of things, for the structure you suggest. So it would have to be Corporate Sponsorship, on a pretty big scale. What’s in it for the Sponsors?

    We have plenty of talent in WA at present who could lead us very successfully at District level. Mike Helm, as the first West Australian District Governor, looks like having one of the most successful years on record. The WA component in that success has been decisive, thanks to a wide range of top performing leaders. Our planning for the split process is already well advanced, with a prospective date set for the Perth Convention/Council in May 2011, after a hopefully successful lobbying program with International Directors and top office staff at the Sydney International in August, 2010.

    We’ve discussed this before, Andrew, and I agree with you that if we had our own paid executive director we could do wonders in recruiting members and clubs in WA. Is it possible? How do we do it?

  4. Avatar for Andrew Bolotin Andrew Bolotin says:

    Thank you David!

    For once we’ve actually moved the discussion on to HOW we might do this.

    Let me try to answer your points as best I can..

    1. There are no EDs in any District I know of anywhere in the world. WHQ hates the idea for a number of reasons – one of which you have raised – and would probably do everything in their power to prevent a District from funding or appointing an ED. Ahh, but Clubs have much more constitutional power than Districts and I’m sure the structural answer lies somewhere in that imperative.

    2. You are exactly right in that we cannot raise funds through a levy, or through large-scale Speechcraft for that matter, either. And, while I believe Toastmasters is much more price-elastic than almost anyone else does – I think we could raise membership fees by a factor of 10X and still retain 80% of our base – even then it’s nowhere near enough. No, it has to be corporate sponsorship and on the big scale you suggest.

    3. Sponsors naturally want to sell their goods and services. Maybe our membership is only about 500-600, look at who these people work for, who they know, what they buy. Perhaps we even have one or two managing directors looking to ally their name with WA Toastmastering..

    And, of course, our paid ED will also have the responsibility of attracting more and better and bigger sponsorship as time goes on.

    4. We do indeed have plenty of talent in WA: Mike Helm, Maree Pickens and 10 others I can think of just off the top of my head. Maybe if those people spent the next three months working through some permanent solutions, instead of trying to prop up a structure that clearly has a very poor organisational alignment with 21st century society – we might actually solve this.

    Now before every Toastmaster in Australia writes in to tell me how wonderful, beneficial and just plain good Toastmasters is – that’s completely beside the point.

    Every organisation has to attain critical mass and this has very little to do with how positively their current membership views it. The Melbourne Football Club with a 150 year tradition and 8 Premierships is on the point of folding its tent – it just doesn’t have enough support. The Fremantle Dockers (and this is as an Eagles supporter) has 42,000 members, it fills Subi 9 times a year and my dog will be the King of England before Freo win their first premiership. But FREO will be there for another 150 years because its management team is as good as any sporting club in the world.

    Now D.73, after 23 years as a District, has less than 3000 members out of a catchment area of more than 5,000,000 adults. As a past District Governor, you’ll excuse me if I fail to do cartwheels at the 2011 prospect of chopping it in half!

  5. Avatar for Glen Lewis Glen Lewis says:

    Andrew pointed out “Everyone seems to be focussing on the exact number of clubs we need or the precise number of years to achievement. And everyone is wrong.”

    Adding new clubs that 6-12 months later are filled with members with 5 club memberships isn’t the answer. What we need to do is take a seriously hard look at how other very successful districts have grown in the past 3-5 years to really get an understanding of what potential markets for new members are.

    Crazy ideas could include:

    * Advertising (need to keep costs down and track carefully)
    * Integration of clubs into educational institutions (on the basis of communication skills)
    * Creation of non-english speaking clubs (for those interesting in developing new language skills)
    * Creation of clubs for non-english speaking people (find where immigrants are currently living and build clubs there to help their language skills)
    * Creation of clubs which have specified entrance requirements (e.g.: C-Level job, IT, Marketing etc)
    * Clubs where the speeches are required to be on given themes rather than whatever members want – this could include clubs which have non-traditional agendas – maybe debating topics.
    * A club which focusses on powerpoint or another medium delivery point.

    Regardless of the merits of the above suggestions, it really is about our willingness to adapt to the market, and give more people a reason to come to toastmasters. Last year I was at a seniors conference for a day, you know – most people weren’t actually interested in public speaking, but when they were told that it was an opportunity to listen to people talk about interesting things, including things in their life, and they could share their adventures, the response was very different.

    We need to acknowledge that many people aren’t interested in public speaking – they want to meet people and become better at that communication thing in general.

  6. Avatar for Andrew Bolotin Andrew Bolotin says:

    As a final comment for a while, it is very relevant to bring up the Number One problem in Toastmasters: the fact that our membership strength is routinely OVER estimated – in my opinion by as much as one-third.

    Let’s accept the average Club membership is in the order of 20-22 members. Everyone at all levels then assumes these memberships actually represent participating Toastmasters, when in fact they don’t and never have. If we further accept an “active” member will attend a minimum of 75% of club meetings, then the average Club should have 15 participating members at every meeting of the average Club – and we all know they simply do not as Glen Lewis has ably pointed out.

    I have long maintained the prime reason for poor attendance is incorrect pricing of a Toastmasters membership. If, again, the average Club charges $100 per year and holds 20 meetings a year, we have effectively created a perception of value for each meeting of $5!

    It never ceases to amaze me that a Club will enthusiastically run a speechcraft course costing 10-20X as much per meeting and yet insist the same pricing is totally unrealistic for the members of their own Club. And anyone who has spent any time at Area level or above will also be aware of the idiocy of collecting this pittance twice a year.

    The underlying point is that recruitment and retention of members is all about the perception of value of Toastmasters. Any Club operating on a shoestring, meeting in a garbage pail and charging $5 a meeting (in 2008) is always going to struggle..because they can’t really afford to provide any additional value for their members other than the basic TM program. Reality check: if that’s all we need to provide, then how have we arrived at 3000 members out of 5,000,000 adults?

    The answer lies in different types of memberships for different purposes for different costs. For example, a member who joins initially to gain some confidence in public speaking may be looking at being a member for 6m and maybe the price should be $295, collected monthly by credit card. At the other extreme a Toastmaster like me would buy a lifetime membership for $5000, provided I never paid another dime to attend a meeting.

    Again Glen’s got it right: “it’s about our willingness to adapt to the market”. Flexibility and perception of value in that market is a pre-condition to meaningful growth.

  7. Avatar for Kevin Hobbs Kevin Hobbs says:

    Andrew…I hope you can read the papers!! but were just like any club/organisation, its a struggle to get members, mabe we should have a intro price and when they see the value they will be happy to pay more, like get more in the door first!!! then increase the cost, we all need to “bring a prospect” to each meeting, get them interested then increase the quality base with increased cost, making it more profitable, try read the Australian rather than the West Andrew and get a proper perspectve!! Kevin.

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