AN OPEN LETTER TO MEMBERS OF
THE AFRICAN VIOLET COUNCIL OF FLORIDA
by Mary Lou Harden
As your newly elected president, I want to share with you some of my thoughts, dreams and plans for the coming months, not only for the African Violet Council of Florida, but for every affiliate.
The Council has been around for about 36 years. It began with a meeting in Tampa in January 1978 that was hosted by Tampa AVS. I was not a charter member. However, Bob Green was, and he served as secretary shortly after the Council was formed.
The Council has been a wonderful organization through all these years and has provided support and camaraderie for its individual members and affiliates. Though other clubs and councils have dwindled and some have even died, the Florida Council has remained strong. I want it to stay that way!
As you are well aware, almost every plant society, PTA, civic group and church is facing a similar problem. . . an inability to get and retain members. It’s all about change. Modern technology, computers, the internet have all had a tremendous impact on groups. Also, some of the decline can be attributed to an unstable economy, reduced work hours or loss of jobs. However, I fear that it may also be attributed to how we do things and how we treat people.
While we acknowledge that the world today is different, and peoples’ priorities are different, we also know that, “if you make a better mousetrap, they will come.” I believe it’s also true that, if you have an excellent product – and one that doesn’t cost a zillion dollars -- and if you have meaningful, interactive and instructive meetings – meetings that don’t get bogged down in rules and regulations, or cliques, or politics – meetings that are fun and pleasant experiences – people will come.
So. . .I challenge each member of our Council as well as each affiliate. . .to take a little survey of what takes place at your meetings. Here are some questions for you:
1. Do your meetings start on time? If not, why?
2. Does your president have an agenda, and does he/she follow it?
3. Does your president follow your bylaws and standing rules, or does he/she make up the rules as he/she goes along and do things his/her way?
4. Is the president in control of the meeting, or does it become a free-for-all?
5. Are guests promptly introduced and made to feel welcome?
6. Are guests and new members given a “welcome packet” along with a lovely blooming African violet?
7. Does everyone who attends your meeting feel included – or isolated? Remember that everyone – even those who look different or act different from us -- is important.
8. Are your meetings stiff and formal, or are they relaxed and fun?
9. Do any of your members try to monopolize your business meeting – i.e., talk too much, too often, too loud, and not on point? If so, does your president intervene and bring you back to the agenda?
10. Are your meetings unnecessarily long?
11. Do your officers make you feel as though they are “somebody special” and that they have all the answers and right way of doing things, and make you feel unimportant and insignificant?
Sometimes we forget that officers are elected to “serve” – not “to be served.” Officers need to set the example and be the first ones to help the newbies, welcome guests, make sure everyone is seated comfortably and that everyone can hear what is being said. Of course, it’s up to every member to do these things. It’s all about others – not “me”!
Think about your answers to these questions and then evaluate your meetings. Most likely all of us can do better.
Beginning now, let’s all strive for excellence – in our meetings, in planning our shows and plant sales, and in growing and showing our African violets. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!