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Reviving an iris society

  • Subject: Reviving an iris society
  • From: tomd@cals.lib.ar.us
  • Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 10:11:25 -0600

Hello Listers:

I have been following the thread relative to invigorating moribund iris
societies.  A few years ago our local society (Central Arkansas Iris
Society) was on the ropes...our leadership had gotten old and set in their
ways.  Fortunately, some new leadership assumed office, and we slowly
recontructed our society.

Here are some things that I think are crucial to keeping iris societies
afloat (and, in part,  it also pertains to other types of groups too):

1.)  Throw out a welcome mat.  Make new members feel welcome...and value
their opinions.
2.)  Do not talk over the heads of new members.  I am so irritated by
officers and speakers who speak an iris-lingo, a code that new folks just
don't comprehend.
3.)  Do not assume new members are "hooked."  New members often need as
long as a couple of years before they feel a part of things.  For example,
programs should contain information valuable to newbies.  The AIS slide
sets, for example, speak mostly to the initiated...they are wayyyyy too
long...and speakers often feel they have to comment on every damned slide!
4.)  Have a meeting specifically to welcome new members.  Usually our local
society hosts a "tea" each autumn to welcome new members.
5.)  Don't forget social events.  Yes, I know some societies are little
more than social organizations, but there IS a middle approach.  I suspect
most local societies have a holiday celebration in December, which I always
enjoy in part because it gives me a chance to get to know members better.
6.)  Give a gift to all new members.  Our Society once had a meeting for
new members with each newbie getting a free rhizome.  Amazingly, people
showed up (I suspect to get the rhizome?) in large numbers.
7.)  Publish a newsletter.  A quarterly periodical will do wonders in
informing members of what's going on...and, remember, those new members
want to feel a part.  (At a recent iris society committee meeting, one of
our dearest and hard working members commented that she felt unwelcome on
her first visit to the society.)
8.)  Try to get along--at least in front of guests and new members.  I once
spoke to an iris society in a neighboring state and the members spent so
much time arguing among themselves that I hardly had the "energy" to give
my remarks.
9.)  Give emphasis at society meetings to everything BUT BUSINESS!  Conduct
business in a board meeting at another time, and merely give an update to
members.  Of course, one must occasionally discuss and vote on major new
projects, the financial situation, etc.  However, it is not necessary to
read minutes at full membership meetings.  Do not allow meetings to run on
and on and on.  I recommend all speakers be given a time limit--no more
than 30 minutes--and the limit enforced.
10.)  Host interesting programs.  Our local society prescribes that the
society vice president will serve as program chairman.  He/she then
organizes the programs for the year, and they are printed in the
newsletter.  We have a "rule" that every program must deal with irises in
some fashion, though it can be a distant connection.  (We have had programs
in the past on such topics as 19th century plant hunters, the chemistry of
soil fertilization, the AIS awards system, etc.  I remember how appalled I
was at one of my early society meetings--about 15 years ago--when a speaker
gave a travelogue on her recent trip to Switzerland!  Not a word on
horticulture at all, much less irises.)
11.)  Do not badger members about joining AIS.  Sure, we ought to issue an
invitation at each meeting...and provide forms for signing up...but don't
go beyond that.  Over time these new members will probably join, but they
will object to forced feeding.

Forgive the length.

Oh, one more thing:  expect your president to have at least a vague
familiarity with Roberts Rules of Order (or another guide of some sort).
For example, often a presiding officer will call for a motion and vote when
a simple ruling by the chair will suffice.  (Motions to adjourn, for
example, are totally unnecessary--unless a meeting has gone on too long, in
which case a motion to adjourn will send a quick message to a dawdling


Tom W. Dillard, Curator
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Central Arkansas Library System
100 Rock Street
Little Rock, Arkansas  72201
(501) 918-3054

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