A word about marketing local Ruritan Clubs

From the desk of the Rapidan District’s Publicity Chairperson, Linda Bradshaw:

I’d like to discuss publicity for a few minutes with our Ruritan Clubs today.

Whether we like to think about our Ruritan Clubs as businesses or not, they are, in fact, a type of business.

Target Market (free clip art)

Target Market (free clip art)

The primary goal of any business is to stay in business! In order for our Ruritan Clubs to “stay in business,” we must increase and maintain our membership!  We must “market” our clubs to the right “target market” in order to do that!

In order for our Ruritan Clubs to grow, we need to appeal to the younger, more technologically savvy generations. Those generations are our “target market.”

One of the most effective methods to market anything in today’s technology-heavy world is by using the Internet’s Social Media platforms.

Social Media (free clip art)

Social Media (free clip art)

Ruritan National workshops held at conventions advised the attendees to use websites, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to promote awareness and membership in our local Ruritan Clubs!  There is little doubt that Social Media is THE KEY to the future of Ruritan membership!

I would like to encourage each club to have BOTH a website and a Facebook Page.

Facebook (free clip art)

Facebook (free clip art)

Consider this:  Everyone that reads Facebook uses the Internet, but not everyone that uses the Internet reads Facebook!  Only 25% of Facebook users are in the United States, and 25% of Facebook users are under the age of ten. Although Facebook is still a valuable resource, there have been several articles this year that suggest that Facebook’s popularity is waning.  Of my own personal circle of family, friends, and neighbors, the majority of them have Internet access but refuse to join, or use Facebook. Yet they all use the Internet’s Google’s Search engine to find information that they need.

Internet - man searching online (free clip art)

Internet – man searching online (free clip art)

Having a “real” website that has the proper keywords built-in will help people find the information they are seeking about your club quickly and easily without having to search multiple posts through a long timeline on Facebook. “Real” websites can have “search” features and multiple pages that Facebook simply does not have. Don’t get me wrong – Facebook is a valuable supplemental resource that can enhance the publicity and marketing of a club. A “real” website, however, is the keystone of an Internet marketing campaign.

Sharing options on WordPress websites

Sharing options on WordPress websites

One useful feature of some websites I’ve developed (using the free, easy, user-friendly WordPress platform) is that they can be set up to automatically cross-post to their associated Facebook pages.  This is done on their “Sharing settings” page under the “Publicize” option (see photo above.) They can also be set up to cross-post to other platforms as well, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and more! That feature eliminates duplicity of work.  You can publish a post to the website, and be done with it! The information goes everywhere you can possibly want it to go!

Calendar of events (free clip art)

Calendar of events (free clip art)

The websites can also have calendar of events features, so your club can use it as a resource to publicize upcoming meetings and events.

Now, I understand that some clubs may have concerns about the costs and technical difficulties of buying, creating, and maintaining a website.  Not very long ago, websites WERE expensive, and difficult to buy, create and maintain.  Today the annual cost is very affordable.

For example, GoDaddy is selling domain names (dot coms) this month for $2.99 for the first year. Their renewal fees typically are below $20 per year.  (The prices vary, depending on sales and promotions at the time.)

Internet (free clip art)

Internet (free clip art)

By having the local clubs purchase their own domain, the local clubs can maintain total creative control over their own websites, and can create as simple, or as complex, a website as the club desires. The WordPress platform is free, and easy.  The WordPress Platform can be used to create a static page website for a club that only wants to have one or two pages that don’t change, or it can be used to create a blog-style, dynamic web page that can be updated with posts about current news and events.

The Rapidan District Cabinet will purchase a “real” domain name for the District, and purchase the web hosting service plan that will allow the Rapidan District to host unlimited websites on their server. The Rapidan District is offering to host the websites of local clubs within the Rapidan District on the District’s server for free. This offer applies to both existing sites, and new sites.  Hosting the local club’s websites on the District’s server will save local Ruritan Clubs a significant amount of money each year. (GoDaddy’s least expensive web hosting plan is $84/year, although it sometimes goes on sale for 50% off.)

By putting the local Ruritan club’s website on the District’s server, the local club can then spend the money saved on some other important Community Service Project! That is a win-win situation!

workshop (free clip art)

workshop (free clip art)

One free workshop was held in July 2014 to help local club’s volunteer webmasters understand the basics of creating a WordPress platform website.  Another free “make-up” workshop will be scheduled in the near future for those clubs whose webmasters were unable to attend the first one.

If your Rapidan District Ruritan Club is interested in participating in a future  free (yes, free!) workshop, please use the contact form below to express your interest and to advise when your volunteer webmaster would be available to attend a workshop!

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How Does a Business Member Benefit a Community Service Club like the Ruritans?

From the desk of the 2016 Publicity Chairperson:

Please note, images used in this post are, to the best of our knowledge, “Free Clip Art.” No copyright infringement is intended. If you own the rights to any of these images, we would be glad to, upon notification by you, either remove the image, or give you proper credit on the website. Simply contact the webmaster to let us know of the conflict.

Community Service (free clip art)

Community Service (free clip art)

In this day and age, more businesses are feeling the call of corporate leadership, and are looking for ways to support the local community. One way they can do that is by joining local community service organizations, such as the Ruritan Club.

Sample membership certificate

Sample membership certificate

Having a business member helps increase public awareness of a club’s existence. When a business member receives the membership plaque or window cling from the club, the business might display the plaque on their wall, window, or door, in a public space.

Customers and/or employees may see that wall plaque or window cling and through that sighting become aware for the first time that the Ruritan Club exists (they may have never heard of us!) This may spark a conversation between the customer/employee and the person within the company that did the paperwork for the application. Maybe even result in a few new members joining the club! This relates to the first part of our slogan “Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service.”

Newsletter (free clip art)

Newsletter (free clip art)

Often businesses have newsletters that they distribute among their customers/employees. They like to include stories in their newsletters about how they are “giving back” to the community by joining local community service clubs. If they join our club, chances are that they will publish a story about it in their newsletter. If they have a website and/or facebook page, they will likely include a mention about their membership with our club on that media as well. After all, those stories make their companies look like good corporate citizens. And, those stories will help to publicize our club at the same time.

Handshake (free clip art)

Handshake (free clip art)

Businesses that are members of our club have already indicated (by the very act of joining) an interest in supporting our causes. Chances are good that they are going to be receptive to the idea of donating gift cards, money, or services to our club from time to time when they are approached in the right way. That relates to “Community Service.”

A business owner may also decide later on in the relationship with the club to become an active member on a personal level, once he/she has become more familiar with all of the good deeds that our club does. They may consider encouraging their employees/families to join the club as well. More “Fellowship.”

Networking (free clip art)

Networking (free clip art)

A business member is a good resource for networking. Networking is a great thing! If our club has a need, and reaches out to the business members, asking for advice or referrals, the business member may be willing to help introduce us to people and companies that can help us accomplish our goals. The business member may not be able to help us directly, but often can help us get in touch with someone else who can help us, and with a little bit of social finesse, may get us discounts or free labor. This directly relates to “Goodwill.”

Some business members might help us with free publicity, letting us put our flyers in their windows. Others might donate gift cards or merchandise for us to use as door prizes, raffle prizes, or auction prizes. Some of them might buy ads in future fund-raising calendars in future years, or buy an ad in the District Convention Program. Some may donate ammo for a Turkey Shoots, buy a vendor table at a yard sale, or donate food for the concession stand to sell at one of our events. Some may provide free Internet installation and monthly service to the building we use as our club house. Still others may create and maintain our club’s website for free. Others may provide us with office supplies, or free printing services. Some businesses might even donate money to our scholarship fund-raising! All of this relates to “Goodwill and Community Service.”

partnership (free clip art)

partnership (free clip art)

Having a business member will increase our membership numbers, making us look good for National. That’s always a good thing! A business membership in the Ruritan Club is a form of Associate Membership. Clubs get rebates from National on the dues that an Associate pays to Ruritan! A business member will not interfere with the internal workings of the club, as they have no voting rights, and cannot serve on the board of directors. However, they may attend our meetings and be part of our “Fellowship” any time they wish.

Listing our business members on our website, our Facebook page, our membership promotional materials, (which costs us next to nothing) makes our club look good in the public eye. Acknowledging their membership and thanking them for their association with us, will help them to feel appreciated, and will encourage their continued membership and sponsorship of our events. This promotes “Goodwill.”

Business (free clip art)

Business (free clip art)

Putting all of that information on our promotional materials helps potential members to see us as a worthwhile club. After all, if these businesses have joined our club, then we must be a good club, right? This will encourage potential members (both business and personal) to join us, as we have the endorsements of these respected business members of our community. More “Fellowship” ensues.

There really is no down-side to having business members in our club. The more business members our club has, the better. More money goes to National Ruritan to help with all of the good work Ruritan does, and the local endorsement we get from the business members is priceless.

Win-Win Solution (free clip art)

Win-Win Solution (free clip art)

A business membership in a community service club such as our Ruritan Club is a win-win situation for everyone. Actively recruiting business members will help the club to grow and thrive, and supports our slogan “Fellowship, Goodwill, and Community Service” in every way possible.

This is a revision of an article that was originally on the unofficial Jefferson Ruritans website. The original (and this revision) was written by Linda Bradshaw, who has consented to this revision and reprint.

Rapidan District Clubs Featured Twice in Spring 2014 Issue of Ruritan National Magazine

Spring 2014 page 29 of Ruritan National magazine

Spring 2014 page 29 of Ruritan National Magazine

Spring 2014 page 17 Ruritan National Magazine

Spring 2014 page 17 Ruritan National Magazine

Publicity for Ruritan Clubs is welcome anywhere the clubs can get it!

Tip: If you are finished reading YOUR Ruritan Magazine, rather than throwing it away, use a black marker to “black-out” your personal information on the mailing label, and leave it in the reception/waiting area of a business! Someone is bound to pick it up and take a look – maybe the magazine will generate some more interest in Ruritan Clubs! This is free publicity for your local clubs!

The Important Role Of The Undervalued Name Tag

Ruritan nametag

Ruritan name tag

From the desk of the Lt. Governor:

Walking into a Ruritan Club Meeting House, my eyes quickly sweep across the room, looking for someone, anyone, wearing a name tag. Why? Because that name tag is a welcoming beacon that says “I’m friendly. I am approachable. Come talk to me!”

When I don’t see anyone in the room wearing a name tag, my heart sinks. I’m one of “those people” that has a really hard time remembering other people’s names. I know how important it is to remember everyone’s names, and I struggle with that issue. People that can meet someone one time for just a moment or two, and remember their name forever simply amaze me! I simply don’t have that gift! Hopefully that doesn’t make me a bad Ruritan – I’d like to think that I still have a lot to offer Ruritan!

embarrased woman (free clip art)

Embarrassed woman (free clip art)

All of those memory enhancement techniques that are taught by memory experts help, but when meeting several people at once, the names go in one ear and fall out the other. Hope springs eternal, and I keep on trying, but I love to see other people wearing name tags because then I don’t spend precious time apologizing for the fact that I will probably forget their name shortly after meeting them.

But enough about me.

When a potential new member, or a scheduled speaker, walks through that same Ruritan Club Meeting House door at a meeting, they are immediately at a social disadvantage. One that could make them very uncomfortable.  (Maybe they have issues with remembering names, just like I do!)

When a person is in a group of people where everyone else knows everyone’s name, he or she may  feel vulnerable. Very few people are comfortable in a crowd when they are the only “stranger.”

In some cases, the visitor may get the impression that the other people in the group don’t even care enough to make newcomers comfortable in the group. That is one of those “first impressions” that our clubs may not want to be making.

Martha Stewart (free clip art)

Martha Stewart (free clip art)

Wearing a name tag increases the potential for better fellowship experiences for visitors. If everyone in the club were to wear their Ruritan name badges, the visitor (whether it is a potential new member, a speaker, or a visiting officer from District or National) will feel more comfortable being in the group. This level of comfort may help the potential new member decide to join the club, and it also may help improve the quality of the time of the speaker, or visiting officer. Quoting Martha Stewart, “and that’s a good thing.”

Our membership and fellowship committees can help ease the initial level of discomfort of being “the stranger in a crowd” by ensuring that the visitor gets a name tag, and that everyone in the room has a name tag. Even if it is just a temporary, sticky-backed paper name tag that says “Hello, my name is ____________.”

Hello my name is (free clip art)

Hello my name is (free clip art)

That name tag helps to level out the playing field, so everyone can see, at a glance, the name of everyone else. A member of the Fellowship Committee should greet everyone as they come through the door, and provide a name tag to anyone that does not have one.

If the person walking through the door is a new visitor, then the member that greeted the visitor should also ensure that the visitor is introduced to another member, who then becomes the visitor’s companion through-out the entire meeting. This is standard procedure for all clubs that are looking to recruit new members, and is pretty well documented in the Ruritan Handbooks and Guides.

If the club is fortunate enough to have a supply cabinet in the meeting location, the sticky-back name tags and assorted markers could be stored on-site, and brought out as people arrive to the meeting. If the club does not have that storage option, then the membership and fellowship chairs could bring them to the meetings. Alternately, each club officer could keep them in their briefcases/totes that they bring to the meetings.

These items are some of the least expensive tools a club can use to welcome visitors that have taken the time and made the effort to step through that door to see for themselves what that Ruritan club is all about. Making that visitor feel comfortable, by providing name tags is a good first step towards recruiting new members.

Not convinced? Recently I was reading a great blog article about good reasons to wear name tags. I’d like to encourage you to consider reading it as well. The article just might help convince you to start wearing your name tag more often – and not just to Ruritan functions!

I’d like to encourage ALL Ruritan Club members to wear their name badges to all Ruritan Club functions. You’ve got nothing to lose, and a lot to gain by wearing them.