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a view from the board side “Presenting an effective civic meeting”

By  Dick  Hagerty, Advisory board member

Salvation Army protocol calls for each community to have at least one “civic meeting” per year. This meeting will be your best opportunity to show the community who you are, how you serve, what your accomplishments are, and how the audience can assist with your programs.

For many years we presented an annual civic dinner, which featured a speaker, volunteer awards and program accomplishments. Each year we saw attendance drop as people made it clear to us that evening events were no longer popular. Many corps and Army units still have these events staged as a large dinner event, and if it works for you then by all means keep it up.

However, in our quest to discover a time for better attendance, we hit upon the annual Thanksgiving week Kettle Kickoff. This is staged at noon, and has grown in 20 years to be a great success in terms of attendance and also as a new way of fundraising.

Our annual dinner attendance had dropped below 200, but our Kickoff sells out at 1,100 and we have seen it grow into an event with a waiting list.

These are the key elements that need to be presented:

• Brief professional video showcasing local services and local faces

• Printed program giving statistical data for your unit, including:

–             Mission statement

–             Brief narrative highlights of the past year

–             Annual budget

–             Major programs with statistics of services provided

–            List of members of advisory organizations within the community

• Keynote speaker—emphasis on interesting and informative

• Presentation of awards to volunteers: “Others” award, etc.

• Brief presentation of financial needs and opportunities to give and serve

Having an interesting and effective speaker is critical. The Army has some wonderful communicators. Ask around as to whom they may be and get them booked early. Good speakers fill in their schedules far in advance. Another suggestion: try to find non-Army speakers on alternate years, who can still give vision and challenge to the ways we serve. I know one corps that has had a number of military veteran heroes speak to great effect.

If you can promise a large crowd then shoot for a really major speaker. In previous years we have had National Commander Commissioner Andy Miller, our own Western Territory Commissioners Knaggs, Swyers and Rader, and we are actively seeking to book Commissioner Israel Gaither, one of the great communicators of our time. This year our speaker was Jeff Taylor from Phoenix, whose story of sinking to the depths and finding recovery through our Army programs is one of the most compelling messages you can hope to hear.

Timeliness of keeping on schedule is second only to righteousness. Make a minute-by-minute plan ahead of time and stick with it. Make certain that the food servers will be right on schedule, both in bringing the food out and also in clearing the remains. And, above all, make certain that you dismiss precisely at the time you promised.

Years ago, I was asked to give an annual dinner speech in a university town. The setting was on campus; it was elegant; the turnout was exceptional…and the food was served exactly one hour behind planned schedule! They had announced an 8:30 dismissal time, and they put me on at 9:15. Needless to say my remarks were extremely brief. The crowd began slipping away long before the awards were complete, and I suspect that the next year there was little community interest in attending that event.

Properly done, this event will not only shine the best light possible on The Salvation Army and the local work, but also will excite community leaders to come alongside, to want to serve on our boards and councils and to be willing to support us financially. This is your great annual opportunity. Don’t waste it.

Contact Dick at rghagerty@aol.com

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