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Preaching to the Choir

Our office received a call last week from a member of the Calhoun WI in New Brunswick. The caller wondered if we had any advice about attracting new members. Their group has five.  A mighty five, if you consider their successful door-to-door fundraising efforts for FWIC.

“Are you online?” Kate asked.


Oh, dear.

It’s a perennial problem, this business of attracting new members. That, and communication. Not to mention the dreaded words marketing, branding, or promotion. We are not comfortable with tooting our own horn, are we? We see a job that needs doing and we do it. We don’t brag. Life is busy enough without taking extra time to write about it on a blog or Facebook or Twitter. Who’s got time for that?

Click on image for Google Maps to Calhoun, NB

I turned to Google to find out where is Calhoun, anyway? The Wikipedia entry is a dry as dust. Calhoun is an unincorporated community in Westmorland County, New Brunswick. Okie dokes, thanks, but I want colour, I want commentary, I want to see faces and recipes and projects and events. Me, me, me, it’s all about me!

Well, yes, to a point, but it’s also all about you, too. You are WI. You are a woman inspired and if you are able to connect with other woman around the world via the internet you will encounter thousands, more likely hundreds of thousands of inspiring woman. You are no longer one fifth of a small and isolated branch next the Trans-Canada highway. You are connected to women all over the world.

I re-learned this yesterday as I gathered information for the June 2015 Triennial Convention in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Organizers invite delegates and speakers and others to attend the event. Alternately, they invite them to send greetings. So far the list of invitees includes the usual suspects: the Queen, the Governor General, and the Mayor of Fredericton.

My mission was to suggest names of people, politicians, heads of state, and anyone else who might help to raise the profile of Women’s Institutes in Canada. I felt very much out of the loop celebrity-wise, important women-wise, high-profile women-wise. I don’t watch TV and I don’t read newspapers or magazines. What to do, what to do?

I wrote a blog post  and asked my readers to make suggestions. Within half a day I had compiled a list of over fifty names. Some I knew, but most I did not.

Click here for Ann's TED Talk Video

Click here for Ann’s TED Talk Video

A friend of mine suggest the name of a 16 year-old science inventor Ann Makosinski from Victoria, BC. Ann had invented a flashlight powered by the heat of her hand. She was inspired to help a female friend in Philippines to study after dark, when there was no light.  My friend went on to say,

If the WI is going to go forward, they will need to reinvent the wheel to keep the interest in the next generations. It goes without saying that these kids were born plugged in and we adults are just playing catch up.

As I read this email from my friend, I thought to myself, thanks, but you are preaching to the choir.

Which is exactly what I am doing here: you are reading this online. You are comfortable with technology and know how to make it work for you and your branch.

But what about those who do not have the resources? What about those who do not have the time, money, equipment, or desire to be online?

It’s Membership Monday. I’d like to start a conversation about communication in general and online communication specifically. How we can bring new members to WI? How can we stay in touch with the members we already have and encourage them to try out the new methods of online communication?


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About WI Women’s Institute is a local, provincial, national and international organization that promotes women, families and communities. Our goal is to empower women to make a difference.

About FWIC

The idea to form a national group was first considered in 1912. In 1914, however, when the war began the idea was abandoned. At the war’s end, Miss Mary MacIsaac, Superintendent of Alberta Women’s Institute, revived the idea. She realized the importance of organizing the rural women of Canada so they might speak as one voice for needed reforms, and the value of co-ordinating provincial groups for a more consistent organization. In February 1919, representatives of the provinces met in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to form the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada.

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