Victories and Challenges of a New Corporate Club

By Linda Chapman, DTM

Simply as a distraction after my dad’s passing, I joined The Palm Beach Toastmasters Club in August 2016. But Toastmasters became so much more—confidence in communication, leveraged leadership, and relevant relationships. I wanted to share the benefits by letting more people know about this well-kept secret that I discovered in a random google search. Where better to start than in my office at the Clerk & Comptroller, Palm Beach County? As Supervisor, Operations Technical Training, I am closely connected with over 500 new hires and tenured staff. All new hires are trained by my training team and tenured staff often attend training for new system rollouts or remedial initiatives.

What I did not anticipate was the cultural change a new Toastmasters club would represent for the organization. It took months of research, several presentations to the Executive team, providing proof that other government agencies had vibrant clubs as part of their organization, and demonstrating the benefits that accrued to these organizations and their staff to shift mindsets. Eventually, it was agreed that the concept aligned with the Clerk’s organizational vision, mission, and values. The projected educational benefits were sufficient that the HR department would fund the semiannual TI dues, but staff would bear the $20 initiation fee. But here’s the catch: the accounting department is only willing to process payments twice a year allowing only two opportunities for members to join: September and March. So many rules! In fact, a rule book is provided to each member. To be eligible, the staff member has to be off probation. The club started with 27 brand new members on April 30 2018. Only two had ever heard about Toastmasters before. A meeting facility was provided and employees meet during their lunch break.

Next up, how is a Toastmasters club fun with no finances? No club fees were assessed since the goal was to make it comfortable and easy for any employee to join. No supplies were provided by the organization and the officers who were mostly exempt staff dug into their own pockets for basic supplies. A member constructed an ahm-box and 25 cents per “Ahm” as assessed at each club meeting. For the first membership drive in September, officers purchased pizza with their own funds and gained 15 leads, which ultimately converted to 10 members. During the winter contests, another $50 dollars was raised when at the last moment, I pulled together a 50/50 raffle. The treasurer used some of those funds to host an ice-cream sale and netted $209. In early December, the deputy treasurer hosted a Hidden Treasure Sale which netted $790. Some team members participated in the Marathon of the Palm Beaches “Wacky Water Station” contest one Sunday morning. This involved arriving at the assigned location at 5 AM, dressing in wacky costumes, motivating runners, and passing out water and Gatorade, but it earned 1st place and $250 for the club. #clerkspeaksquad is “rich” now with over $1000 in the bank. Members are all in and it has been humbling to see their engagement and growth as communicators and leaders. The gains in their confidence is beyond expectations. They report more confidence in job interviews, interacting with customers and at various external organizations. A member placed second in the area contest and another won a humor contest at an advanced club.

Every year, #clerkspeaksquad is only allowed four fundraisers. Yes that is another rule, so the club must be strategic with plans for 2019. Any ideas that worked for your club that might help our ”corporate” club are welcomed, and if you’d like details of any of our fundraisers, feel free to reach out. If you don’t have a club at your office, start the conversation about one. Stay tuned for D47PR public outreach campaign starting this month!

Linda Chapman is Founder and President of #clerkspeaksquad Toastmasters located in West Palm Beach Florida. She is also Public Relations Manager for District 47 south Florida and the Bahamas.