Friday, December 16, 2005

Madame President

I believe I mentioned in a previous post that there was a chance I would taking on the role of "interim president" for the indoor playground co-op Tiny Tots. Well, it's happened. I've been asked to step into the role being vacated by another member who has gone back to work and cannot continue as president. So I'm it! I've been on the board for the past couple of years - as VP and as secretary - and only didn't continue this year until now because we were going to be moving and I didn't think we'd even be here. But we are. And so I'll step up and help out for as long as I can. I can't help myself - I'm a "joiner". I'm a natural leader, I guess. I'm extroverted and can (and do!) talk to anyone and everyone. I don't shy away from introducing myself to someone new. I know a lot of people aren't comfortable with this, but it's my strong suit. So, just call me Madame President for now.

The playground co-op has been my life saver many a time. It's so nice to have a place to go that the kids can run around and play indoors when the weather is crappy. And it's crappy here a lot. For about $10/month I can take the kids 6 days a week plus one evening a week if I want to. That's a lot of flexibility. And? It's right next to the Costco so it's convenient as well. The downside is that the membership levels aren't high enough for the playground to be self-sustaining much beyond this year or next. 8-10 years ago it was at it's heyday when there was a waiting list to get in. Now? Now we're hurting for members. We have about 60 member families, and I think break-even is closer to 75-80. Our budget is small so it's hard to advertise. We rely mostly on word of mouth and flyers/cards left in strategic locations (like the public library, for example). The other area that needs to be addressed is community building. There seems to be a general blah attitude this year - among the board members and the general membership. Where has the spark gone? Now it's up to ME to try to breathe new life into this organization. My background is business - marketing specifically - and I'm going to be really tested to make this work. I have to dig deep to find creative ways to make the members feel like they are a part of something special. I have to find ways to motivate my board of directors, who are all volunteer moms, and are starting to flake out. I have to keep up good relations with the church in which we rent the space for the playground. I suddenly have a lot on my plate. But I believe so passionately in this organziation as a huge, cost-effective resource for families with young kids that I'm willing to do it. For free. Maybe I'll get my "pay-off" for this as a way to possibly-just-maybe keep my resume just a little bit active during my SAHM years. I worry about that. A LOT.

One of my ideas is to host monthly new-member coffee breaks at the playground. Personally call them and invite them to join me for coffee and do a little "meet and greet". Introduce myself and all the new members to each other. I think a big reason people join, aside from the obvious place for their kids to play indoors, is to meet and connect with other moms. Only often times they feel like they don't meet new people because they don't reach out and introduce themselves. I want to help that process along by facilitating ways for people to meet and begin chatting. Break it down into smaller groups. If it costs me a couple of pots of coffee and some fruit or something it's well worth it.

Another one of my ideas is to host "Mom/Parent Night Out" in which the board agrees to babysit the member kids for a couple of hours during the evening hours so the parents can go out together. I think this would be well-received and appreciated. I just need to investigate our insurance policy to see about any liabilities that need to be addressed before making this a reality. Maybe suggest a $2/kid donation or something so we can bring in some pizzas and feed the kids while mom and dad are out.

Those are just a few of my off-the-top-of-my-head ideas to get people more involved and excited about Tiny Tots. It's my new job. It's fun for me to have a new challenge in my life. I would LOVE to hear any ideas anyone else might have for me. What would YOU like to see if you were a member of the Tiny Tots co-op? What sort of things/activities would motivate you? What would keep you coming back? What would make you encourage your friends to join? PLEASE, if you have any thoughts, send them to me!! I'm desperately trying to brainstorm as I assume this new role and would give appropriate credit where credit is due, so don't be stingy with your grand ideas!

Off to go get organized - I need to hit the ground running on this one.

Congrats on your new position! You could create playgroups within the membership for children of certain ages... for instance, Monday mornings at 10:00am could be the playgroup for boys 2-3 years. Monthly newsletters with upcoming activities might help (better yet- use email newsletters if you're strapped for cash). I like the parents night out idea. What about hosting a moms club there? In any case, good luck with it.

OK let me think about this -- but I wish we had such a thing. The Y has an indoor playplace -- but it's expensive after a while.

Have you thought of putting up posters in all of the outdoor playgrounds around? Not fancy ones, more like flyers? I can imagine a parent huddled by the wings in the cold wishing they could take it indoors:)

Good ideas up above.... what about creating a yahoogroup to keep the members more connected? I've found that it helps with our playgroup to keep in touch and get to know each other in a less stressful (approach someone to say hello!) way. You go, Madame President!
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