Recently, we received a blog comment from the Caroline Close Stuart Chapter in Lake St. Louis, Missouri, telling us about what they have done during their first year as a chapter. I was very interested in hearing more about how this chapter came together and began to establish themselves in their local community. We’ve discussed before how chapters have been revitalized but I think it is exciting to hear how a new chapter has worked to become successful.
Through the research of a charter member, it was discovered that there were a good number of people who were driving long distances to meetings and would benefit from a chapter closer to home. During the spring of 2012, five women began working as a team to lay the groundwork of the chapter. By the December 2012 National Board of Management meeting the Caroline Close Stuart Chapter was ready to be confirmed.
At this point in time the chapter had verified 44 new DAR members who would be joining their chapter. Along with the transfers of those members looking for a chapter closer to home, they had 70 members of their chapter by January 1, 2013. Currently the chapter has 89 members and 7 prospective members waiting to be approved.
This chapter has been able to grow their membership by using many tools that are offered through DAR committees including: webinars and the DAR Leadership Training committee, the Chapter Development and Revitalization commission, the Lineage Research committee and the Membership committee.
The majority of the chapter’s success came from two initiatives in particular. The local rec center and the chapter work in conjunction to hold free genealogy classes for the public four times a year. These classes help the members interested in genealogy learn more as well as give back to their community. At the end of the classes they give a brief presentation about what the DAR is and how they can join. These genealogy classes have translated into 15% of the new members of the Caroline Close Stuart Chapter.
Press releases have been another great tool for this chapter. Using tools from the Public Relations committee, the chapter sends out monthly press releases to their local media highlighting meetings, workshops, genealogy classes and other chapter related news and the response has been highly supportive. At the end of this year the chapter will have had nearly 3,000 square inches of print and online media coverage. This in turn has contributed to 20% of their new members. A representative of the Caroline Close Stuart Chapter says, “Prospective members cannot join us if they cannot find us.”
Chapter leadership was aware that since they have a new group of people who don’t know each other very well they had to develop a way to establish camaraderie between the members. To help with this they started holding workshops, field trips and small group activities where the members could interact more than a regular meeting. Members find that these events have helped them work together and become a team.
The Caroline Close Stuart Chapter has tapped into its members’ talents and interests and, from that, developed the initiatives in which the chapter would become involved. They found that if they focus on projects members are passionate about they become much more successful.
This past year the chapter developed a Constitution Week celebration for their local assigned schools. They have a few members who are local teachers and they helped create the program which included colonial costumes and reading stories about the Constitution to school children. The chapter also works to help out the military and their local veterans by sending special care packages to female military personnel in Kuwait and working closely on many projects with the Missouri Veterans Home and the St. Louis USO. Recently the chapter started working more closely with their local C.A.R. Society. They have done a number of programs with them this year and have many others planned for 2014.
Through the group service activities and the personal community service of the Caroline Close Stuart Chapter, they have been very active in the Celebrate America! initiative. Thus far, this chapter has contributed 6,163 hours of volunteer service to Celebrate America! which is more than any other chapter in Missouri.
I hope you all will use the story of the Caroline Close Stuart Chapter for inspiration in thinking of ways to improve your chapter or develop new initiatives to try to make your membership in the DAR even more meaningful. Also, always remember there is no one perfect “recipe” for what makes a thriving chapter. What has worked for this chapter may not work for yours and what works for your chapter may not work for another. Each group of ladies must figure out what works best for their members in their community. I encourage you to share with us what you have done to help your chapter thrive.
I think it is wonderful that a chapter who has only been working together for a year has been able to thrive in their local community, gain membership and promote the objectives of the DAR. Working together they have strengthened their community and their chapter. Truly, enthusiasm is contagious!
Thank you Caroline Close Stuart Chapter for sharing your story with us! I look forward to hearing success stories of other chapters!