Ideas needed to Enhance my Bonsai Club

Jrbrown4

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I recently was elected president of the North Florida Bonsai Club and I am trying to develop new ideas to keep the club fresh and exciting for the members. Our typical format has revolved around 30 min of administrative discussion each meeting then approx 1 1/2 - 2 hours on a given topic (due to the time restrictions at our meeting locations we can't get together till 7pm on Tuesday nights). It seems like this general structure is working however I wanted to get a variety of ideas to try and make the experience more beneficial everyone involved and hopefully bring back some members who have become less active. Here are some of the ideas that myself and fellow members have come up with but I was hoping to get more ideas from your club or workshop experiences. Thanks

-Saturday small group sessions at a members house to do more intensive styling's or to help give that member ideas on all their material
-Show and tell. Each member brings a tree with a problem, styling issue, or that they are stuck on and we all work together to help them
-Bringing in a tree that needs future development and trying to draw detail sketches of the progression we hope to see and setting up a future plan for how to get the material to that point. Members can then bring back this tree periodically and we can see if our initial design still applies.
-Discussion of different species that we haven’t covered recently if at all (Bougainville, Bald Cypress, etc)

I know there are many more ideas but like I said I just wasnt coming up with them so I thought this would be a great place to reach out for help. Thanks again
 

irene_b

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Why can't your administrative discussion (pileoftics) be cut down to 15 minutes?
Every club has trees/stock that was donated....Have a members styling night on those trees..Same thing when it comes time to pot them up, as well as getting them ready for sale (twicking).
Bring in members from other clubs and have them do demo's..
I am sure other members will touch on other areas for workable ideas to help you and your club.
Irene

Oh and if you want to bring in younger members Move your meeting to a weekend day! Young families with young children have hell making mid week evening meetings!
 
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ghues

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Just a couple,
If possible hold the administrative/business session quarterly, or have a core group (executive committee) look after the business/admin stuff.
Small auctions, trees pots etc are a lot of fun.
G
 

Bonsai Nut

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Make sure to always get feedback from the club members! Perhaps at the end of every meeting, hand out 3x5 cards and ask people to:

(1) give the meeting a score based on how much they liked it
(2) ask for comments how to make that particular meeting better
(3) ask for suggestions for future meetings

Have fun! Do things like "bring in your worst tree" night, or "tree trading" night where everyone brings in one tree, and leaves with another that they have to style and return for the next meeting. Have everyone pitch in and buy stock from a nursery, then everyone styles their trees and brings them back after one year and you "judge" which one turned out best.

Don't forget refreshments! Even the stodgiest meeting is more fun with sodas and bonsai cookies :)
 

Vance Wood

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Make sure to always get feedback from the club members! Perhaps at the end of every meeting, hand out 3x5 cards and ask people to:

(1) give the meeting a score based on how much they liked it
(2) ask for comments how to make that particular meeting better
(3) ask for suggestions for future meetings

Have fun! Do things like "bring in your worst tree" night, or "tree trading" night where everyone brings in one tree, and leaves with another that they have to style and return for the next meeting. Have everyone pitch in and buy stock from a nursery, then everyone styles their trees and brings them back after one year and you "judge" which one turned out best.

Don't forget refreshments! Even the stodgiest meeting is more fun with sodas and bonsai cookies :)

Beer and dancing girls. Just kidding. Remember bonsai is supposed to be fun and people that join a club whether they know it or not expect to be entertained about bonsai. Remember as to leadership: Leadership is nothing more than members who have been voted or otherwise selected to lead and organize the activities of the club for a predetermined length of service. It is not a dictatorship: So if you are in leadership try not to take yourself too seriously. I have seen a couple of clubs in my time torn apart because the leadership was more interested in politics than bonsai, some of them thinking they could do what they wanted because they were a president or what ever.
 

greerhw

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The meetings at our club that bring out the most members is the tree by committee program, the club buys some staked greenmound junipers and we pair off in twos and the first month we style and wire the trees, the second month we finish the styling and pot the trees, then we auction them off to the members, everyone has a good time.

keep it green,
Harry
 

RyanFrye

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Oh and if you want to bring in younger members Move your meeting to a weekend day! Young families with young children have hell making mid week evening meetings!

This is exactly why it is difficult for me to make it out to my local club....If they met during the day on a saturday it would be much easier...at least for me :D
 

Yamadori

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Oh and if you want to bring in younger members Move your meeting to a weekend day! Young families with young children have hell making mid week evening meetings!

Yes this is important. I have two elementary aged kids and week nights would be out of the question.
 

rockm

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"Beer and dancing girls. Just kidding. Remember bonsai is supposed to be fun and people that join a club whether they know it or not expect to be entertained about bonsai. Remember as to leadership: Leadership is nothing more than members who have been voted or otherwise selected to lead and organize the activities of the club for a predetermined length of service. It is not a dictatorship: So if you are in leadership try not to take yourself too seriously. I have seen a couple of clubs in my time torn apart because the leadership was more interested in politics than bonsai, some of them thinking they could do what they wanted because they were a president or what ever."

Bottom line, this is exactly what a club should strive for--no not the lap dances :D--but leadership that knows how to be creative and open. Clubs can develop a rather unhealthy hierarchy that dominates everything, stifling the creativity and vitality that keep clubs interesting. Don't let a select few dictate what is "right" and "wrong."

Let air in. Invite speakers from outside, not only bonsai folks, but TREE folks and horticulturalists and even local artists (landscape painters, nature photographers, etc. can open eyes to some surprising things) One of the most fascinating talks I ever had about trees was with a local county forestry officer--we invited him to our homeowners association meeting--his visit was free as a county service. He knew a tremendous amount of offhand stuff about local species, forests and tree care. Don't overlook free services...
 

Jrbrown4

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Thanks

Everyone,
Thank you for your responses and keep them coming. They will really help our club. Some of them (regarding Leadership/dictatorship) are spot on. I am relatively new to the club (2 years) but have had the chance to talk to some of the old members through other meetings and they have mentioned that former leadership and politics made them leave. I am trying to get some of them involved again in some capacity because they are very talented people. Also I know that in a town of 700k+ there are more than 25-30 people interested and involved in bonsai.

I am a young person and am not interested in, nor do I feel comfortable, bossing people around who could be my parents or in some cases grandparents. I guess my goal would be to get everyone involved as much as they feel comfortable and really make it fun. I have already realized from being on other Board positions that I can't make everyone happy but if I can make most people happy I will have done a decent job.
Josh
 

mcpesq817

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Lots of good responses here. From my two years attending club meetings, I have a lot of the same types of suggestions:

1. Hosting meetings on weekends to at least attract younger folks who work and may have family obligations. I'm fortunate that there are a number of clubs in my area, but most meet during the work week which is just not doable for me.

2. Keep the admin stuff short and sweet.

3. Bring in a diverse group of speakers during the year. I think the meetings that attracted the most attention in our club were those where trees were brought in for sale that could be worked on in workshops.

4. Have a nice tree or two brought in to meetings, whether or not they will be used in a workshop or critiqued. People are there because they enjoy bonsai. While topics like repotting, overwintering, etc. can be important, sitting around discussing those topics as if you're in a lecture hall can be quite boring. You need some props to keep people's interest and attention.

5. Do what you're doing now - solicit recommendations regularly.

6. Beer and free food tend to attract people to functions generally - not sure if there's room in the club budget for that though :D
 

grouper52

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It's an interesting question. Personally, I'm not much of a joiner, and I've never felt a need to be very evangelical about getting lots of others to join the hobby, so perhaps my thoughts shouldn't count for much. Then again, maybe that applies to others as well, so perhaps my thoughts may have merit.

The only time I've ever had the least interest in what's goes on at a club meeting is during the time when folks are either just working on the trees they brought, or else wandering around looking at and talking with others about the trees they brought. This sort of informal free-for-all time meets both the need for socializing with friends and making new ones, as well as the chance to look at trees, talk to the owners about them, and exchange feedback and hands-on learning about styling, horticulture, techniques, etc. It can appeal to people at all levels of expertise. Little sales and auctions and things can be going on in the background simultaneously for those who are interested, but they don't need to eat up the time of everyone there.

The same goes for demonstrations, at least for me. Boring. Have those as separate events at other times for anyone interested. Multiply that ten-fold for any "business" conducted, beyond someone just yelling an announcement above the noise during the free-for-all. That stuff can be handled at exec meetings and thru emails IMO.

Just have a meeting hall with tables and chairs, and encourage people to bring some snacks. Beyond that, just tell people to bring a tree to work on and their tools. THAT'S a club! That's fun AND instructive, and interesting. And it takes a lot less planning on the part of the (probably already overworked) club administrators. Just have a place and time to bring trees and tools and mingle and work together informally, and resist like hell the urge to make it anything more than that.
 

irene_b

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It's an interesting question. Personally, I'm not much of a joiner, and I've never felt a need to be very evangelical about getting lots of others to join the hobby, so perhaps my thoughts shouldn't count for much. Then again, maybe that applies to others as well, so perhaps my thoughts may have merit.

The only time I've ever had the least interest in what's goes on at a club meeting is during the time when folks are either just working on the trees they brought, or else wandering around looking at and talking with others about the trees they brought. This sort of informal free-for-all time meets both the need for socializing with friends and making new ones, as well as the chance to look at trees, talk to the owners about them, and exchange feedback and hands-on learning about styling, horticulture, techniques, etc. It can appeal to people at all levels of expertise. Little sales and auctions and things can be going on in the background simultaneously for those who are interested, but they don't need to eat up the time of everyone there.

The same goes for demonstrations, at least for me. Boring. Have those as separate events at other times for anyone interested. Multiply that ten-fold for any "business" conducted, beyond someone just yelling an announcement above the noise during the free-for-all. That stuff can be handled at exec meetings and thru emails IMO.

Just have a meeting hall with tables and chairs, and encourage people to bring some snacks. Beyond that, just tell people to bring a tree to work on and their tools. THAT'S a club! That's fun AND instructive, and interesting. And it takes a lot less planning on the part of the (probably already overworked) club administrators. Just have a place and time to bring trees and tools and mingle and work together informally, and resist like hell the urge to make it anything more than that.

Amen!!!!
Any more than that is boring!
 

rockm

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"ust have a meeting hall with tables and chairs, and encourage people to bring some snacks. Beyond that, just tell people to bring a tree to work on and their tools. THAT'S a club! That's fun AND instructive, and interesting. And it takes a lot less planning on the part of the (probably already overworked) club administrators. Just have a place and time to bring trees and tools and mingle and work together informally, and resist like hell the urge to make it anything more than that."

Well, I guess that SOUNDS nice, but in my experience that kind of informal get together can also be intimidating, sometimes pointless and a waste of time...:D

Don't get me wrong. I've learned a trunkload of "bonsai stuff" through informal gatherings. However, I've also been given the opportunity to learn things with formal--structured meetings with an aim.

Informal gatherings can intimidate some members, especially beginners, who have no idea who anyone is, much less if that individual ACTUALLY knows what they're talking about.--some of the loudest mouths in clubs are often the least talented. Some of the most personable, funny people might have really bad trees and no idea of the basics--but they're certainly funny...

Also, informal gatherings don't really teach anything, or at least aren't the most conducive to learning anything that's of value.. They can also cause problems in that someone learns something with no context--who cares if you know how to split a branch if you have not learned how to repot a tree?

There is certainly room for such informal activities and certainly no club should structure its agenda so rigidly that it's no fun. However, clubs should provide the framework for members to actually progress in skill. Left to their own devices, I know a few club members who would spend the entire two hours drinking a case of beer then start "designing" trees :D:D
 

rockm

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**Hick** **Buuuuurp**Excuse me:eek::D

Whersh them trees at??....
 

Bill S

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Careful there Mark, don't prrune them pink branches, even if it's just the tips.:D

Most of the responses were the same as I thought while reading the responses. Our club has volenteers bring in snacks and drinks for a short intermission, keeps the mouth busy and wet for a while.

Add in for those who can't do all the regular meetings, have informal workshops on a Sat.s or Sun.s thru the year, we have several at least, where someone will email the group announcing that they will be doing bonsai work so come join the fun.

I agree with Mark that typically you need more than less structure for the meetings, as said most of the bussiness can be dealt with by a board on off nights.

In a structured club setting don't worry about bossing, thats not going to be the case, for the most part people look for someone to lead anyway.

Definately encourage that trees be brought in at all the meetings, the club trees styled at meetings and auctioned works well, adds to the club activity kitty too.

I like rocks idea about outside tree people, going to work on that one, thanks.

It can be tough to balance the needs of newbies and the more experianced folk, but work on a mentor program where those that can help out those that need help. The informal workshops go a long way to help that out.

Search out all the free advertising you can get and announce your club, this is how I came to be involved with my club. Faces are what you need to keep the club going, with 700k people around there are at least 6 that know about bonsai but not your club. ;) Number count for something here keeps different ideas flowing, and keeps cost for speakers etc. to a minimum, which keeps the members happy too.
 

grouper52

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More structure, more people standing up there talking at me, and I'd simply stay home and enjoy the hobby the way I like. That's just me, and probably why I think clubs, classes and demos and all that are largely a waste of time. Your milage may vary, of course. :D
 

irene_b

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More structure, more people standing up there talking at me, and I'd simply stay home and enjoy the hobby the way I like. That's just me, and probably why I think clubs, classes and demos and all that are largely a waste of time. Your milage may vary, of course. :D
My thoughts exactly Will.
I do wonder if "Workshops" are the future of Bonsai...
 

greerhw

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We have club workshops at club members homes about 4 Staurdays a year, low key. We grill burgers and have a social time, it's a lot of fun.

keep it green,
Harry
 
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