District 29 – we found our path!
Dear District 29,
As I sit here on the last day of the 2019-2020 program year and reflect on how far we have come this year, I am awed by what you have done. Most of you are familiar with the Distinguished Club Program but may not be as familiar with the Distinguished District Program. It has four levels—Distinguished, Select Distinguished, President’s Distinguished and Smedley Distinguished in each of three categories—Paid Clubs, Membership Payments and Distinguished Clubs. As of this moment, we have received 5,027 membership payments this year (and this number will still increase) which hits the mark for President’s Distinguished in that category. We have 67 clubs that have achieved Distinguished or better (this number could still increase as well) which hits the mark for President’s Distinguished in that category. We have submitted three new clubs to be chartered and are working to add a fourth by the end of the day. That will make us a Distinguished District and possibly a Select Distinguished District—the first time we have accomplished either of these goals in four years. It is also, to the best of my knowledge, the first year that we have achieved the President’s Distinguished goals in two of the three categories—kind of makes you wonder what we would have accomplished without the pandemic, doesn’t it?
It was a year of innovation and learning a lot of lessons about technology that most of us probably didn’t really want to learn and that we did not plan on having to learn. That learning curve got pretty steep at times, but at the end of it over 83% of our clubs were holding meetings online. We conducted all but a handful of Spring area contests, all seven division contests and four district level contests including, a first ever for this District, a Tall Tales contest, online! We conducted two District Council business meetings entirely online along with two District Town Halls. We even elected our district officers virtually. We had a conference season over four weekends in May with an awesome keynote speaker – Sima Dahl — and a wider variety of breakout sessions than we could have had in person. We conducted demo meetings and open houses – all virtually, and 30% of our new memberships came in after the shutdowns. We just held our first on-line TLI, with more to come for the Summer term, and an on-line Speaker to Trainer workshop. In most cases, participation was higher than if we had done them in person.
As of now 42 of our clubs have achieved President’s Distinguished, 12 are Select Distinguished, and 13 are Distinguished and with awards still being processed some of those numbers will change. We have five President’s Distinguished Areas, six Select Distinguished and seven Distinguished. And we have three President’s Distinguished Divisions, one Select Distinguished and should gain one more Select Distinguished when the dust settles. Think about it! We achieved the highest performance we’ve had in years during the pandemic!
But wait! There’s more! From the beginning of the year through today, 51 DTMs have been awarded to members of the district, mostly for the legacy program. And that number is definitely still going up as last-minute awards are submitted.
As I conclude this year, I want to say from the bottom of my heart what an honor it has been to be able to serve as your district director this year. To say it was eventful would be a major understatement, but we need the storms to better appreciate the sunshine and even to grow, and I have grown a lot this year. It was my privilege to serve you and it was my privilege to serve with a leadership team that I believe is this best the district has produced to date, and we’ve had some really good ones! What Narayanan and his program quality team did to put on a string of online contests is truly remarkable! The work that Bettie did with club growth is obvious in our results—we grew during a crisis, something that very few districts accomplished. Brendan and his PR team were lynchpins in getting information out at the beginning of the crisis, so everybody was informed and could respond, that was critical to our success. The district support team—Bethany, Maria and Saint were responsible for the behind the scenes support in administration, finance and logistics that kept the district humming all year so everybody else could do their job. Our division directors—Anthony, Regina, Paula, Rick, Sabrina, Kim and Talisa made things happen! From doing division hosted core officer training sessions (COTS, new for this district) to hosting multiple club meetings a week on Zoom, they…made…it…happen! Our area directors were amazing. We put a lot on them, we expected a lot from them, and they delivered! Many of you are the beneficiaries of their dedicated service. And our club officers, the unsung heroes. Working throughout the year to make sure meetings happen, goals get met, achievements get recorded and recognized, and dues get collected—all of the things that have to happen for the members to receive Toastmasters experience they deserve. That’s where the rubber meets the road and looking at our numbers—our club officers did an awesome job this year!
At the beginning of the year we asked you to really live the Toastmasters Promise and core values and master the fundamentals that have always made Toastmasters successful—it looks like you did. Well done! We also asked you to Find Your Path and even though that path got pretty rocky this year, it looks like you did that as well. Again, well done! The theme for the 2020-2021 program year is “Commit to Excellence” and it may be a new theme, but it’s not a new value, not for District 29. Excellence is hard wired in our DNA. So as my year comes to a close and as I exit stage right as the new team enters stage left I know I’m leaving you in very good hands.
Thank you for a great year and the promise of even greater things to come.