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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › "Service Organizations": Is there anything we can learn from them?

"Service Organizations": Is there anything we can learn from them?

Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 999
Service Clubs Rallying To Reverse Their Slide

Published: October 4, 1992

ONCE upon a time, in municipalities all over New Jersey, clubs made up of doctors, lawyers, bankers and other community leaders met once a week for lunch. The groups, each a small local branch of a large national organization, offered members a chance to socialize, conduct a little private business and organize community service projects. They called themselves Rotarians, Kiwanis or Lions, and they proudly erected signs at city or town limits proclaiming their existence.

The signs still greet newcomers to New Jersey communities, but the letters are often faded. The clubs behind the signs now find themselves fighting against the tide of social change; their most crucial project is survival.

The nation's five largest service clubs, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Jaycees and Optimists, ... say membership has declined over the last five years [at the time of this article being published in 1992].
The most frequently cited reason for the service clubs' decline is that familiar specter, the economy [back in 1992!]. ...
Robert Wagner, a 52-year-old executive in Marlton who is district governor of the Lions Club, sees another, less tangible reason for the club's decline. Describing the 1980's as "the yuppie period," he said the prevailing hedonism of that decade affected the willingness of young professionals to become involved in community activities.


The major service clubs were founded in the Middle West in the first two decades of the 20th century. Because membership was restricted to community leaders, local Rotarians or Lions also had local clout, Dr. Tiger said. Established service clubs, he added, had a role in the social structuring of small communities.

In some cities and towns, service club membership still carries a certain amount of prestige, Mr. Johnson said. ...


Making Connections
Women have joined for the same reason that men traditionally do: business and social connections. ...

While New Jersey service clubs still concentrate on traditional children's charities, supporting essay contests, summer camps and projects for the handicapped, some have turned in new directions.
Though networking is traditional in the service clubs, some groups are exploring new ways of doing it. The Jaycees publish Biznet, a statewide list of Jaycees members cross-referenced by address and occupation.

In the long run, Mr. Wagner of the Lions said, he expects that membership will increase as New Jersey and the rest of the country become further removed from the attitudes of the 80's. He is convinced that refugees from 80's-style selfishness will eventually find that the route to altruism runs straight to the time-honored service organizations.

It seems to me that the real reason for the original success of these "service organizations" was not altruism at all, but business and social networking--and prestige, too. The altruistic purposes appear to be the excuse for the businessmen to get together. The prestige seems to come from two sources: exclusivity, as some of these clubs were by "invitation only" to a club made of mainly of local business leaders and their superficially altruistic purpose.

I have been studying these large, historically successful clubs to see if there is anything we can learn from them in organizing an Objectivist club like NTOS. I would be curious if anyone else has any thoughts on this.

Perhaps some of us might be interested in getting together to offer some "services" in the promotion of Ayn Rand's works and Objectivism?

Follow up
It seems the IRS questions the charitable nature of at least one of these groups, too:
A 501(c)(3) Update
October 1, 2008
We have received from the Internal Revenue Service a letter denying 501(c)(3) exemption for Optimist International. The IRS position states that more than an insubstantial part of Optimist International activities are not in furtherance of exempt purposes. It is the position of the IRS that social networking and Club building is more than [an in]substantial function of Optimist International operations. The IRS points to social activities at Club meetings/functions, International Convention social activities and Club social networking as causes for its denial of our application. Optimist International will appeal the preliminary denial of Section 501(c)(3) exemption.
(Emphasis added.)

Plano, TX
Post #: 937
The most successful clubs I know of are more tailored towards specific types of industries/careers/purpose. For example, there is a Dallas Blue area group that covers a wide array of industries, but is specifically geared those that want to do business networking, as well as learn how to do that better off line and online.

The recruiter/HR groups that I belong too are geared towards socialization with those that "get it" and for learning how others apply recruiting/HR practices, and for looking for work (or finding others to partner with.) Also to gossip about what is going on in the "other" groups with a similar purpose.

The Rotarians, Kiwians, etc...I have never belonged to any of these groups, though I knew several that did when I sold insurance back in the 90s. They were looking to expand their business, but it was also a bit about status as well. It used to mean something if you were in the Rotarians and held a position. Not many people care about it nowadays. So those that really know how to network on their own, or don't want to spend a lot of time hanging out with people that have nothing to do with their line of work (or most likely won't become customers), they are not going to bother.

Anyway that is my take.

What services can NTOS offer? Well - the Front Range (not sure if I have the title right) group in Colorado I believe helps get Ayn Rand's novels out to schools I believe. We could contact local high school teachers and see which ones would fit them in their curriculum if they could get the study guides and books for free.

Another would be to make sure public libraries have copies of Rand's books - right now the use of the library has shot up across the country as people are cutting back on buying books and movies, etc. While someone may not buy Atlas Shrugged at the store, they may be willing to borrow it from the library because they don't have to pay for it, so there isn't much risk if they don't like it.

Or NTOS could consider opening up some of the lectures to the public. I do understand why this hasn't been done in the past. However, if we promote some of the lecturers on a public basis, I wonder how we could grow our own group, as well as get the message of Objectivism out there more in the DFW area. Right now, I believe most of the people that attend the lectures are ones that already have or are studying Objectivism. While I think they lectures are important for all of us to consider attending - at one point are we just "preaching to the choir?" Which is fine, as I don't feel obligated to educate the world - but I think this could be useful, especially with those speakers that have published books, are have a bit of a name for them self already.

Just my quick thoughts. Its an interesting question, because Objectivism is not altruistic in nature, so there is no recruiting people to volunteer to do stuff out of guilt (which is a good thing to not be doing!); so sometimes finding common ground on what is worthwhile is a bit tough.

One last thing - those of us on FaceBook, MySpace and other networking sites that offer the chance to post notes/blogs - here is something to consider: If you are like most people, your friend's list is made up of a lot of nonObjectivists, as well as many that are already Objectivist or Objectivist friendly. If you have time, and are comfortable doing it - why not share something you have learned on your notes/blogs and tag/share it with your non Objectivist type friends/family as well? I know there are already several doing this (David & Donovan for example). However, it can be an easy way to get someone to think "hmmm....maybe I should read that book or article, or attend that event, or think twice about that news story?"

I just wrote this out quickly, as I am watching my please forgive me if it doesn't read well.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,002
I was interested in these other large clubs for their structure and methods of motivating participation. For example, some of them require very high attendance to maintain one's membership. Shocking!

Wouldn't a local book program duplicate the similar efforts of ARI? Also, I am inclined to do something that allows members more participation than just writing a check (unless it is writing a check to me).

I like your idea of donating Ayn Rand's books to our local public libraries! That would be a project for people here locally and not cost much money either. It would involve just a few hundred book copies and the leg work to get them to the empty library shelves. This sounds like it would be a good size of a project for us to start with.

Regarding opening our NTOS lectures to the public, they are advertised to the public, and we have added the possibility of bringing a new guest for cheap!

I do think our members could help promote our interest in NTOS via the internet, including via FaceBook, MySpace, etc. Let's look into that.

I just wrote this out quickly, too, so I hope my post makes as much sense as yours!
Plano, TX
Post #: 939
Often, local HalfPrice book stores will have Ayn Rand's novels, and they can be picked up fairly cheap.
We could put a sticker on the inside of the cover that says "Donated by North Texas Objectivist Society" with the web link to the group as well.

Actually - Todd, I did notice the note about bringing a new member at a reduced cost - I should have acknowledged in my first response that I think this is a great idea.

I agree, too, that something more than "writing a check" is advantageous, for two reason: 1. I think most people would get a higher level of satisfaction out of action than just writing a check, should they have the time to do something (I know I do when I volunteer for things); 2. It keeps members much more invested in the project than just donating (which is of course related to my first reason); sometimes positive results from a person's actions will inspire that person to continue on that path. For example, I at the request of a friend, I volunteered several months ago at an event to raise money for Cystic fibrosis. All I did was donate a few hours time selling tickets at the event. However, I was very much encouraged by the event, and got to talk to others there about why they were there. Many were there because they had a friend or other loved one that suffered from the disease, and they all sort of "bonded" over being able to do something. And of course, their efforts allowed the org to raise more money for the charity for research. It was a very satisfying evening for me. Much more satisfying than just sending in my occasional small donation.

Plano, TX
Post #: 940
One more suggestion for those that have the time, energy and interest: organizing book groups in their local area to discuss Ayn Rand's fiction, and other works that is Objectivist friendly, or written directly by Objectivist authors.

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