The Formula headlines

Calling it what it is: The Burlington, Iowa Kiwanis Club story

Jul 31, 2017
burlington1“94 years and still going strong”. That’s the unofficial motto of the Burlington, Iowa Kiwanis Club. Since 1923, the club, with 145 members, up six members for the 2016-17 Kiwanis year, has been an integral and vital part of the Burlington community, which has a population just over 25,000. And for Melissa Jones, club president, she was invited to join Kiwanis by an unlikely person. “I was actually invited by a perfect stranger to attend a meeting. I accepted, attended the meeting and joined. That was about 15 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.”

“We are the largest service club in the area and we take pride in that,” says Melissa. And the Burlington club wants to remain on top. That’s why when Melissa became president of the club in October, she decided to have a little fun. “Melissa is all about having fun – at work, in her personal life and at Kiwanis. She thought our club needed to shake things up in an unique way, thus the ‘Fun Committee’ was born.”  Michelle Randall, club secretary, says.

Driven by energy and enthusiasm, Melissa decided to make the Fun Committee official. But the committee took a while to catch on. “To be perfectly honest, it was initially a committee of one, me, and I had no idea what was going to happen, where the committee was going to go or how I would get there, but I put it in our club directory so I was committed,” she says.

Slowly but surely, the Fun Committee made itself known within the Burlington club. Four “fun days” were incorporated into their regular meeting schedule at the beginning of the year and printed in a publication. Melissa announced the start of the Fun Committee during a club meeting with a call out to those interested in joining the Committee. Not expecting anyone to respond, Melissa was surprised when people willingly came to her interested in being involved. The Fun Committee is now 8 members strong with several other members in the club intrigued by the Committee.

Like other Kiwanis clubs, the Burlington club has not been immune to membership struggles the last couple of years, but the Fun Committee has had a second, and arguably more important, effect within the club. “The Fun Committee is somehow serving as the pseudo membership committee, which has been very effective,” says Melissa. She has even gone so far as to print “We are all in this together” in the club listing under membership, proving that strengthening club membership should be a focus of all members, not a select group. “The Fun Committee is really making a difference for us this year in overall member satisfaction and engagements. Attendance at our weekly meetings is higher than we have experienced in a while and we are currently at the break-even point on membership with our goal being +1 come year’s end,” says Melissa.

Combining the first Fun Committee tailgate with the club’s membership drive kick off was a great way to stay present and visible in the community, while welcoming guests to a “non traditional” membership open house. “Our club is known for two large fundraising events, “says Melissa, “Our annual pancake breakfast in May and the Shamrock Shuffle 5K in March. We raise a lot of money with those two events each year and continue to support several programs within our community.”

The Formula is having an impact on the focus and goal of the club this year as well. Melissa incorporates “Love it. Share it. Live it.” into club meetings as often as she can, all while encouraging and prompting fun. “The day I became President, we did an activity in which I asked everyone to write down, anonymously, on a notecard the answer to three questions:  ‘Why did you join Kiwanis?  Why Kiwanis and not another organization?  Why did you stay in Kiwanis?’ and I share those responses at general club meetings.  We remind our members to reflect on these questions while sharing Kiwanis with others but we are also focusing on ourselves, getting to know our members and simply having fun together.”