Sometime in the next few weeks, unless there’s a significant change in events, I’ll become the next president of the Birmingham Jaycees. It is the oldest civic organization for young professionals in the City of Birmingham, receiving its charter from the national organization in 1920. This makes it one of the 10 oldest continually operating YP organizations in the United States (whether it’s the third or the sixth is always up for debate).
It’s also the organization’s 90th anniversary (it officially started back in October).
It’s a difficult time in the history of the organization. We’re currently struggling with a direction and purpose.
This is the group that among its list of accomplishments can include being involved in the creation of the official flag of the city of Birmingham, the city’s “It’s Nice to Have You in Birmingham” campaign, the traffic signal that Vulcan held for a time and the long-time Haunted House in the city’s Lakeview entertainment district.
I’ve written before about the issues affecting young professional organizations in Birmingham, at the time taking the perspective of serving on the boards of the oldest and what was then the newest organizations.
A quick review of facts (and a long drive throughout most of the city (and I mean MOST of the city) today leads me to start asking a bunch of questions out loud. The answers may just help guide this organization’s next phase and help it survive to enjoy its 100th anniversary.
- Is it about doing stuff that will get you seen or doing what’s best for the community?
- Do we assume that everyone knows exactly what to do when they join?
- Do we exist solely to enable networking, just community service or for both and as a by-product, the development of leadership skills?
There are other things to consider as we look at the coming year.
- Do we really need an office at this point in our history? Can’t we meet in various locations around metro Birmingham?
- Do we continue to store items for a haunted house if we do not hold one?
- Should we reinvent the haunted house or create a new signature event?
- Who are we truly serving?
- What can we do to serve them better?
- How do we serve our membership better? More presentations? More outreach? (or less?)
I’ve got some ideas about where our attention should be as we move forward in 2011, but I’d like to hear from those of you willing to share first. I’d love specifics areas of focus to aim for; goals that would allow us to remember “that service to humanity is the best work of life” while allowing us to grow and expand as individuals and as an organization.
Thanks in advance for your input. Whether you’re in Birmingham, AL or not, I appreciate it.