Van Olmstead, president of the Kiwanis Club of Wilmington, Delaware, has worked with desktop computers since they first became a "thing," back in the early 1980s. Not surprisingly he's also his club's webmaster. Recently the organization's carefully maintained online presence paid off in a big way when it helped snag one of the club's most energetic new members—a woman who in the past year rose from homelessness to the club presidency.
"She visited our website and saw our orientation toward youth and the things we've done to help them," Olmstead recalls. "We've got many years of community service history, with an emphasis on kids. That was a hot button issue for her. She sent us an email and things just unfolded from there."
The potential member in question is Antoinette Capri, a mother of two and former nurse and senior caregiver who recently made a monumental career switch to author, life coach and motivational speaker. Not surprisingly, business was slow at first. During the winter of 2013 she and her kids were briefly homeless.
"I actually had to move in with friends," she says. "But I still had to keep my composure and my emotions together."
It was during this time that Capri, who was searching for groups that might want to listen to her motivational presentations, happened upon the Wilmington club's website. Something about the group resonated, so early last winter she decided to attend a meeting—even though she had to walk to it. She came back the next week to speak, and then joined in February 2014.
"When I visited for the first time, I knew it was a good fit," she says. "I love the heritage and the history. To be connected to it is awesome."
Capri quickly transitioned from newbie to co-chair of the membership committee. She's now the club's president-elect, and will assume the presidency in 2016. She's is a natural at inviting others, given that her "day job" consists of speaking to organizations and groups that are interested in helping kids. All she has to do is introduce them to Kiwanis.
"I want them to become aware of the service club," Capri says. "Kiwanis has been around forever, and I really don't know why we're not as well-known as we could be. So I'm glad to help with that."
Her advice to other clubs seeking potential members is to look for people and organizations already focused on issues connected to children. Consider asking members of groups with which your club already collaborates. Or, on a more informal note, approach moms and dads at Little League games or youth gatherings. After all, if they didn't care about kids they wouldn't be there.
And of course, make sure your club maintains a strong web presence. That's no problem in Wilmington, where Olmstead—though he will soon relinquish his presidency—will retain his webmaster duties. As social media becomes an ever-larger part of people's lives, tending to the club's online profile becomes increasingly vital.
"It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it," he jokes. — Sam Stall
Has your club’s website helped to engage potential members? Tell us how at LoveIt@kiwanis.org.