Tuesday, March 5, 2013


-I'll start with a story.  Don't I always?  Lately my postings have all been about quilting, but this story starts with Knit or Knot--a knitting guild started by me in September of 1995.  It could apply to any group.  Virtually all of the original members are still active.  A few died; some got transferred out of the area, but for the most part our guild, Knit or Knot of Orlando, has been running for almost 18 years.  It has prospered, been stable, avoided the horrible conflicts that can happen in some guilds, and we get new members all the time.
This is about how YahooGroups helped Knit or Knot of Orlando grow and prosper.
When I started Knit or Knot, I was determined that several things be true.  First and foremost, we NOT have any dues.  Second, all members are created equal and have an equal voice, and third, we should help each other learn, grow, and be well together.
In the beginning, the internet had not really gained general usage.  That meant that I created a printed newsletter and mailed it out after every meeting, and our first member phoned everyone to remind them of meetings. 
Even with the growth of the internet, communication was problematic.  If we had to send an announcement, that meant typing in every email addresses--keeping databases of those addresses, etc. A royal pain in the you-know-what.
Then an absolutely brilliant thing happened.  One day we all checked our email to find this message from our youngest member--I'll call her Blondie for her gorgeous hair.  (She's a LOT younger than the "ahem" oldies in the group and put us all to shame technologically.  Her picture is on our knitting web site--look for a very smiley, young, natural blond with curly hair.)  The email that Blondie sent was an invitation to a YahooGroup.  It said, "Hi, folks, I've created a group called knitorknot@yahoogroups.com.  All you have to do is reply to this email and from now on keeping in touch with each other will be a cinch."  (Well, some of us did have to get Yahoo IDs which at first seemed tricky)  What a nutty idea, we though, but oh, how we were wrong and Blondie was right.
Let me tell you what the YahooGroup has done for us:
We have virtually perfect communication for all members.  Nobody has to remember email addresses.  They are all stored in the YahooGroup database.  Anybody who wants to say anything to the group, or even to reach another member, only has to address the email to knitorknot@yahoogroups.com.  Bingo--no CCs, no BCCs, no typing in long lists of emails, no creating Outlook Groups and having to keep them updated, it's automatic. Got a message to get out?  Tell it on YahooGroups. Problem solved.   See "Finding a new venue" below.
It's fully democratic (and I don't mean political)--democratic with a small "d."  Anybody can reach every member through the YahooGroup.  Even if you want to reach one individual, you can say, for example, "Mary, what happened with XYZ."  Everyone can see the message, sure, but it keeps conspiracies and hidden agendas out of the guild. Officers could have their own private YahooGroup if they felt they needed it.
In fact, we don't do the whole officer thing.  Most guilds need officers to plan, approve every decision, control the atmosphere, etc.  Ours doesn't.  We did once elect officers for our Charter, but ask anyone in Knit or Knot who the Board is and they'll say, "Hunh?"  What board?
Knit or Knot doesn't do "private." This, in itself, keeps everyone honest.  It's pretty hard to run a conspiracy, use the guild funds to take people out to fancy dinners, gang up against another member, or do any of the nefarious things groups sometimes do when everything is out in the open.  
Everyone feels included.  Let's say you don't get to meetings often.  Maybe you've got a sick hubby or you have to travel a lot.  No problem.  You get all the information you need about what the guild is doing whenever you check your email.  You may not get to meetings, but you're still very much a member and in on the goings on.
Membership increases.  We love welcoming new people into our guild, and the way we do it is to say, "Hey, gimme your email.  I'll send you an invitation to our online group." 
Finances improve.  Yeah.  I said above that we don't charge dues.  We do raise money quite nicely, though.  We do raffle of a basket at meetings for our education fund. (See Using Raffle Baskets successfully later)  and we have a VERY successful record of having national teachers come to Orlando to teach at our guild and earn us money.  We've had Judy Pascale and Chris Bylsma in the same year!  National names, national reputations.  Mega bucks to get them.  Yet we always raise the funds.  We charge our members one fee and non-members a bit more, and our classes fill up. Since they are big names, we charge big bucks.  People come!  The beauty of this is some of the people at our "national teacher" sessions are from other guilds, but we let them be in our YahooGroup, so they know what we're doing. And a couple of our members are in their YahooGroups so we know what's going on there as well.  They come and pay for the teachers we bring in.  We make a big profit, and live dues-free the rest of the year.  Sheer joy.  After all, what can anybody possibly hear or read that diminishes us?  We're not reinventing the wheel, for gosh sake.
Non-Members actually become Members.  Part of this is the whole non-dues position.  Obviously, if your guild collects dues, you sort of want to keep your fantastic ideas secret.  Unhunh!  Like no other guild ever thought of doing exactly what your guild is doing.  The more people you invite to the YahooGroup, the more they feel involved and are more likely to support the group. As soon as someone joins the YahooGroup, they become as involved as regular members.
The openness of the YahooGroup virtually stops nasty backstabbing, rumors, etc. since everybody knows what's going on,  Want to know what's in the Treasury?  Post a question on the YahooGroup--"what's the bank balance these days?" You'll get your answer.  Nobody can be accused of using guild funds to take a guest out to an exhorbitantly expensive fancy restaurant.  There'd be no rumors simply because it's all out in the open.
It teaches diplomacy and allocates talents efficiently.  Every been in a group where the person elected president is the least diplomatic person on earth?  Where you just grit your teeth with some of the things they say or write?  Where they try to control everything.  Do it their way or you won't get recognition in the guild.  Or where the person who gets elected treasurer can't balance her own checkbook?  Well, in our YahooGroup if anybody says anything that could be misread, clarification is asked for right away.  You learn to state things diplomatically.  Honesty needn't be nasty.  But honesty and openness is a must for groups to operate without acrimony.
It's reliable and consistent.  The format doesn't change.  You don't have to install updates.  Just keep sending out notices and inviting new people.  Everybody gets treated the same.  People who change email addresses just go onto YahooGroups and change their own information so you don't have to worry about it.
Finding a New Venue:  This shows how the collaborative-communicative aspect of the YahooGroup works.  A current problem we had to deal with.   OK, since we have no dues, we don't pay for the space where we meet.  Once when we had to move away from meeting at the library, we did chip in to pay for "insurance" at a Senior Center, but we gave that up as fast as we could.  Recently we've been meeting (no charge) at a restaurant in College Park.  It is very generous of them to let us meet there without charge.  It is also noisy and the ambiance does not let us do the things we have been famous for.  Even show and tell is difficult in an open, noisy restaurant.  We had to cut out regular parts of our sessions just to continue meeting there.  So.....
A message was sent via the YahooGroup saying, "Gosh, I miss XYZ that we used to do when we met at a quieter location."  Before a day had passed the comments flowed in.  "I miss it, too."  "What about PQR?  We can't do that anymore either."  Suddenly everyone is chatting, "We need a new venue."  One member started phoning churches.  Nobody told her to do it.  She just did it and posted the results on the YahooGroup.  Another member checked restaurants with back rooms with doors, and a third contacted the knitting stores.  Within a week, with everyone making suggestions, expressing their wishes and/or unhappiness, we narrowed the possibilities down.  When all seemed to be in agreement about where we wanted to meet, a poll was taken (YahooGroups include the polling facility) and members were voting--not just whether they wanted to go to the new place, everyone said they did, but on how quickly we could get our meetings transferred there.  Problem solved--not by one person, not by a committee, but by the entire membership.
YahooGroups will help your group grow, prosper, be healthy, and be happy.
Recently I was asked if I wanted to be part of another YahooGroup.  It's a national group that doesn't really meet, but at least once a year they have "retreats" all over the country.  You go to whichever one you want.  Travel to visit friends or go to the one in your state.  The warmth of friendship is powerful, and new members, me included, are quickly made to feel welcome.
Raffle Baskets:
I realize this has nothing to do with YahooGroups, but as a former sales rep and a member of a group that does raffle baskets successfully, I've had occasion to see the concept used with mediocre results.
*The basket itself has to be sold.  All the items in it have to be shown to the group present.
*The tickets have to be sold.  That means the person selling the tickets has to get up and move from table to table or person to person in the room and say something totally inane like, "Wanna buy a raffle ticket?"  If we forgot our cash, we loan each other the money so everyone can have a ticket.  We usually collect get a yield of $2-$3 per person at the meeting.  If your guild is not earning that much on raffle tickets you aren't doing one of the 2 * above--most likely the second one. 
What I learned in Psychology 101 applies to people in guilds, too.
If someone tells you that the one thing they never do is , what they are really telling you is what they DO do.  "I never interfere" means "I am known for interfering."  Mothers-in-law are famous for that one.  The more vehement the claim, the more it's projection. Sometimes it's couched in present-day psychobabble (very popular these days).  When someone says, "You know it's not all about YOU."  You got it!  It's projection.  Of course it isn't all about you.  It's all about THEM!

Evidence of lying:
The more excuses (sometimes given as explanations) a person gives you for something, the less likely it's the truth.  
One excuse or explanation: If someone says something like, "I didn't do that because I had a scheduling conflict," and if that person stops there and doesn't add anything to it, that's very likely true.  
Two excuses or explanations: If the person says, "I didn't do that because I had a scheduling conflict and my car broke down," start to be suspicious.  It might be true, but it might be a lie. Either excuse would be sufficient.  Why proffer two?
Three excuses or explanations: It's almost always a lie. "I didn't do that because I had a scheduling conflict, and my car broke down, and anyway I ran out of gas."   They're lying.  They may be doing it to protect themselves. They may be doing it to get rid of you, but the fact remains, it's a almost certainly a lie.
Four or more excuses or explanations strung in a row:  It's not only a lie, it's a bald-faced lie.  If someone says, "I could not have discussed that with anyone because I took 4 days of lectures, went to parties every night, had breakfast and dinner conferences with my pals every day, and had to walk 3 miles each way to the conference.  Plus I was totally exhausted," that person is not just telling you lies, they're lying to themselves as well.  To quote Shakespeare, "Such men (people) are dangerous..."
Ahhh, I did learn a lot in Psych 101 that is still useful 56 years later.

What I learned in the psychology of sales (OJT)
A well-trained sales rep goes through the equivalent of a college course in psychology, especially if they are exposed to the sales training of large companies like Xerox or IBM or if the company they work for exposes them to the books and training material available in the commercial market.  Here's what 30 years of sales training taught me:
Semantics (words and phrases used) negate content.  to be continued.....

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