Jun 162017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

When I sit down to write this column every month, I usually scan back over a previous couple of months to review what I’ve written and posted. (Hint: if you go to the website and type “Communications” in the search box in the upper right corner, you can do the same!) This time I was a bit surprised at the number of posts my search produced. There have been a lot of “Communication Bullets” over the past couple of months.

The reason for those is there’s been a lot happening that deserves communicating! For example, in May we set a record for the number of visitors to our website in one day. That’s exciting stuff! There’s also been a lot of “stuff” added to the site and I wanted to make sure you knew about those resources. As information arrives, I also update the Conferences Page with information and, when I have it, conference packages, applications, etc. When we set the visitor record, I was not surprised to discover that the “Program Books and Information” page is the most visited. Grangers are finding and using the information there!

My goal for the communications department of one has always been to serve the Subordinate and Pomona Granges by communicating information that’s interesting and useful. I was going to include “exciting,” but let’s face it—not everything we do is exciting and fun. (We can, however, try to make it so.)

A recent change that IS exciting was a long time coming. We’ve always given you the opportunity to subscribe to the website—you could get an email when posts are made. Unfortunately, we lost control of that subscription service and, while it still works, we don’t know who our subscribers are and can’t control the process. So I have been looking for a process that is “user-friendly,” compliant with email regulations, and allowed us to do more than the old system. Subscriptions to the site are now being handled through a service provided by MailChimp. And, by the way, the service is costing the Grange nothing.

Initial reports are that it’s working great! There has been some confusion regarding the new versus old. One of the steps I’ve taken to help is to prepare a one-page, illustrated “how to” sheet (available on the website, of course!). If you were subscribed to the “old” system you may want to review it, because you’ll want to “unsubscribe” from the old system so you don’t get two emails every day. (One from the old system and one from the new system.) Because I do not have access to the old system, I cannot do this for you nor can I shut it down.

If you are tempted to just stay on the old system, there are at least two reasons you may not want to do that:

  1. I truly have no idea how long the old system will be maintained and continue to work.
  2. The new system is far more manageable and will allow us some future opportunities—including the fact that I will be able to help those having difficulty with their subscription.

Let me reassure you that you still have control of what happens and can unsubscribe at any time. Also, our privacy policy prevents us from sharing, selling, or renting your information.

If you are currently not subscribed, simply go to the website and click the “Sign me up” link. It’s a two-step process—don’t forget the second step! After you’ve filled out the short form and submitted, you’ll receive an email verifying that you want to subscribe. You’ll need to click the link in that email. (This is for your protection—it means someone else can’t sign you up for email you don’t want!)

As with anything related to the website, bulletin, or communications in general, if you have any questions, ideas, or concerns, I want to hear from you!

May 232017
 

Communication Bullets are short but big news!

by Walter Boomsma
Communications Director

Some important changes and notes:

The ODD (Officers, Directors, and Deputies) Directory has been updated… a current copy is available for downloading: ODD-Directory-05-17. There has been a minor change in deputy assignments to reflect recent changes in Pomona alignments and two positions are now listed as “TBD” (to be determined)–the chairperson of the Ag Ed Committee and a Youth Director.

The Journal of Proceedings 2016 has been updated with a minor correction at the request of MSG Secretary Sharon. Action on Resolution #12 was missing from the original copy posted. A corrected copy is available for downloading: Journal-of-Proceedings-2016-Convention

Several “In search of…” requests have been added recently… please check the page and see if you can help!

Over the next few days, I will be testing a new method for subscribing to the website and you may notice some “weirdness” at the tope of the home page. Once testing is complete, I hope to announce a major change that will be of great benefit to everyone!

Remember to check the Conferences Page occasionally for information about upcoming national, regional, and state events. Those responsible for events should especially check the page when scheduling events to avoid conflicts. Also, those responsible please make sure you email me information about the events you are planning.

May 142017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

Are you ready for some great news? Your Maine State Grange Website hit a new record in May – in terms of visits to the site, the best day ever (since October 2010) was May 6, 2017, when there were 257 site visits! This record day also means that as of this writing, May 2017 is the month with the highest daily average of site visits – 114 per day. Naturally, I could resist a quick look at what might have caused this. (My experience suggests that data often raises more questions than it answers.) So I took a look at which pages/posts were the most popular in the last thirty days. In descending order:

  1. Program Books and Information Page (forms, books, etc. organized by function)
  2. Our History (a short history of the Grange)
  3. 2017 Directory of Granges (a recently published directory/list of active Granges in Maine)
  4. Update on LD 725 and LD 835 (information provided by the Ag Education Committee regarding bills under consideration)
  5. Our Officers (a “who’s who” list of state officers)
  6. Joining the Grange (includes a link to a membership brochure and application)
  7. Bangor Daily News Article About Exciting Granges (article headline: Maine Granges Are Making a Comeback!)
  8. About (a general page with links to other pages)
  9. I’m seeking… (a page where people can post requests for information about Granges and Grangers)
  10. Conferences (a list of state and regional Grange conferences and meetings)

Since the best day record was set the same day the Bangor Daily News Article was posted, there might be a correlation. The tempting conclusion is that folks are hungry for good news about the Grange. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that other highly visited pages and posts are reference pages with officer, membership, and Grange location information.

How do they find it? Well, the data suggests that most of our “referrals” are coming from search engines. In other words, people are searching for information using Google and other search engines and the Maine State Grange website comes up in the results.

While it’s important to stay focused, one undeniable conclusion we can draw from this is that we attract people to the Maine State Grange Website by making information readily available. This is one of the reasons I’ve started the “Resources for Grangers” posts—obviously, those resources are not just for Grangers. They are also for people who should become Grangers!

I’ve recently become interested in a communication phenomena called the “echo effect.” An echo chamber is “a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system.” In short, repeated messages sometimes take on a life of their own and get reinforced by nature of the fact they are heard often. Another term we can apply is “tunnel vision.” We become so subconsciously focused on something we are hearing constantly we only see what’s at the end of the tunnel.

That’s one reason I believe we need to stop analyzing and discussing why getting members is hard. I do not deny it is challenging. But I also know that the more we talk about how hard it is, the more firmly we will believe it can’t be done.

On May 6, 2017, at least 257 people were interested in the Grange: our programs, our beliefs, our halls, and our events. Did we give them enough information to at least maintain their interest?

After the Bangor Daily News article, one person emailed me and said that she and her husband plan to join the Grange when they retire. What do you think of that? I know several Grangers I told replied, “How old are they? Will I live long enough to see it?” I wish more people had just said, “Wow! That’s great!”

Apr 202017
 

We’ve made some minor updates and changes to the ODD Directory (Officers, Directors, and Deputies) and uploaded it to the website! Please download and print some copies for yourself and your members: ODD-Directory-04-17.

Also, note that we’ve added a new section to the “Program Books and Information Page” for the soon to be officially announced Agricultural Education Committee. There are already a few resources listed under this heading!

Happy Grange Month! If your Grange did something special, send us a report for featuring on the website! Photos are great–just attach them to an email to the webmaster. (Smaller file sizes are really helpful. If you are using a photo program that allows you reduce resolution and file size, please consider doing so before sending!)

Communication Consideration:

Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.

Heinrich Heine

Apr 152017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

During National Grange Master Betsy Huber’s visit, it was my distinct honor to facilitate the “town hall” discussion during the Piscataquis Pomona Meeting. There were nearly a dozen Granges represented and over thirty Grangers and guests. The conversations were spirited and encouraging throughout the entire evening starting with our supper. This was a rare opportunity for Grangers at all levels of the Order to communicate: National, State, Pomona, and local.

When the evening ended, one of the comments made was how helpful it was for so many different Granges to talk about their accomplishments and challenges. “We thought we were the only ones who…” While not all challenges were resolved, a sense of reassurance developed, in part because if we all have similar challenges, the odds of overcoming them increases. Chances are, someone solved that problem or challenge you are having. This became obvious as Granges reported their successes. The meeting truly was one of sharing with an eye towards solving problems and growing our Granges.

I later found myself thinking we had perhaps witnessed a meeting the way Pomona meetings are meant to be. While surely Pomona meetings were social events in the early days, I suspect those meetings including a lot of discussion—both formal and informal—on topics ranging from the best time to plant to what is working in your Grange.

While I’m admittedly biased by my position as communication director, I think the purpose of every meeting is communication in some way, shape, or form. A little thought and structure should go into why we are meeting and what we are communicating. Let me share two examples.

The Pomona Meeting includes a roll call of Granges that often means a brief report from those Granges attending. Many times these reports begin, “We are meeting regularly…” which I suppose is an accomplishment. (In some cases, it’s “We are trying to meet regularly…”) Why not make an effort to find at least one exciting thing about your Grange to report? Or, for that matter, why not report on a challenge your Grange is facing and ask your fellow Grangers for help and ideas? One of the points of Pomona Grange is communication and sharing resources. We should structure our meetings to do just that.

My second example is committee reports during meetings. If we see an important purpose of meetings as communication, we should be sad when it’s announced, “Nothing to report.” Yes, the original purpose of committee reports was to share what the committee is doing—but if it’s doing nothing, there still could something to report. A couple of sentences regarding what is happening in the world we live in will at least suggest we aren’t totally disconnected and out of business! Even a brief reminder of something important could qualify as a report.

I’ve attended Grange meetings where it seems like the purpose of the meeting is to get it over as quickly as possible! I’m not suggesting we turn meetings into long, drawn out affairs. I am suggesting that the purpose of every Grange meeting is not simply to have a meeting. When attendance at our meetings is poor, we might allow ourselves to wonder why. If the only reason we’re meeting is because it’s scheduled, that’s not much incentive for people to make the effort.

When I am responsible for leading a meeting, I always create an agenda with time estimates and outcomes. If at all possible, I share it with participants so we share the responsibility for getting “the labors of the day” completed in a timely and effective manner. Why not do the same for a Grange meeting? Let’s communicate with purpose and energy!

Mar 162017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

“I’m bored.” We were lined up waiting for the dismissal announcement when my fifth-grade friend made the announcement. I replied, “I’m happy” and added, “So let’s do some math facts to pass the time.” She did not groan so I quickly asked, “What’s 492 times 33?” She disappeared back into the classroom. (I should probably explain that “math facts” are basic calculations that a student can do almost automatically—one example is what we used to call the “times tables.” My question was actually a math problem, not a math fact.)

I wasn’t too surprised when she returned quickly with a sheet of paper showing the process she used and the answer. She was smiling while I checked her work. It was correct and I could point out that she’d used quite a few math facts to solve the problem.

She’s going to help me demonstrate an important point about communication. What we often think are statements are really questions. When she said that she was bored, I took it to mean she wondered how I felt and, more importantly, whether I could relieve her boredom.

Too often, communication tends away from exchanging information to verbal fencing, particularly if what we’re hearing doesn’t set well or fall in line with our beliefs. We could have done battle if I’d asked her, “How can you be bored?” I’m also reminded of that horrible parent warning, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” The bored version could have been, “Oh yeah? If you think you’re bored now, wait until tomorrow when we study…”

We don’t often think enough about what we hope to accomplish when we communicate.  In conversation, we often tend instead to decide if we agree with what’s being said. Many times, we don’t fully hear what’s being said because we start preparing our response. I’ll confess that when I’m busy I find I more often misunderstand what’s being said simply because I’m mentally hurrying.

Years ago, I taught an “Interpersonal Skills Program” designed by Xerox Learning Systems. One of the concepts taught hard early on was “when your initial reaction is to reject or ignore, clarify and confirm.” The goal of clarifying and confirming to make certain you understand what the other person is saying and why he or she is saying it. In practice, students often found that there was less disagreement than it seemed originally.

I will confess that I took a shortcut with my fifth-grade friend at school. She said “I’m bored,” but I decided she meant “I need something to do.” In an ideal world, I would have asked some questions and clarified what she was saying. Once it became clear that she needed something to do, that’s an easy problem to solve. I can’t fix bored. I can find something for her to do.

Please do not let an important fact escape you—communication is also about focus. I could have sympathized with my bored friend. “Me too, I hate just standing around…” Commiseration can be rewarding because we feel connection and get empathy. But it doesn’t change things.

I’ve had several incidents recently where people have explained at great length how busy they are and apologized for not getting something done. I find it hard not to point out that they could have done it in the time they spent explaining (often more than once) why they hadn’t.

“Let’s do…” does change things. Notice in my example, I didn’t try to change this young lady’s personality or her view of the world. I just found something relatively simple we could do. Think about that the next time you find yourself talking about how nobody comes to Grange anymore and people don’t have time to… Are we really saying (let’s clarify and confirm) we just haven’t found the energy and ideas for some things to do that might change what happens?

 

Let’s make some news, take some photos of it, and share it!”

Feb 142017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

It’s time for a “potpourri” column—a collection of communication-related thoughts and updates. Some of these have been published on the website as “Communication Bullets” and may sound familiar to website subscribers and visitors.

I believe one of the responsibilities of the Communications Department (of one) is to explore, discover, and transmit resources that will help our Granges and Grangers. In keeping with that, I’ve created a “Resources for Grangers” theme for this year.

Resources can come in many forms, but will fall into two categories. The first will be somewhat general in nature. The second will be more specific about the “business” of the Grange.

As an example of the latter, I’ve recently researched and posted some potential sources of insurance for Grange Halls in response to several questions and requests for help finding coverage. The options are certainly limited, but there are some possibilities. (The information is also included in this Bulletin.) We continue to post information about conferences, etc. as it is received. Remember that the Communications Department maintains an ODD (Officers, Directors, and Deputies) directory of contact information that is available for download and you can find copies of recent Bulletins on the site.

At least year’s state session, a resolution was passed directing Maine State Grange to develop a strategy for policy, education, and resources for small community-based farms and agriculture in general. I’ve been watching for and reposting articles that would seem to support that. Recent examples include information on invasive plants and the Browntail Moth threat.

But I’m not limiting this to agriculture. With thanks to the VA, we are now posting a Veterans’ Department Wish List of opportunities and needs. The list is updated monthly and includes facilities throughout the state.

I’d like to extend a special thank-you to our MSG Historian, Stanley Howe and his committee. The “In Search of…” feature has brought a number of inquiries regarding closed Granges and membership. Stan and his committee are always quick to respond and generous with knowledge and information. The “In Search of…” feature also recently made possible a connection between some volunteers and Rick Watson, Master of Fairview Grange. Working together Fairview Grange, the volunteers, and the community raised about $4,000 for a young family facing a serious medical issue for their soon to be born child. New bonds and friendships were also formed.

From a practical perspective, the Communications Department is not a department of one—it includes every Granger (and some non-Grangers!) who are committed to communication and the development of our organization. When you discover information that you believe would be of interest to other Grangers, share it! My job is to facilitate that process and make the channels of communication available and effective. If you have or need information, please let me know.

On a slightly personal note, I’m honored to be the “featured speaker,” at Bangor Grange’s Community Connection on March 28, 2017. The topic will be “Finding Dead Rainbows—where you stand makes a difference.” Bangor Grange Master Brenda Gammon describes Community Connections as an ongoing part of the Grange’s efforts to “provide information and resources and a way for our community’s citizens to connect with each other and those resources.” It’s an interesting idea—if your Grange is looking for a new idea and way to make a difference in your community, contact Brenda and ask her about it. Even better, come to the program!

Let’s make some news, take some photos of it, and share it!”

Feb 012017
 

by Walter Boomsma, Communications Director

I’m pleased to announce that your communications department of one is working on more resources for Granges and Grangers. We’ve recently added a Roster Order Form for copies of the 2017 Roster. Please note there are a limited number of copies available and they are only available to Grangers for Grange business.

I’ve heard some folks say they are having trouble finding insurance for their Grange Halls. I have been researching this and finding agencies and companies who may be able to help and will be posting a list soon! You can help with this. Contact the agency currently insuring your Grange Hall and ask if they would like a listing on the Maine State Grange Website. If so, have them (or you can do it for them) send me basic information  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  : company/agency name, person to contact, phone number, email address and website address if they have one. Several folks have already been very helpful with this… thank you!

One of the more frequent inquiries we receive through the website comes from folks interested in purchasing Grange Halls. We are very close to being able to post a list! Special thanks to State Master Rick for helping assemble this information.

Lastly, I am working towards updating the Grange Directory posted to the site (currently 2014) based on the most recent Roster Information.  This is a “limited” directory–it only includes Grange Name, Address, Pomona, and meeting schedule. If your information is either missing from or incorrect in the Roster, this is your “one-time” opportunity to get it corrected in this directory which, unlike the Roster, is made available to the public. (This directory is often used by people seeking a Grange in their area either to attend or rent a Grange Hall.)

Do you have suggestions for additional resources? Let me know!  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)   Speaking of that, please note that the “midmaine” email address listed for me in the roster is not a working email address. Also, I am having a long-standing issue getting email delivered to those who have TWC (Time Warner Cable) email addresses. In Maine, this includes addresses ending “roadrunner.com” and “maine.rr.com.” TWC has not been at all cooperative in resolving this, but I haven’t given up. If you do not get a reply to an email you send from those addresses, it’s not for lack of trying on my part.

Jan 142017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

One of my ongoing goals as MSG Communications Director goes beyond keeping members informed to providing you with resources—both internal (Grange “stuff”) and external (resources from other organizations and individuals that may have value to Grangers.

Grange month is coming! For several years now, National Grange has not mailed information packets but has rather made material available on the National Grange website. This year, I have added that Grange month material to our Maine State Grange website to make it readily available. It really is time to start planning your Grange Month celebration!

Officers and directors are certainly encouraged to submit information and documents we can make accessible. Visit the “Program Books and Information” section of the site and check out what’s there! You’ll be amazed!

In terms of “external” information, I am always on the prowl for articles, information, websites, etc. that may hold interest and have value for our members and site visitors. Recent examples of this include a wish list from the VA with community service opportunities in Maine and a link to a free fifty-page book regarding personal finance (lecturer’s program? Family health and hearing material?).

This was an extremely busy month for our “In search of…” feature. Not only have there been several requests for Grange information ranging from cookbooks to history, we’ve also had a number of requests for information regarding using Grange Halls for personal and community events. One that is particularly rewarding involved some volunteers who wanted to sponsor a benefit for a young family whose unborn child has a severe medical issue. In short, we were able to facilitate an exciting connection to Fairview Grange #342 that is resulting in an informal partnership an opportunity for the folks at Fairview to support the family and the community. The Communications Department even got involved, helping with promotion.

Shared events like this are just plain awesome. Not only do they increase the likelihood of success, they also introduce new people to the Grange, increase the visibility of the Grange in the community, and demonstrate what the Grange is all about. Just make sure your hall looks good and your Bulletin Board is current—filled with lots of positive information about your Grange, your members, and your needs.

While we were on vacation this past summer, we attended a concert in a rather large church. Their foyer area was truly amazing—it communicated a sense of welcome and demonstrated opportunities and needs. They freely used small, topic-specific bulletin boards, clipboards with sign-up sheets and small tables with brochures and flyers. There was one corner with several comfortable chairs where one could sit and review material. For someone interested in communication, it was close to nirvana! Admittedly, they had a large area to work with, but the ideas can certainly be adapted.

Find someone in your Grange and offer him or her an opportunity to create at least one “communications area” and see what he or she can come up with! When it’s finished, take a photo and send it! If you’re not feeling particularly creative, you could start with a welcome mat at the front door!


Grange Month Clarification

If you find Grange Month information a bit confusing at first, the idea is to base the celebration on the National Grange Program called “I’m a doer.” The Grange Month material appears to follow a line of,  “When the do-ers are gone…”  Unfortunately, (in my opinion) that sounds like a prediction unless you read the details explaining that Grange Month celebrates “do-ers.” This could make a great link to the community citizen award many Granges present during Grange Month. Your headline for a press release might be “Local Grange Honors a Do-er…

Dec 222016
 

By Walter Boomsma, MSG Communications Director

Trisha Smith is a Home Horticulture Aide for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Piscataquis County. One of her duties is to publish the Central Maine Gardening E-Newsletter. She recently contacted me noting, “One of the sections we’d like to include is a list of organizations and clubs that may interest gardeners in Piscataquis, Penobscot, and Somerset counties… What is the best way to direct folks to a Grange nearby?”

Since listing Grange contact information is currently not possible using the MSG website, Trish and I have agreed to a general statement with an invitation to visit the site and contact me if someone is looking for a local Grange in their area. (I am always willing to help an individual or organization locate a Grange, but it is done on a “case by case” basis.) I also suggested that we invite local Granges in those three counties to submit contact information for the list they will publish in the newsletter. If you’d like to be listed as “an organization of interest to gardeners” send your listing to Trisha Smith trishadotsmith1atmainedotedu  (trishadotsmith1atmainedotedu)  . Here’s an example of how you might word your listing:

Valley Grange is located at 172 Guilford Center Road in Guilford. For additional information about meeting times and programs, contact Jim Annis (564-0820) or Walter Boomsma (343-1842 or grangeatboomsmaonlinedotcom  (grangeatboomsmaonlinedotcom)  ). 

The key is to keep your listing complete but also brief… do not include complex meeting schedules, but you might add a short sentence about why your Grange might be of interest to gardeners and ag-minded folks. If you’d like help crafting your listing, let me know!