Oct 092016
 

By Amanda Brozana, National Grange Lecturer

For those who know me, you know I love to multitask. Watching TV and writing an article; making dinner and solving a Grange problem by phone; and even checking my email while driving. Yes, I admit it. I’ve often been a distracted driver, bragging about being newly behind the wheel at 16, on the cell phone doing an interview and taking notes while cruising down the small highway in my county back home. But after too many close calls and even more virtual introductions to those who have been significantly negatively impacted by the actions of drivers just like me, I know I have to say “it can wait” the next time my phone chimes while I’m driving.

This month, I am proud to provide to you the materials for a lecturer’s program –  in the fashion of the Lecturer’s Programs in a Box  – that can help you reach out to your members and community about the issue of distracted driving, defined as “the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity, typically one that involves the use of a cellular phone or other electronic device.” Included is a short presentation by AT&T, a significant partner of the National Grange for more than a decade, who has launched the “it can wait” initiative to raise awareness about distracted driving and implore people to drive safely. As part of the campaign, they have asked individuals to promise to “keep your eyes on the road, not your phone,” something 10,000,000 people have pledged so far.  We hope members across the country will add to that growing number of people who realize the responsibility of driving and risks of distracted driving.

In addition to the presentation, there are two handouts you may print to provide to your members and community and additional resources in many different formats. I highly recommend the simulation.  Feel free to print this list and provide to your members so they may ask their children and grandchildren to go through the distracted driving simulation and take the pledge.

It Can Wait Fact Sheet
It Can Wait Presentation
It Can Wait Flyer
It Can Wait Documentary
It Can Wait Commercial
Take the Pledge
It Can Wait 360 Degree Simulation
More Information

MSG Webmaster’s Note: I’ve added a permanent link to National Grange Lecturer’s Resources on the Program Books and Information Page

Sep 122015
 
A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

I have an idea! Well, actually I have lots of ideas… some of them seem to make some people nervous.

One of the duties of a director is to submit an annual report for presentation at State Conference. I just finished mine and in the writing of it I mentioned one of my perhaps more crazy ideas:

We do live in a “multi-media” world and, in the largest sense, almost everything we do communicates a message. While we think about the media, we ought not to forget the message. I have raised some eyebrows by suggesting that one way we could attract people to our Grange Halls is to offer a free wi fi connection and perhaps run an Internet Café. One of the things that would be “cool” about that is it would bring people together. Isn’t that why we so often have potluck suppers? (Those who know me well won’t be surprised that I can see that Internet Café becoming an after-school “study hall” where Grangers help kids with their homework.)

Another perhaps not so crazy idea that wasn’t mine originally. Since we are community Granges, would it not make sense to submit an “annual report” for inclusion in our town report? (Valley Grange has been doing this for several years.) Are we any less a part of our town than, say, the fire department? There are lots of added benefits here beyond the publicity. We’re forced at least annually to think about and report on our contributions to our hometown roots. We’re also demonstrating our commitment to community.

Writing an annual report of my activity as Communications Director is something I’d probably do even if it wasn’t required. I like taking the time to reflect on the previous year and, at the same time, look ahead to the next. I even like doing some of the math. During the Grange year 2015-2015, there have been nearly 21,500 site visits—an average of nearly 1800 per month and nearly 60 per day. This is an increase over the previous year. I would note that, thanks to our subscription ability, it is likely this significantly underreports usage of the site because subscribers need not visit the site to view posts. At the top end, subscribers could easily account for an additional 50,000 views during the same period.

Of course numbers do not tell the entire story. It has been personally rewarding to receive an increasing number of “Exciting Granges and Grangers” posts, celebrating our accomplishments and success. While not a primary purpose, I’ve received some interesting inquiries through the site ranging from requests to locate a long lost Grange friend to requests for hall rental contacts. There are also the expected media inquiries.

It’s all about communication, and an important aspect of communication is consistency. Consistency is about frequency, certainly (one reason we have a monthly bulletin), but it’s also about always sending a consistent message. One conclusion I came to while thinking about and writing my report was  that our greatest accomplishment in 2015 is also our greatest need for the coming year. We must continue to increase participation and information to and from Subordinate and Pomona Granges and state officers and committees. We must demonstrate American Values and honor our hometown roots. If there is anything I can do to make this process easier, please let me know.

(I am posting my complete report in the communications section of the website in the hopes members will be interested. If you’d like a copy mailed to you, just let me know.)

 

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

Aug 112015
 
Share your ideas with other Granges!

Share your idea with other Granges!

Facebook Fans… notice that at the bottom of every post there are several icons representing different social media programs. (These icons do not appear on posts you receive by email; you have to visit the site to find them.) If you’d like to “share” a post from the Maine State Grange site on your timeline or page, simply click the icon. As the saying goes, “It’s easy peasy!”

Mar 222015
 
I can do this!

I can do this!

by Walter Boomsma, Communications Director

I don’t think I can recall a meeting at state level when I’ve not been reminded, “Not everyone has a computer.” The obvious implication is that we are an older organization and most members cannot or will not adopt technology. Or perhaps it’s more fundamental and there are people who think I just don’t know that there are some people who are do not own a computer.

Aside from assuring everyone that I do know that not everyone has a computer (the reality is just about everyone uses a computer–when driving a car, using an ATM, etc.), we might take a look at the myths behind the bias that “old folks” are not suited to using computers. This article is a fairly short read that starts with a younger person trying to learn to knit. (Not everyone has knitting needles and knows how to knit.)

Click the link and give the article a quick read and see what prejudice and bias you may have about seniors and computers!

Too Old for Technology?

Jul 102014
 
by Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director based on information provided by National Grange
 

Check out this learning opportunity!

National Grange recently announced that a generous donation from DCI will again allow the use of “fellows” in conjunction with National Conference. (DCI is a worldwide public affairs firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Houston and Brussels, Belgium, that has been a fantastic partner of the Grange for many years related to advocacy and coalition services.)

Is it news if no one knows it?

Is it news if no one knows it?

These fellows learn about basic and advanced communication practices, and put those skills to work by covering many aspects of convention, creating stories, providing assistance with the daily newsletter and much more. When they return home, they will have a better sense of how to provide their local and state Grange with assistance in the fields of newsletter writing/creation and public relations.

This is a great learning opportunity for the right person. Maine State Grange has been given the opportunity to nominate an individual for consideration. The successful candidate will receive lodging and food assistance from National Grange and some travel assistance from Maine State Grange.

Candidates must have a strong work ethic and plan to be available for work in Ohio from November 7 through November 16. While this is a learning opportunity, fellows are expected to work hard. In fact, National Grange has specifically requested candidates not have officer or other responsibilities during the conference. National Grange will supply equipment such as iPads, audio recorders and video/photo equipment.  Any fellow able to provide their own laptop, camera or recording device is highly encouraged to do so.

Please note: If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, you must contact Master Vicki immediately. Do NOT contact National Grange. Candidates must be nominated by their state Grange. Nomination does not guarantee acceptance. The deadline for Maine to submit nominations is August 1, 2014, so you must complete the application process well in advance.

Dec 142013
 
by Walter Boomsma
webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg

Baby, it’s cold outside!

WWW - Webmaster Walter Writes!

WWW – Webmaster Walter Writes!

So why am I sitting her on the computer instead of next to the wood stove? Have you seen those “fake” fireplaces that are like a flat screen television? Maybe I should have one of those in my office! (Truth be told I do have one of those little electric heaters that looks like a wood stove. It’s not very convincing but it does take the chill off.) My thermometer this morning showed minus nine not counting the windchill. Harley Dog confirmed this with a very quick pre-dawn trip outside–he wanted back in almost before I’d closed the door after letting him out.

Of course it’s always nice when you can visit places without putting on the winter boots and clothes. One place we can visit without stepping outside is this site and I’m pleased to report that visits to the Maine State Grange Website over the past three months are up 15%. I really don’t think it’s because of the weather, though. We’re providing more information than ever before and people are discovering it!

At least two challenges accompany this increase. One is keeping information accurate and current. I recently discovered an “app” (short for application) that regularly checks the site for broken links. Broken links occur in many different ways… if I’ve linked to another site and that site moves or deletes the information, the link doesn’t work. That can create frustration for folks visiting our site. While I can’t always repair them, I can try to minimize them and eliminate any that can’t be fixed.

A second challenge is making that information easy to find.One action that helps make things easy to find is to eliminate information that’s outdated and no longer useful so there’s less to look through. I recently purged a lot of old program books and contest information so you won’t be stumbling on to things that truly aren’t of any value. To that end, I’m asking for some help. If you find something on the site that is incorrect or out of date, send an email to webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)   and let me know. This is not just about links–it includes contact information. I’d especially ask State Officers and Directors to make sure I have your contact information–email address and phone number listed on the officers page. If you have a program book or contest information, send that along so it can be posted as well.

Don’t forget to let me know if your subordinate or pomona Grange establishes a website or Facebook page so we can post the link. We currently only have 17 Granges listed with either a website or Facebook page–some have both. If you need help claiming the free site available from National Grange, let me know. Also note, that when time permits I do check these sites. If a site or page is outdated and not being maintained, I will remove the link. Frankly, no site is better than a site (or page) that is not being monitored or maintained.

One last request this month: Enjoy the Holidays! If you’ve visited the site recently you should have noticed we’ve applied a somewhat festive look and added a Christmas Countdown Calendar which may increase your stress or build your excitement.  I just checked and there are ten days plus eighteen hours remaining… and a storm coming tomorrow which will probably guarantee a white Christmas. Best wishes to you for a merry and meaningful Christmas!

Oct 282013
 

Congratulations to Union Harvest Grange for creating a website! Check it out at http://unionharvestgrange.wordpress.com. And remember, there’s a list of Community Grange websites and Facebook pages in the sidebar… at least the ones we know about!

Jul 152013
 
WWW - Webmaster Walter Writes!

WWW – Webmaster Walter Writes!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we are seeing a nice upsurge in submissions to the site! Thanks to those who are submitting and communicating!

And speaking of communicating, I had a nice email from relatively new Granger Preston Dunning at Huntoon Hill #398 in Wiscasset. He shared that their Grange wants to increased their presence in town using the Internet to broadcast information about their activities. After replying with some ideas, it occurs to me that we might review some of the opportunities technology provides.

Every subordinate Grange already has a website (based on WordPress) that’s provided free by National Grange. There is a short You Tube Video explaining how to claim and maintain it. Several Maine Granges have already done so and even those with little technical background are finding it fairly easy to do this.

I wrote a bit about Facebook Pages a while back. This article has a link that will lead you to the Maine State Grange Website Policy that includes a short policy adopted by National Grange for both websites and social media. There are, in my opinion, some real hazards with a Facebook page. The biggest one is you really lose control of content and need to monitor the page constantly. Personally, I recommend you focus on a website and post links to it on Facebook by “sharing.” You could, for example, post information about a public supper on your site then ask your members to share that link on Facebook.

National Grange also has developed an incredibly good “Communications Handbook” that’s available for download for free. I explained the process for getting it in an earlier column.  The Handbook covers just about everything regarding public relations and advertising with all sorts of samples, templates, etc. And it’s free!

One technique I’d suggest is to send information every month to any local media outlets for their “community bulletin boards.” When you have these events you are welcome to submit them for listing on the Maine State Grange site as well. Just copy us on the information you release to local newspapers.

And speaking of newspapers, I hope everyone saw the quick tip regarding several newspapers subscribing to our site! It’s a testimony to the value of this site. Posting here is not a substitute for releasing information to media outlets, but you can never have too much publicity, right?

On a personal note, Janice and I enjoyed our recent vacation–the bulk of which we spent in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania “among the Amish.” Being there was both relaxing and stimulating. Relaxing in the sense that you find yourself slowing down and adopting a rhythm comparable to the clip-clop of the horses pulling buggies. Stimulating in the sense that the Amish provide us with some wonderful examples of how simplicity can work–and they are perhaps role models for an appreciation of agriculture.

Enjoy the summer! (There are only 44 days left until school starts!)

 

Jun 122013
 
www: Webmaster Walter Writes

www: Webmaster Walter Writes

Congratulations, Master Vicki on your recent installation! And thanks for your enthusiasm and energy. When you say, “We need to share our successes with one another. We need to stop dwelling in the past and look forward to a bright, successful future…” we say, “Our website is one great tool for doing just that!”

Website traffic continues at a strong level–most months we have 1500 – 2000 visits. Thanks to our subscription feature, every post is automatically emailed to nearly 200 people who may or may not visit the site, we’re really reaching a lot of folks. Many are members, some are not.

I’m currently redesigning the Documents You Asked For section. The Program Books page is undergoing some major changes and is becoming Program Books and Information. Resources will be listed by committee or office name. For example, Fair Judging Rules are listed under agriculture.

Keeping information on the site current is a job that we all need to share. Directors and officers, please send me your information, forms, books, resources so we can make them available to members. Members, if you see something that’s out of date or missing, please contact the appropriate officer and let me know so we can stay current.

As I write this, the kids are starting their school vacation and I’ll soon be joining them–at least for a couple of weeks! Thanks to the use of a laptop, I will be able to continue to service the site but I’m asking for some help. If you have information and events coming up, send them to me as soon as practical—the more I can get done before vacation, the better! Also, I’m asking for some patience and understanding if “customer service” seems to diminish from late June through mid-July.

Also, on a personal note, I’m pleased to announce the formation of Abbot Village Press to support my writing and publishing efforts, including creating blogs and websites for others. We hope to be the number one publisher in Maine’s number one town!

Apr 282013
 
WB Logo

WWW – Webmaster Walter Writes

I will willingly acknowledge that I am not a huge fan of Facebook… that said, I’m also willing to acknowledge that a number of Granges have created pages and a number of members are “on” Facebook.  One of my major issues with Facebook is the lack of privacy that results… I recently discovered, for example, that at least two of my “friends” are involved with an online dating service. (I thought one of them was married!)

Anyway, before we talk about Facebook Pages you may be creating for your Grange, let me just remind you that your behavior on Facebook may well reflect on your Grange. You are a Grange Ambassador! Please think before you post!

In February 2011 National Grange recognized the growth of social media and the National Grange Executive Committee adopted a website and social media “code of conduct.” The code is part of the Maine State Grange Web Policy, but let me share a few points from it with a few editorial comments.

All websites, Facebook groups or pages, and all other internet based social media platforms representing the  Grange must be under the jurisdiction of a Subordinate/Community, Pomona, or State Grange.

In short, an individual should not just decide to start a Facebook page on behalf of his or her Grange. There are many good reasons for this, but let’s focus on the fact that the page is representing the Grange–not an individual. As such, members should be engaged and involved in order to assure the page is monitored and posts and comments are appropriate. This also helps if the original member loses interest because there will be others ensuring the page/group is kept up-to-date.

No partisan or sectarian comments, opinions, statements, or endorsements may be posted on the website or page.

For reasons sociologists are still exploring, many people feel very free to make bold, sometimes outlandish statements on social media. If your Grange has a Facebook page or group, members should be monitoring themselves and the page to make certain inappropriate comments are not being posted. If the page is identified as a “Grange page,” one person’s opinion should not be represented as Grange thinking.

Note that these guidelines apply to websites as well. Regardless of the venue, we need to keep our Grange Face smiling and positive. That’s not to say there is no room for “healthy debate”–in fact  (lecturers note!) I’ve had one or two folks suggest we might consider more debates as part of our programming.

One additional thought: The National Grange Style Book includes the statement, “For external purposes, you may refer to the Subordinate Grange as a Community Grange or pluralized as local Granges.” We truly do have our own language in the Grange… but we might well consider the impact our language has on others. Step outside tradition and habit and ask yourself if most people would be more inclined to be involved in a “Subordinate Grange” or a “Community Grange.”

I thought so! Want to take it one step further? I actually had someone (not a Granger) recently explain that she thought “Grange Meeting” meant members only, but that a “Grange Program” was for everyone. So just maybe instead of Subordinate Grange Meetings we ought to be promoting Community Grange Programs!