By Yvonne Kumoji, 2020-21 governor of District 9102 (Benin, Ghana, Niger, and Togo)
As an incoming district governor, my training at Rotary’s annual leadership event in January 2020 in San Diego, California, included information on forming new clubs and new club models. Words that then-President-elect Holger Knaack had shared with us resonated in my mind, words like innovation, adaptation, change, being different. Then I thought about Toastmasters, and wrestled with how those thoughts fit together.
I visited a Toastmasters event with a member of my leadership team that was being held in my country, Ghana, and sought out their Division Director – the Toastmaster equivalent of a District Governor. Papa Arkhurst is an amazing, committed, and passionate man with a flair for words. His enthusiasm is infectious. I introduced myself, but of course he already knew all about our new strategic partnership. Word quickly spread that ‘Rotary’ was in the hall. We exchanged contact details and agreed to meet up for lunch to chat.
A Night with Toastmasters
A few days later, over lunch, I suggested we hold an event: “A Night with the Toastmasters,” starring both of our organizations. I also suggested we invite each other’s clubs to our meetings to start the bonding process, featuring presentations on what each organization stood for.
I felt this initiative was ideal since Rotarians could benefit from the great art of public speaking and communications skills from the Toastmasters. In return, the Toastmasters could gain from the humanitarian drive of Rotarians as we introduce them to Service Above Self. Both groups had a common focus in building leaders.
Fliers were circulated in advance to build enthusiasm. I spoke via Zoom to members of Toastmasters on “Why I Am a Rotarian.” On a different day, Arkhurst gave a presentation to Rotarians on “The Toastmasters Experience.” Questions were answered at the end of each presentation and it was clear that both sides had been quite unclear on what the other really stood for.
I suggested we help each other form a new Rotary and Toastmaster club. The invitation was given to all members, and in no time, a list of potential members began to emerge. We hoped for 25 members to form the core of the new clubs. We selected club advisors to train new members on becoming Rotarians and Toastmasters. Past District Governor Sam Worentetu – Ghana’s club extension chair – and his team had already created a training program and he jumped in to help recruit and train new Rotary members. All training was done virtually on Zoom due to COVID-19. We added all prospective members to a WhatsApp platform so the club advisors could share information with them.
A new way of thinking
Twelve weeks later the Rotary Club of Accra-SpeakMasters and the New Age Toastmasters Club received their charters from their respective organizations. On 20 January 2021, the Rotary Club of Accra-SpeakMasters proudly joined the Rotary family. Both Arkhurst and myself are proud members of each others’ organization.
This model has opened up my thinking and approach to pursuing new members. I have contacted other organizations and associations, such as engineers, insurers, environmentalists, the oil and gas industry, aviation, to consider joining Rotary. The opportunities now seem endless.
Learn more about the Rotary and Toastmasters alliance.