Our Virtual Community Highlights recognize Lions who are using digital tools to connect and serve. The Ohio County Virtual Lions was the first virtual club in West Virginia, the sixteenth in the United States, and one of less than 50 internationally (at the time of chartering in February 2020). The club was only two weeks old when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit America.
Since the Lions had already recruited members and were ready to incorporate virtual aspects into their club, they navigated the pandemic to find ways to conduct business and serve their communities. They are also a specialty club that focuses on projects to benefit children, so they recruited people who were interested in helping kids – parents, teachers, etc. They used this criteria to make their club interesting and marketable. In less than a year, they already have 55 members!
Q. What digital tools do you use to connect your club and/or your community? How do you use them? (This can range from teleconferencing tools to social media to messaging apps.)
A. We use Zoom for teleconferencing and we’re on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo (for videos). We’re looking at possibly adding another platform such as Instagram to tell our story in pictures. Our biggest win was the addition of the Spond app for organization management. Originally created for children’s sports teams, it is a great tool that allows us to communicate and interact with one another without being in person.
JotForm is what we use for creating extremely easy forms to take applications and orders using PayPal and credit/debit. PayPal is a payment option for people who want to pay electronically. Bitly is a great tool that shortens website URLs to make them easier to remember for forms. QRCode Monkey is handy for creating QR codes that people can scan using their smartphone to access websites, applications, order forms and others.
Q. What specific benefits have you seen from using these digital tools? What benefits have you experienced from hosting virtual meetings? Give us some examples.
A. With Spond, we can post messages to the entire club, post polls to vote on small business items, request payment from members (currently not utilized yet), and adapt! Because we live in an age where information is updated every second, we are able to adapt to any situation by sending out a post and/or a poll and asking for input from the club to change or move forward. We aren’t held up waiting for the next time we meet to make a change.
Our virtual meetings are way more efficient and productive than our traditional meetings were in any other organization. People were also able to log into the meeting from anywhere in the world, including their car, work or elsewhere. We attracted people who didn’t want to sit through meetings but wanted to belong and get “stuff” done without wasting a lot of time.
Q. How did you get started using these tools? How do you train other members?
A. We created a Zoom tutorial and sent a link out to our members. Spond is very user-friendly, and we have several tech-savvy members who have helped troubleshoot any issues members might be having with technology. The members know who to reach out to if they are having technology issues or have been feeling overwhelmed due to technology. This support is critical.
Q. What has been your biggest challenge when using digital tools for your club? Have you been able to overcome this challenge, and if so, how?
A. The biggest challenge we have faced when using digital tools is navigating technology issues and training when we’re not in the same room. Also, getting everyone in the group to read newsletters, attend meetings and participate (none of these are any different from a non-virtual club), except we can get the information to them where they live and hope they read it instead of waiting for them to attend an in-person meeting.
Q. How have you been using digital tools to continue to meet and serve during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. It’s no different than when we were chartered – two weeks prior. 😊 The digital tools allow us to connect with people in our club and the community we serve. We can’t get every person in our service area at a meeting and tell them all the great things we are doing, so we have to rely on the digital tools to get the message out to as many people as possible: potential new members, specific project volunteers, donors and those we are hoping to help. The only thing different about our club is that we have taken those tools and used them to make our meetings more efficient, include more members, and make real-time decisions to help those in our community.
One of the biggest things any member can do to help the club is to share the information on their social media and get the word out about every project and fundraiser, and all the good things coming out of your club. As we grow in membership, we grow our network of people we reach with each item of information we want to get out to the public – all for free!
Q. What are the three most useful tips for getting started with virtual meetings that you’d like to share with Lions and Leos?
A. The tips are the same as they are in regular meetings:
- Mute yourself when someone else is talking.
- When it is your turn to talk, out of respect for others, keep it brief.
- Fellowship does not happen just by being in the same room physically. We create fellowship with our common interests in the projects we are working on and by offering social time prior to our virtual meetings. This also allows members time to figure out any technology issues they are having prior to a meeting.
Jacqui MacKenzie is the social media and community manager for Lions Clubs International.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted communities around the world in different ways. To ensure we’re serving safely wherever we live, Lions should follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization or local health authorities. Visit our Serving Safely page for resources that can help you safely serve your community.