We established a club in Baltimore about 6 months ago but it's been quite difficult to schedule dinners with 7 womens' schedules. We've dwindled as a group over the last couple months and I'm looking for advice from successful groups on how you manage to keep the club active and exciting so it is more of a priority for people. Or, is this something you just can't force---either it clicks or it doesn't?
Thanks in advance for the input.
04-12-2004, 10:03 PM
I think the group clicking is definitely a part of it, but not all of it.
I have mentioned it before, but I think our group is a tad unique in that what keeps us together actually is the fact that we keep our meetings as simple and as stress-free as possible. First factor - we all live within 15 minutes of each other. We decided from the beginning to meet during the week, as our weekends are busy with family obligations and it was too hard to coordinate schedules on weekends. To be able to meet on a weeknight means we can't be fighting rush hour traffic for long distances. People won't put up with that for long before dropping out.
Second factor was not to bother with "themes". We keep it simple and just cook something from the current issue of CL. Whatever appeals to you. The dishes don't have to "go". We only "RSVP" our selection to the hostess by email so that two people don't bring the same thing, or so we don't end up with 3 desserts or something like that. Stressing out over coming up with a new and exciting theme each month is just too much work. We all have busy, stressful lives, and anything that adds more stress is not going to last long.
Lastly, we don't cook together - we bring our dishes pre-made with perhaps a bit of finishing at the hostesses house (warming up, dressing the salad, baking an appetizer for 10 minutes, etc.)
Again, the litmus test for us is keeping the whole thing simple, fun and as stress free as possible. Our goal is to try as many dishes from the current issue as possible, taste dishes that someone else chose that might be something you'd never, ever choose to make on your own, and do a lot of chatting and laughing. My culinary horizons have broadened IMMENSELY since we started our club 4 years ago. People have such wildly different tastes, and I've found many, many dishes that were just fantastic that I would never have looked at, much less made otherwise. That's probably the thing we love best. The element of surprise, finding that next fantastic new dish we never heard of or thought we'd like, and learning about new ingredients, cooking methods, etc. (for example, This is pomegranate molasses? Where do you get it? Or, How did you get these fresh orange segments to look like this?)
As I mentioned, we've been together for 4 years now, meeting every single month, and we've never, ever missed a meeting yet in those 4 years (certainly a few members have missed a meeting here or there, but an entire meeting has never been cancelled). That says a lot I think about how much everyone enjoys the meetings!
Oh, and lastly, I will say that we have lost a few members along the way - only because they've moved away - one moved clear across the country, another moved to a neighboring state, and another moved to a suburb that is quite a bit further south of our "neighborhood" and the logistics of her getting to the meetings up here (and all of us getting to her house) were just too much. Each person who left was replaced with a new person - either someone off this bulletin board or a friend of one of the current members. So perhaps some new blood every once in awhile has added something too. But the core group of 4 is still intact. Right now we are a group of 6, and that's a perfect number for us. Too many and there isn't enough room in people's houses (here, I don't mean to imply that that's the case for everyone), and too few members, and there aren't enough dishes to eat to make it worthwhile.
Sorry I went on so long...:D I just love our group and meetings so much I could talk about it for days! :D
Good luck with your group! I guess my best suggestion to you would be to get together and talk with your group about what each person's "ideal" meeting would be like, and try to create that, whatever it is. It's obvious that the meetings aren't meeting people's expectations, and rather than say anything, they just drop out. Take my ideas with you and throw them out to the group too - see what they all think. It just might be a catalyst for them to open up and say what they really don't like about it. They may not even have thought about specifically what it is that bugs them. Once you know you can go about fixing it. Again, good luck!
Oh, and a little wine or a pre-dinner cocktail can do LOTS to liven things up!! :D :D
We have just started our group this year and we decided from the first meeting that we were not going to try to "schedule" the meetings so that everyone was here ... figuring that was simply impossible. Instead, we have a set meeting time ... 4 pm, first Sunday of the month. If someone is away or busy, they just catch up the next month. With summer on the way, we may consider changing the set day/time, but I know we would NEVER make it if we tried to get a time when ALL were available.
04-13-2004, 08:34 PM
On Sunday we will have our 19th monthly meeting. I think that what has helped us most is that we set a weekend (second each month), then in January pull names from a biscotti jar to determine which month is hosted by whom, then the host determines which day(Saturday or Sunday)the meeting will take place. This way we have the day already specified and on our calendars and schedule our lives around it, if possible. There are 12 in our group and we have anywhere from 5-10 per dinner. Schedule, schedule, schedule!!! :D
04-17-2004, 10:59 AM
The last group I was in (which will hit 3 years in Sept) did have themes (but that was what worked for us). At the beginning, we started off with the 2nd Saturday of the month so you just knew that's when it would be and could clear your calendar in advance. As it started clicking & becoming important to people we were free to revise. We hosted on a rotating basis and the date became what worked best for (1) the host and (2) the majority of everyone else. We had dinners with anywhere from 2 to 10 people, depending on schedules but I don't think you can expect to get everyone all the time. Good luck!
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