Tag Archives: volunteer

What did you do last weekend?

When I signed up for this tour of duty, I understood exactly what it meant. Dinner meetings, evening speaking engagements, late night business socials, official Chamber Business After Hours events, day long community activities, and working some weekend days. Running a Chamber of Commerce means you are never quite “off duty” in your community. I get that. And I love it.


This past weekend began on Thursday evening with our monthly Business After Hours, which was not a normal BAH event. The Chamber Member had a street closed, hired a motorcycle stunt team and had a major cookout. Networking, business cards exchanged, introductions of new members, handshaking, taking pictures and raffle drawings make a brief 2.5 hour after work event seem like a full day.


Saturday we kicked off Lemonade Day 2015, with the best tasting contest as part of the Miss North Dakota social event at the local art museum.  Blue sky June weather always makes a Chamber event better. The Miss ND contestants sampled and interacted with our young, budding business owners, and a great time was had by all. It was truly a treat to have the 2014 Miss ND Jacky Arness visit, along with her southern colleague, Miss South Dakota, Meredith Gould.


I did manage some ‘non-chamber’ time by helping a friend, Jeff, learn to fly cast. On the spur of the moment, he asked if I would like to go for a ride before the Miss North Dakota pageant. I said, “Sure, who will drive?” He replied, “No, not drive…a ride…in my plane.” So the newest licensed pilot in Williston, ND skillfully treated me a spectacular plane ride over Teddy Roosevelt National Park and part of the North Dakota badlands. My new Nikon D7000 got quite a workout at 3,500 feet above the Bakken. Congrats to Jeff on your accomplishment, and thanks for allowing me to tag along.

After a pinpoint landing in a cross-wind, I had a quick bite to eat, put on a jacket and slid into Row L, Seat 5 for the next 3 plus hours to take in the Miss North Dakota Pageant final evening of competition. I was a bit forlorn about missing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals (those who have read me before, know I’m a hockey junkie) while sitting in the Williston High School auditorium on Saturday night. Last year, as a new Chamber President I attended the social, the breakfast for the contestants, and we hosted a VIP reception to help raise money for the scholarship organization when Miss ND 2014 Jacky Arness, spoke at our 2015 Annual Banquet in January. The Chamber’s ties to the organization are solid, but I still had not attended the actual pageant, so Saturday night was my first.

I left the auditorium around 10:40 pm very much inspired and encouraged, and convinced that of the 24 women who came to Williston to vie for the title of Miss North Dakota, there are future business and political leaders among them.  The evening was a very humbling and warming experience.

Sunday came sooner than I expected, but right on time by the clock. After five plus months of planning, we launched Williston Lemonade Day 2015. It was a  new program, with new volunteers, the first one in North Dakota, and major sponsors looking to us for their return on investment. The day went spectacular, with more than 150 youth entrepreneurs signed up, likely more than 50 lemonade stands in town, and yellow volunteer tee shirts everywhere. We called it a success after the awards ceremony and a great picnic cookout by the Williston Community Builders. Media, local officials and sponsors had big smiles as the lemonade stand owners came forward to get their certificates, or to be recognized with an achievement medal.


Newly crowned Miss North Dakota 2015 Delanie Weidrich, made her first official public appearance at the picnic and enjoyed the interaction with the young business owners and their families.

By 7:15 pm Sunday evening I think I had only driven about 6 miles all weekend (not counting those nautical knots in the air!) but I felt like I drove across the country. Wiped and sun beaten, I enjoyed a cold beverage at home. And while my weekend could have been considered ‘work’ by some, I view it as just doing our job. Being a volunteer or a staff member of a nonprofit organization like a Chamber of Commerce brings some extra commitments, and certainly can’t be viewed as a ‘normal’ job by any stretch.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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New program, new business leaders: Lemonade Day first in North Dakota

My last post expounded on the challenges of being ‘the Chamber’ and sometimes having to say no to a great idea or program. On the flipside, sometimes after all the pros and cons of an idea are vetted by staff and committees and boards; the answer is why not?

John Chin, a business real estate guru and native Floridian, approached me last summer with such a program. In my efforts to revamp, reorganize and reinvigorate the Williston Chamber the past 12 months, I am very hesitant about taking on new programs that sound good, but drain resources, time and funds without providing a member or community benefit. (Hint: read my last post!)

Businesses and business leaders (whom the chamber represents) have an obligation not only to add to the local economy (be profitable) but also to be role models and mentors to the future business leaders – our youth. The Chamber’s Leadership & Education Committee looked at Lemonade Day as a new program to reach our young people in Williston. In the end, we decided to give Lemonade Day a chance in Williston for 2015.

Williston will be the first city in North Dakota to host the program, aimed at young entrepreneurs to learn how to plan, design, build and execute a business plan – a lemonade stand!

Lemonade Day is a strategic learning process that walks youth from a dream to a business plan, while teaching them the same principles required to start any big company. Inspiring kids to work hard and make a profit, they are also taught to spend some, save some and share some by giving back to their community. Launched in Houston, Texas in 2007, Lemonade Day has grown from 2,700 kids in one city to more than 200,000 kids in cities all across the country.

My skepticism soon turned to enthusiasm, not because I love a fresh glass of lemonade, or that youth today need business role models closer to home. The real reason why Lemonade Day fits our Chamber mission is because of several things:

  1. A successful template is already employed elsewhere;
  2. It directly ties our businesses, business leaders, and the spirit of entrepreneurship to Williston’s youth;
  3. Lemonade Day brings a fresh approach to a program (youth entrepreneurship) to a city filled with people from all over the country; and
  4. It’s a community wide program with very few boundaries thus reaching a wider audience with a Chamber program than just current membership.

With volunteer leaders ranging from former mayor Ward Koeser, to John Chin and Drew Baker, to committee leaders Serena Christianson and Christina O’Neill taking the lead, to our Chamber staff; this made perfect sense as a Chamber program this year.

Sponsorships helped offset the license fee and materials. LD materials bags will be distributed next Monday (4/20) and Tuesday (4/21) at the

Lemonade Day kits with lessons and ideas

Lemonade Day kits with lessons and ideas

Chamber office. The kits are free for each student (thanks to the sponsors) and contain the lessons and worksheets to start your own business with a friend or neighbor. Adults play the role of “mentor” to the young enterprising business leaders, and help them with the lessons.

Then on June 14, 2015, all of the lemonade stands are posted around town in a celebration of youth leadership and fun! Local businesses are encouraged to host to a lemonade stand which again, ties our community leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. I am so very excited for the first ever Lemonade Day in North Dakota this coming June. If you need a couple of tips for your lemonade day business venture, take a listen to these kids, who sound like they just might have the makings of a great business owner.

We unveiled the program at the January 22 Chamber banquet thanks to two enterprising youth (sons of my staff!). The program has received some nice attention lately including a front page story in the Williston Herald, a nice spot on the KXMD noon show, and will be visible at this Saturday’s Kid’s Day Out at the Raymond Center, and Marketplace for Kids on April 28 at Williston State College.

Do you want to make a difference? Mentor a young entrepreneur through the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce’s Lemonade Day 2015.

Be involved. Make a difference.


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No ‘Easy Button’ for Chamber programs and events

Private nonprofit organizations like professional societies, trade associations and chambers of commerce depend on several resources to produce events like we did on St. Patrick’s Day – our “ShamRockin the Bakken Taste of Williston.”


Bill Falcon and the Good Medicine Band entertain Williston’s ShamRockin’ the Bakken on St. Patrick’s Day.

Some organizations are large enough to have an events planning staff. One or more paid staff members to plan, budget and execute community and organizational events.An event that requires three to six months worth of planning doesn’t happen just because it worked last year. It is not uncommon to find a professional meeting planner in one of these staff positions, one who holds the credentials of “CMP” or Certified Meeting Planner.

Another option is to partner with an events planning professional or company. There are companies and individuals whose sole business mission is to plan, organize and execute events. This option takes resources (read: money), but does free up staff to conduct other business to meet the organization’s missions. Managing the planning and execution of an event, while working with an event planner, can yield benefits for both the group hosting the event, and the contracted event planner.

Whether there is a full time staff charged with events, or a contracted events planner, a nonprofit organization still relies on two major things: both of which are required for successful community activities and events – volunteers and sponsors. Both of these critical components to a successful event have something in common.

Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.
– Peter Drucker

Why doesn’t your church committee or school play have more volunteers? There are lots of great companies in this town who should be sponsoring or helping with our event, why is it so difficult? The answer is the same…

It’s all about the fit.

Is time precious for everyone today? Yes. Are companies and corporations financially stretched? Yes. However, nonprofits and organizations for centuries have been missing the point in looking for quality, committed volunteers and sponsors. They mistakenly send out blanket news releases and emails and posts that sound like: ‘Looking for committee members;’ or ‘Sponsorships available.’ What are those messages missing? SPECIFICS!

What’s the difference in these two approaches?

Q:  Would you like to serve on the events committee?
Q:   I need your skills for six months to help make our annual meeting a success, and this is why. Can I count on you?
The key to the second question is you gave the volunteer a definitive timeline and explained why you need their skills. The same goes for a sponsorship request.

Q:   Would you like to sponsor our meeting again?
Q:   Mr. Smith, I know you like the downtown businesses, and your company sells to many of them. Our monthly lunch meeting has an opening for a sponsor at $250. We’d love to partner with you on this event.
Again, the difference is specifics and best fit.

Speaking of good fits, I have to give a shout out to the Chamber’s Staff and our volunteers who made the ShamRockin’ the Bakken Taste of Williston a fantastic success on St. Patrick’s day. Our major sponsors came through in the clutch and helped the community be Irish at least for a day! We’re testing out a new online project management system called “Basecamp.com.” So far, everyone seems to enjoy using it to keep in touch with our event planning.

One happy Leprechaun!

One happy Leprechaun!

A quick ‘by the numbers’ summary of the event: We had 17 food vendors, more than 350 people through the door, a couple of Leprechaun-sponsors (Pat and Jackie!), and one shaved head (thanks Ken and the donation to St. Baldrick’s charity!).

A big Chamber of Commerce thank you goes out to:
Murphy Motors, The Grand Williston Hotel & Conference Center, American Petroleum Institute-Williston Chapter, Williston Convention & Visitors Bureau, KUMV-TV, Cherry Creek Radio, American State Bank & Trust (for the Dublin Boys Choir) and Mail Box Solutions Plus.

The next time your group, organization is looking for volunteers or sponsors, the more specific you can be with your request, the better chance you may have with landing that next superstar volunteer or title sponsor for your event.

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