Kiwanis Awkwardness… (a rant of sorts and a whole lot of suggestions)

Oftentimes, Kiwanians ask me why more CKI alumni don't join Kiwanis after being in CKI. And I have a myriad of answers for them:
– they may not be settled yet in a city or in a career and don't feel they have the time or ability to contribute properly to a traditional club
– they don't want to be the only person asked
– they don't want to be the only 'young' person
– they don't want to be the only woman
– they may not feel like they can afford a dinner meeting AND dues because they have not been convinced of the benefits of joining yet
– the club that is asking them to join may not be healthy
– they may be burnt out from their experiences as a CKI member or executive or board member or officer or chair etc.
– no one bothers to ask them
– there is no Kiwanis club in the place they have moved to, and as a newcomer to the community they don't feel like they are the right person to build one
– the club that they're hoping to join doesn't seem to have a role for them
– they may want to be more or less involved
– the club may meet or do projects at an inconvenient time
– the club may be a cheque writing club rather than a service project-doing club
– they may be too busy trying to start a family/raise a family/working etc.
– the club is too set in its ways
– another organization might be a better fit for the time being.

That said, I usually only mention one or two of these reasons (befitting the situation, the club, the people in question etc.), and usually I explain a few of my favorite responses:
– be passionate about Kiwanis so people know that that's an important part of your life
– ask multiple former CKI members to join at once
– invite one person to join with his/her friends
– reevaluate your club and improve aspects that need improving
– be flexible
– give new members things to do (but NOT TOO MUCH!)
– give a former CKI member the chance to be A MEMBER (and not an exec etc.) if they want, to adjust to the different experience
– allow new members to shadow or be partnered up with more established Kiwanians to find out how they fulfill their roles in the club
– be involved with CKI during their time as CKI members, so they know who you are!
– do not be creepy
– focus not only on former CKI members but on professionals from all strata in society
– be friendly and active!

But what gets me, is when (and this has happened on several occasions over the last 11 years I've been involved in the Kiwanis family, though fortunately not frequently) I am honestly creeped out or disturbed or uncomfortable because of certain actions of current Kiwanians. And more than anything, ONE SUCH experience has the potential to keep a former CKI member away for a long long time. So watch out if you see any of your fellow Kiwanis members doing ANY of the following:
– making the club feel like an ol' boys club (no women allowed, no young people allowed, cigars and/or alcohol, inappropriate behaviour, only talking about people and things that the new members would have no familiarity with, no diversity [cultural, racial or otherwise] encouraged — these aspects can all contribute, and I've seen them) — please stop this if you notice this happening. Thank goodness it does not happen often anymore.
– making current CKI members uncomfortable (just as one shouldn't try to date a high school student if one is in a position of authority, one shouldn't cross interpersonal barriers or at least not make the first step with a CKI member [yes there have been marriages/relationships etc. with folks who have met through the Kiwanis family but please please please don't make yourself into the creepy Kiwanian at a CKI event!] — if you see this happening, do take action and TALK to the Kiwanian(s) in question!
– making fellow Kiwanians feel uncomfortable. I know you might be lonely, I know that you might long for friendship, and I know that you might not mean anything at all awkward by it, but arranging to meet up with a single younger Kiwanian in a situation that may otherwise seem like a date (if the ages or even mutual interests were even somewhat similar… when one party is more than twice the age of the other this doesn't tend to help) and treating it as if it is a date (even if you don't mean it that way) is/can be SUPER awkward. If I wasn't more dedicated to Kiwanis, a situation like this one could have scared me away. Be careful what image you're portraying!

If you want to be social my suggestions are:
– organize fun social events in GROUPS of Kiwanians or Kiwanis family members (and while the whole club need not be invited, or attend, encouraging a larger group to get to know each other is a good plan)
– do these social events in public locations
– make your club active! Encourage Kiwanians who might be lonely or less close knit with the group to get involved in projects! Find out what makes them passionate, be it a current club project or fundraiser or some other cause completely that you may not have ever heard about!
– let Kiwanians have some ability to suggest anonymously ideas and projects and social activities that they would like to partake in
– Have events or activities where spouses, significant others, CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN, friends etc. are welcome and encouraged to attend! Kiwanis should be a family thing, and with the busy lives of 20-50 year olds these days the opportunity to bring their babes, toddlers, teens, children, friends etc. to some events does make some folks more likely to attend!
– Have events where CKI and other Kiwanis family branches are invited, or better yet, co-host said events with other Kiwanis family branches or even other Kiwanis clubs — if your Kiwanis club is struggling, interacting with other Kiwanis clubs can help!
– Finally, be friendly at your meetings and events, and encourage doing fun things together. I don't want Kiwanians to feel lonely. I don't want to feel awkward either. I want to be friends but APPROPRIATELY! I want to be a Kiwanian for my whole life! I'm passionate about the organization but sometimes things need to change. And while I'm perfectly fine with reminiscing about how things once were, that's not where we are now, today. Let's make Kiwanis into the fun experience it ought to be! Let's have those events we all want to be at, whether they're outdoor garden parties, movie nights, card or board game events, BBQs, fundraisers, trivia nights, fun casinos or anything else besides!

CKI has three tenants: Service, Leadership and fellowship. I'd like to remind the Kiwanians out there that we want the fellowship to be fun! Inappropriate or awkward is not the way it ought to be.