On January 28th, I drove few hours east, down the ‘Highway of Heroes’ from the CARP National Office, to Belleville, ON for the inaugural meeting of the “BBQ” CARP Chapter (Belleville, Brighton, Quinte West).
I was impressed to find 150 members and other interested Zoomers who took the time out of their schedules to learn more about what a Chapter is and can contribute to a community – and engage themselves as members of CARP – beyond reading newsletters, the www.carp.cawebsite, Zoomer Magazine and paying their annual membership fees. In fact, the number of attendees might just be a record for a first meeting of a Chapter in our 27 year history – and I think I know why.
Now, the Belleville area has the perfect demo for starting a CARP Chapter, with 35% of the current population over age 65. Nationally, about 14% have reached retirement age – so they have a bit of a head start there. And the founding Chair, Mr. Ken Prue has a background in Marketing and used that skill set to promote the event in local news and on local radio stations among other avenues.
The National office helped out with an e-blast to members in the area for whom we have current email addresses – and we also experimented with something for the first time.
Many of you may have had recorded voice messages from Politicians in recent elections – from candidates who have taken a page out of President Obama’s campaign in the USA, where he raised his profile and a whole lot of money, using automatic telephone messaging – known as “robo-calling”. He also used the telephone for virtual town hall meetings, in which voters would be invited to listen in and participate in the discussion, after unsuspectingly answering their home phone.
CARP experimented with this technology for the first time in announcing the BBQ Chapter meeting. A computer dials all the phone numbers of CARP members in the area, and a voice message from the Chapter Chair invites members to the upcoming meeting, with details of the date, time and location. The vast majority of attendees reported receiving the phone call and no one has (yet) complained about this new approach. Perhaps getting a message from an organization to which you belong is more welcome than a cold-call from a political candidate while you’re having dinner?
I attribute at least some of the success of this meeting to the robo-caller, and we intend to continue the experiment with this technology with other Chapters across the country; so you may be hearing from us too.
Let us know what you think about robo-calls, and if you’d like to participate in a “Telephone Town Hall” with the CARP executives and experts, as we get closer to Provincial and possible Federal elections. And in the meantime, visit http://www.carp.ca/category/community/national/community-development/ and look in on the local CARP chapter in your area. If there isn’t one near you, consider starting a Chapter with some of your friends and neighbours.
Manager, Community Development