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How To Start An Aquarium Society(Part 3 of 4)

Fish Have Clubs, Why Can't I?

By Schuyler Sloane (N.E.P.A.S.)
 

The Meeting Place

Now you have people calling asking how to get to your meeting place. You did get a meeting place right? A thought or 2 about meeting places. When I first started our club we only had a few people, (o.k. we only had 2 people) It was very easy to have the members come to my small 2nd floor apartment. My tanks were all there and we had all the equipment we needed. That didn’t last too long, at a meeting following a newspaper article on our club I went from having 2 people in a meeting to now trying to find seating in my little living room for 12 people. It was a tight fit. Look around for a public place that can accommodate your possible size. Libraries are great and as long as you schedule it in advance they usually don’t mind have a group discussion. Most libraries have areas for just such a thing. Another great meeting place that you may find is a recreation center or church hall. It all depends on your area so look around for the most convenient spot.
 
During the Meetings.
 
Now that you have your group of fellow hobbyists gathered together you are going to need something to do. Below is a general listing of what we do during our meetings. You are going to want to adjust this schedule to fit your needs and your time. Our meetings generally run from 7pm- 9:30pm once a month. We have been doing this for a while and it still changes to fit different programs and speakers that we have, what I am saying is that this is not written in stone and you should never expect it to be, too many things can and will change your schedule, but if you use this a guide you will make out all right.
 
6:30 arrive early to set things up for your meeting, this gives you time to set up the auction raffle and snack tables. Hopefully you will have some help in this if not pay a kid you know 5 bucks trust me it helps.
 
6:45 meet with the speaker
 
7:00 The meeting begins, ok it doesn’t really begin here. Usually when the meeting is supposed to start you have 2 people talking over there, a few more looking at the auction table and at least a few more outside smoking so take a few minutes to let everyone know tat the meeting will be starting shortly and that they should take their seats. This also gives you a few minutes to sell raffle tickets and 50/50 tickets and to make sure that every member has a door prize ticket. Now that everyone is seated you can go over a few club notes with the members and guests. Let them know about upcoming events and trips, tell them what’s going on, remember that the more involved the members feel the more fun they have. Now is the time to introduce your speaker, ask the members for a warm welcome to the speaker as this will really get everything warmed up.
 
After the speaker has finished his program there is usually a Q&A session where the members can get tips on that particular subject. After your speaker is done speaking it could be anywhere from 7:30 to 8:00. At this point I tell our members and guests to take a quick break, this not only gives the guests a chance to stretch their legs but also gives the late arrivals a chance to buy their tickets and to get their door prize tickets. After the break it’s time to start with the raffles and auctions. Your auctions are going to take center stage I normally start by calling out the first raffle ticket numbers while the auction is being set up. All you have to do now is intersperse your ticket prizes with your auction and this should complete your night. The last item of business is to call the numbers for the door prize. The reason for doing this is that people usually stay for their chance to get their door prize, it’s a freebie and people like freebies. After that it’s time to say goodnight and send them on their way, hopefully with some goodies and a few more tricks of the trade. Just remember to ask a few of them to help clean up and leave your meeting place cleaner than when you got there. There are some things that you are going to want to have in advance of your meetings these items will help to make everything go smoothly and help everyone to have fun. I have included them in the checklist at the back of the book but I will go through some of them now to help you if you are one of those people who starts things before they finish the book and say “oh, now he tells me” Before your first meeting you will need the following items: Coffee cans or other containers that can hold the raffle tickets used for the raffles, door prizes and 50/50. You will also need the raffle tickets, I recommend that you get three different color raffle tickets to eliminate any confusion as to which is which. I would also recommend decorating each of the containers to represent each color of ticket and marking them as to which contest they are.
 
Now for those who don’t know how to hold a 50/50 or raffle or how a door prize works I will go through each one: The door prize is an item that one lucky guest or member will win just for coming to a meeting, These are great because everybody has an equal chance of winning and it doesn’t cost them a dime. Be sure that you or someone in your group is giving these tickets to every guest that walks in the door hence the term door prize. Even better is to have each person in attendance sign in for the meeting and when the meeting is done you can check the total amount of tickets against the total number of guests. The door prize can be any item that you want, I recommend that it be a really great prize, the reason being that when you have guest that come to the meeting and see that your prize is really great the will always come back. And sometimes come back with friends who are into tropical fish, (can you see your membership base getting larger now?) The 50/50 is a type of raffle where people buy there tickets in the hope of winning half the amount of the tickets sold. For example we sell our 50/50 tickets like we sell all our tickets $1.00 each or 6 tickets or $5.00. If we sell $50.00 in tickets the winner receives $25.00. This raffle should be held before your Auction then some lucky winner will have more money then they came in with and therefore bid on more items.
 
The raffle is another type of contest where the tickets are sold $1.00 a piece or 6 for $5.00 during the course of the meeting (after the speaker) items related to the hobby are raffled off these items are usually items either donated by the sponsors I will get into asking sponsors for donations in another chapter, I will say this however most sponsors send their items once or twice per year. You are going to be tempted to raffle or auction a lot of items early on when you get them, do not do this, you need to spread these items out as much as you can so you need to take a look at what you have and the number people at he meeting and make your decision that way. And then you don’t run out of items latter in the year.
 
Outside the meetings.
 
Not all the fun of being a member of an aquarium society has to be contained in a monthly meeting, Do you only have fish at the meetings? No, there are tons of activities that can be fun and rewarding outside of your meetings, a few of these may be:
 
Picnics and barbeques. Your members would love to get together when the sun is shining and forgo the standard meeting to be able to sit down with fellow members and just pig out and talk about fish, and contrary to popular belief you can even have a fish fry, just don’t fry YOUR fish.
 
Road Trips. When I first got our society started one of the first trips I planned was to get people together to head out to the local public aquarium. This was easy I just told our members we were going to the public aquarium and when and they all met me there. But you really don’t even have to take a trip to the local aquarium you could even get everyone together to visit the local fish store. This works extremely well when they are having a sale or just to show your sponsors that you appreciate all the help they have given by bringing them business
 
Speakers
 
There are plenty of topics that you can cover in your meetings. You can show videos, you can have a member speak about their experiences with the fish they keep and you can search for speakers. There are plenty of people in the hobby that will speak at your meetings. Early on in your club you may not have the funds to invite speakers from far off areas, that’s ok you should first look for the local guy, this could be a member who keeps fish or your best bet an employee of the local pet store, or even a manager/owner. Remember it never hurts to ask. You can also show videos on fish that are available at the local library, these always seem to be a big hit. When your club does start to have funds available there are numerous sources for finding speakers The Federation of American Aquarium Societies has a list available of people that are willing to travel to speak at your meeting, usually all they require is a place to stay and food to eat. (Some may have predetermined fees for speaking so check with them in advance) When you do find your speaker whether they are local or traveling it is nice to make up a certificate of thanks and an honorarium ready for them.

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