When I founded The Reading Divas, it never occurred to me to restrict membership other than to mandate that this was a group exclusive to adult women. As far as where members live, attend church, belong to a sorority, or hold a certain degree
or job was NOT important. What was important was that they be READERS and that they could devote time each month to read a book and attend a meeting. When prospective members inquire about joining, I explain this to them - I let them know where most
of the members live and ask if they are willing to travel to the meetings and to invite us to their home. I felt, from the beginning that the more diverse the group - the better we would be at identifying and discussing great literature.
I attended an annual literary event and because I had attended it before, I noticed that the crowd was smaller than the previous year. When I asked a member why, she explained that their membership was down by almost 50% from the previous year, and that
therefore translated into less tickets being sold. I then asked if were they looking for members. She hesitated, as if thinking about the right words to use, and then responded "Yes, we are looking for new members, but that isn't easy because
we have restrictions ....members must live in our (gated) community". I smiled and dropped the subject, because she seemed enbarrassed to have to tell me that, and I was really sorry that I had asked a question that made her uncomfortable.
As I sat through this event, I remembered as a teenager asking my mother, as I looked over the financial report from our church, why it was that so many women gave much more than many of the men. At first she simply said they were stingy - but then
she went on to say "They don't realize that by holding their fist so tight to keep a few pennies in, they're not allowing any new pennies to come in either." I've never forgotten that lesson.
Be careful when you design your club rules
that you don't block your blessings! This club was having trouble finding people in their community to join because not a lot of young people are moving in and they have already tapped the older population. Faced with this do you relax the rules and allow
new people to join who might live outside your immediate community but who would be an asset to your club, or do you stand on principle and allow the club to die a slow death?
Consider - what good is a beautiful room if you have noone to fill it?