Joining a district

Dear fellow Toastmasters,

 

As you probably know, one of our medium-term aspirations is to join a district (or form our own one). This Q&A list gives you the details on that.

Q: What is a district?

A: Toastmasters International is a huge international network of public speaking clubs (more than 15,000 clubs at the moment). To make governance easier, several clubs are united in an area, several areas in a division, several divisions in a district.

A district usually contains a minimum of 80 clubs and spans several countries or states. See current district map here.

Q: Why aren’t we in a district yet?

A: Because we haven’t yet applied to join or form a district. When Toastmasters comes to a new country, all clubs in this country remain unassigned to any district (‘undisctricted’, in TM jargon) until a special accession procedure.

Q: What are the pros of being in a district?

  • Our contests will no longer stop at area level. The Area contests winners will proceed to division, and then potentially to the district and international level. One day, a Russian Toastmaster could become the World Champion of public speaking!
  • We will host bigger events, with more international participation (eg a district conference could be held in Moscow, with 400-500 Toastmasters from different countries)
  • Russian Toastmasters officers (at all levels, including club, area, and potentially division) will be able to take part in officer trainings conducted by the district.

Q: What are the cons?

A: The only noticeable drawback is that our members will have to pay the full member fee (at the moment, we pay 75% as undistricted clubs). In current terms, our half-yearly dues would increase from $33.75 to $45. 

That additional 25% goes to the district budget and gets spent on things that ultimately benefit the whole community like:

  • District and club officer training
  • Club building
  • Club rescue
  • Membership growth
  • Promotion of Toastmasters International educational programs within clubs
  • Communication within the district, including district newsletters, directories or web site
  • Administrative supplies and district management materials
  • Awards and recognition
  • Authorized district officer travel to officially recognized conferences and meetings (There are only two official conferences and meetings outside of a district: the midyear training, held before February 28, and the International Convention in August. Therefore, district funds cannot be used for any other meetings outside the district).
  • District conferences, other district meetings, and speech contests

More details in the District Budget Success guide.

Q: What about the ‘area dues’? Will we still collect it when we join a district?

A: Theoretically, every area gets financing from its district (the extra 25% member fee actually goes to the district, not to TMI, and part of that money trickles down to area level). However, as we know from experience of our fellow Toastmasters in Europe, that money is usually not enough to finance all the necessary activities, and many areas still collect money from clubs and/or members.

So, once we join a district, we will reevaluate the amount of area dues based on what we can get from the district and what we need to finance our area-level activities. As always, we aim to be completely transparent about our finances.

Q: Why do we need such a huge hierarchy, with so many officers at area, division, district levels? Isn’t that too much?

A: Actually, pretty often there is just one officer at the area and division level (area director and division director respectively), acting as liaison between the district and the clubs. Most things happen on the level of district. Positions like program quality director or club growth director normally exist on district level only. Our Moscow Area is somewhat unique at the moment, since Area officers have a large workload due to having no support from division or district, plus a challenging mission of building and increasing the Toastmasters presence in Russia.

Q: How do we get into a district?

A: There are basically two ways: we either get accepted into an existing district, or form our own. There are challenges on both roads.

For joining a district, our best bet is the neighboring District 95 (North-Eastern Europe). However, it is going through a reorganization at the moment (it will be split into several new districts in 2018), so the district leaders have enough on their hands right now. We probably have a better chance applying to one of the newly formed districts once the separation is complete.

For forming our own district, we need many more clubs in Russia, at least 20 to get things going, probably more. That may take some time. By the way, if you thought about creating a new Toastmasters club, now is the time! Get in touch with us at growth@toastmasters.ru for more details!

In any case, we need to pass a so-called country analysis by means of which Toastmasters International determines if Russia has potential being in a district. There’s a set of criteria, mostly financial (although TMI is a non-profit organization, it must cover its expenses, so that extra 25% member fee must be enough to make up for the new expenses that arise due to Russia being in a district, eg district director visits to the clubs).

 

Q: What is our plan for the immediate future?

A:  First, we want to make sure that our club members share our aspiration to form/join a district and understand all the benefits and drawbacks that will entail.

Second, we want to apply to join District 95 this autumn. We do not expect to get accepted, but as a part of the application process the district will have to make that country analysis that will be very useful to us. It will show us how far we are from being ‘district material’ and what exactly we need to work on in order to become districted (no matter which option we choose – joining or forming our own).

This is why we are asking for your opinion now! Please fill in the questionnaire and tell us what you think!