Starting and Managing a PROBUS Club

How the Toronto Club Started

Probus Toronto - The First Year - Some History

This note was prepared at the end of our first year as a Probus club.

Starting the Club

In early summer of 2014, John Agnew (a former Rotarian and also a Senior) was looking for a Probus club to join. He knew about Probus from a number of friends and their enthusiasm for the clubs they had joined. But, he found that while there were many clubs in the Toronto suburbs and in the surrounding areas, there were none where he lived, in central Toronto.

On July 7th, 2014 he wrote to Richard Furlong, the Probus, District 2 Director, to ask about any plans for a Toronto club, only to find that although a couple of attempts had been made in the past there had been no success to date.

So, he asked the obvious question - "How do I go about starting one?"

Fortunately, Probus Canada has a web-site containing all the information needed to get going. And by visiting a club in Scarborough and Richard's Newmarket Men's club, it was possible to see Probus in action and get some very useful advice.

Read the entire article about the first year of PROBUS Toronto [PDF]

By 2018, the Toronto PROBUS Club was so popular that they could not accommodate more members and even the wait list was full.

The Gold Coast Toowoomba PROBUS Club began with a group of interested individuals wondering if there was sufficient interest to start a club in the winter of 2021. Their first meeting was held in October of that year. It is interesting to read about their growth from their first "interim newsletters" to their latest club newsletter. Gold Coast Toowoomba, Australia - Founding to August 2023 [zip]

The new PROBUS Canada website has made public an extensive Club Reference Guide for operating a PROBUS Club. We highly recommend reviewing the advice and sample forms they have created. You will find a standard constitution, bylaws, information on liability insurance, financial guidance, suggested roles for the management committee, and much more. While created for Canadian clubs, the information is of use to any club, anywhere.

PROBUS Canada Club Reference Guide
Standard Constitution for a PROBUS Canada Club
Suggested Bylaws for a PROBUS Club [PDF]
Suggested Membership Application

In light of Social Media, some clubs have extended their application form to take into account giving permission for the sharing of photos taken at club activities on public social media sites. Also of concern to some is the potential liability from accidents occurring at meetings or during club activities. Sample Application with Media Consent and Liability Waiver used by the Hanover Area PROBUS Club.

Getting members to volunteer to serve on the Management Committee is often a challenge for PROBUS clubs. The Lentune Probus Club has added a clause to their membership application. Every new member must agree to serve on the Management Committee as a condition of membership. Members in key positions are required to serve for two years.

Clubs in Canada are supporting PROBUS Global by reminding new members that they can join PROBUS Global right on their application form. Great idea!

Operating Manual

The Men's PROBUS Club of Newmarket, Canada, has generously shared their operating manual to assist other executive committees organizing and managing their club.

Download PDF

What is the right size?

Tim Casey from the very successful Port Perry PROBUS Club, Canada, shares two documents discussing how many members is the right number for your club, and how to gain new members. Tim has also indicated his willingness to speak at your club on these and other club management subjects.

How Many Members? [PDF]

How to Grow Your Club. [PDF]

How to start a club in your area
We are looking for more stories about how clubs started and practical information for those wishing to create a new club anywhere in the world. If you have anything to contribute, please contact the webmaster using the form below.

Twin your club with another club!

Many PROBUS Clubs have found that it is exciting and valuable to twin with another club in a different part of the world. Members have travelled to meet their counterparts or exchanged speakers using Zoom. Just another way for PROBUS members to make more friends. Use the Club Search to find a club to contact.

For example, the Dundas Club in Canada twinned with the Dundas Club in Australia and exchanged gifts and visitors.

If your club is twinned with another club, please let us know. We have added twin information to the Club Information pages.

List of Known Clubs with Twins

Making your club successful

Keeping your members happy

Rob Neary recently ran a survey at the AGM of the Probus Association of Queensland, Australia in which he asked “What things does your club do that makes you feel happy to be a member of that club?” What he received back are the Keys for a Successful Club out of the pens of the 36 clubs represented there.

The keys were:

  1. Have a good variety of speakers
  2. Make room for your members to talk about their interests and hobbies
  3. Reduce the formality of meetings - remember the 3F's - well 4F's
  4. Serve a good Morning Tea
  5. Make sure that members mix around and don't form cliques

Rob is preparing more information for this page. Please be patient.

Membership Development and Retention Strategy

The Probus Association of Queensland is currently working with Probus South Pacific on a Membership Development and Retention Strategy. We hope to make it available to PROBUS Global members soon.

A district meeting of 118 Canadian PROBUS Club executives held a day-long discussion on best practices, inefficiencies and potential solutions.

One Page Summary [PDF].
Meeting Outputs by Role [PDF].
Ideas Generated [PDF].

Rob Neary from Queensland has produced a lot of materials to help with membership retention, club growth, and club management. He is happy to share his materials with other PROBUS clubs. Here are some samples to use in your emails. Contact him for more.

There are so many ways to promote PROBUS and your local club that Rob has compiled an extensive list of Marketing Techniques [PDF]. Don't give up until you have tried every one of them.

Recruiting New Members

Many clubs have seen their membership numbers dwindle during COVID. Quite a few clubs closed their doors during that time, having too few members to survive. Others combined with nearby clubs to achieve a membership adequate to ensure activities and revenue sufficient to make the club worthwhile.

Most clubs managed to recruit a few new members and some clubs even grew from zero to several hundred members during that time. One way to find new members is to promote your club at local service clubs and associations. We are creating a sample slide show that can be used. If you already have one, please share it with us.

Courtesy of the St Catharines PROBUS Club, an example of a slide show that can be used in talks or at activity fairs to promote your club.

Example Slide Show [PDF] [PPTX]

PROBUS Queensland created a video to promote PROBUS to a Rotary convention. The video can easily be adapted for use by clubs to use when they are seeking new members. An example is linked below. Animotica is an easy to use, inexpensive, tool for creating and editing videos.

Sample Promotional Video

International Day of Older Persons

On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons (resolution 45/106). This was preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later that year by the UN General Assembly.

PROBUS Global has declared October 1 as PROBUS Day. PROBUS Day is celebrated by PROBUS organizations in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada and by individual PROBUS clubs around the world.

The September 2022 Newsletter features a long list of ways to celebrate PROBUS Day and use the opportunity to promote PROBUS and your club in your community.

  • Create a PROBUS Club flag or banner.
  • Have your club’s flag flown over City Hall.
  • Have your Mayor proclaim National PROBUS Day.
  • Enjoy cake, or a breakfast, or a luncheon.
  • Arrange for your local press to attend.
  • Hand out Flyers - Distribute flyers, or post notices or signs at schools, shopping malls, community centres and local businesses. Check if permission is required for posting.
  • Register on the Community Calendar - Promote your event in newspapers, shopping malls, on community television or radio, bulletin boards or in pharmacies and restaurants. Go where seniors are!
  • Create a Social Media Presence - Facebook and Twitter are a great way to get the word out and keep your event going past October 1. Many seniors today are tech-savvy—you can keep in touch all year long electronically.
  • Issue a media release - Let your local news outlets promote your plans, including newspapers, local cable, community blogs and radio stations.
Ideas compiled by Linda Metcalfe, PG Administrator and Marlene Pearce, PG Canadian Coordinator.

Rob Neary, President of the PROBUS Association of Queensland, has provided a guide for Marketing Your Club with templates for business cards, flyers, and posters and a myriad of ideas.

In Australia, PROBUS Day is celebrated in towns and cities by lighting landmarks such as bridges, towers and city halls in blue and gold. Look at the list for 2022.

Let us know how you promoted PROBUS Day in your community.

Is it PROBUS or Probus

It can be confusing for newsletter writers and webmasters when to use PROBUS and when to use Probus. There really is no correct answer. Originally, the word was a combination of Professional and Business, but in the interest of inclusivity, that restriction has been removed by most clubs. Some clubs and organizations have registered names and even trademarks. In that case, you must use what the organization prescribes. PROBUS Canada and Probus South Pacific Limited are examples.

PROBUS Canada currently recommends Probus when used alone in a sentence and the club name spelled as they prefer it when referring to a particular club. But they used to recommend PROBUS, even when used in a sentence.

Club Web Sites

These days, a web site is expected of almost all clubs and organizations. Wordpress is often used to create one and there are a lot of examples to follow and YouTube explanations on how to go about it. Even so, some computer skill is necessary.

We invited someone who has set up a club site recently to create a template for a club to follow or to offer any suggestions for making a simple club site without too much trouble or cost. Patrick Whittick has set up the Dunmow PROBUS Club website and useful tools using Google products. He offers this comprehensive guide: Using Google Products for a PROBUS Club.

Linda Metcalfe has a lot of experience setting up club websites with Wordpress and can give you some tips if you are looking into it.

Nick French is a fan of Site 123 for club websites in South Africa. He can give you some pointers if that method appeals to you.

Many clubs and individuals with no experience or technical ability have used Wix to set up their websites.

Many clubs in our directory have websites. Browse some of them and if you see a style you like, ask their webmaster about how they built it. You might be surprised to find that they didn't know anything about how to do it until they began.

Barrie Morgan learned on his own and now builds websites using for his local clubs and friends.

If you are in the UK, David Vickery, one of our members, recommends who provide a web site service for a nominal fee.

Administration Systems

Probus clubs are often very active and can use systems to help manage their activities. These can be in the form of stand-alone tools like Excel or Wordpress, or in the form of specialized integrated membership software. Gaylen Racine, of the East York Probus Club (Toronto Canada) recommends a membership software package called Wild Apricot which has removed a considerable amount of grunt work from the volunteers. Gaylen has written about Computer Administration Systems [PDF].

Patrick Whittick of the Dunmow PROBUS Club uses free Google products for almost everything. He offers this comprehensive guide: Using Google Products for a PROBUS Club.

Succession Planing

by Rob Neary

A problem typically faced by Probus clubs and associations is finding people to serve on their management committee. It's a problem that the general membership of the club prefers not to know about. In their view, so long as there is a committee in place, there's no problem, and no need to worry!

But there is a need to worry. It is certainly a problem for those currently on the committee or board who are faced with the amounts of work needed to be done, especially for large clubs. It is usual that committee/board members only serve 2 - 3 years before stepping down or resigning. The health and vitality of management committees tend to be noticeably cyclical with Committees starting strongly and then growing weak as tiredness sets in.

Efforts to recruit new board/committee members are often met with excuses such as "I don't have the time", “I can’t use a computer” and similar excuses. In reality, it's not really a case that a person has no time, but more a case that they do not want to give any time. The community spirit of the past seems to have evaporated these days! What can your Probus Club do about this problem? The main thing is to see it coming and to put strategies in place. Don't wait until the problem becomes evident, but start to identify potential committee people as soon as possible, even when the present committee look very safe.

Some strategies to consider:

  1. Create assistants to the main positions on your management committee/board as soon as possible. These assistants are “understudies” and should be mentored by the current position holder. The idea is to give the committee member someone who can “cover for them”.
  2. While a little contentious, some clubs interview prospective members and ask them to commit to a year to serve on the management committee as part of their acceptance into the club. Most Probus Club Membership Application forms include a statement about serving on the club committee at some time
  3. Change Standing Orders, or even the constitution, to provide committee members with free annual membership. A free membership is a very small sum of money compared to the hours of voluntary service provided by a committee member.
  4. Create a Club Committee Member volunteers’ awards scheme which provides club recognition and a treat suitable for the award recipient.
  5. Look for regular opportunities during club meetings and events to give recognition to the contribution of one or some of the committee members.
  6. Budget for special events just for committee member volunteers e.g., as a committee/board, go on a morning tea or luncheon treat somewhere special.
Getting a succession plan is not just the responsibility of the Club Management Committee or Board - it’s every member’s responsibility as the Probus Club is their club. Planning early for your club’s management team succession is critical.

Remember: “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”.

Awards and Certificates

The Men's PROBUS Club of Newmarket, Canada hands out an achievement award at their annual Christmas luncheon.

  • The recipient must be a long time member of the club.
  • Have contributed significantly to the club.
  • Have made significant contributions to the community at large.
  • Is not currently a member of the Management Team.
  • The decision made by the Management Team, with suggestions from members welcomed.

Reopening after COVID

Rob Neary, President of PROBUS Queensland, has produced an extensive checklist for clubs to prepare for reopening. It appeared in the PROBUS Global June 2021 Newsletter. If you are in the process of returning to physical meetings you would be well advised to work your way through the checklist.

PROBUS Club Reopening Checklist

Zoom Meetings

Many clubs are now holding monthly meetings by Zoom. This is a great way to keep your club active during the pandemic. Members can attend from the safety of their own homes.

For attendees, it is easy enough that most are able to figure it out from the emailed invitation link. For hosts, many features are only available in the paid version of Zoom and it is worthwhile spending time to understand the features and options.

Download the comprehensive Dummies Guide to Using Zoom [PDF], created by our friends from the Lions Clubs International organisation in the UK.

The definitive source for information about how to install Zoom and run meetings is the Zoom YouTube Channel with a collection of short, clear, instructional videos.

Setting up and running a Zoom meeting is not difficult. All your club needs is one volunteer willing to coordinate the process and learn how to manage the meeting. For a PROBUS Club perspective, the PROBUS Club of Cambridge (Canada), has created a page of instructions with two very complete training videos aimed at their members.

PROBUS Global members are invited to attend many online club meetings. For an invitation, pick a meeting you wish to attend on the PROBUS Global Club Meeting and Presentations page. If you are holding a Zoom meeting, please consider inviting PROBUS Global members.

If your club is recording the meeting with the expectation of making it available on YouTube or for download from the club website, it is a good idea for the meeting invitation to include a warning about the recording, telling participants who wish not to show their face to leave their video off while making comments. Some may also wish to only show their first name or nickname on the display. A similar announcement should be made by the coordinator at the beginning of each meeting. When the meeting is being recorded, a RECORDING symbol appears at the top left of everyone's screen.

Hybrid Meetings with Zoom and In-Person

Several clubs have now implemented hybrid meetings that include Zoom guests and members who can't attend in person at the meeting venue. These have been shown to be extremely popular. Speakers do not have to be local residents or visitors. International guests make the meetings more interesting. Members who are unable to attend due to mobility or transportation issues can see their old friends again.

The clubs that have done this are willing to help other clubs work out the kinks in the system. It is not as difficult as it might seem at first. The Newmarket Club has prepared a short PDF describing their setup that you might find useful.

Finding Speakers

We have compiled a curated Directory of Speakers willing and able to present to your club. Depending on distance, they may be able to come to you, but more likely, they will present by Zoom. All of the speakers listed have been recommended by one or more PROBUS clubs.

If you have enjoyed a speaker at your club and feel their talk would be appropriate for other clubs, please let us know about them so we can include them in our directory.

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