As difficult as it is to believe, the time is fast approaching for another Annual Meeting of Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter. I am tempted to do the standard plea to FFSC members to attend the meeting, held this year on April 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Swedish Cultural Center, but I want to approach this matter a bit differently this time.
Unlike many, perhaps most, of the forty-five local chapters of Finlandia Foundation, our chapter does not hold regular (or even irregular) membership meetings. Over the years, we have simply developed the tradition to do all our business at the Annual Meeting, including, of course, the election of chapter officers. It is also there where current officers of the organization report to FFSC members and, conversely, where members have an opportunity to express to the board their own ideas, suggestions and observations. In other words, the meeting is interactive, with officers and members talking with one another about how to make FFSC more dynamic and responsive.
I want to invite all of you to attend this year’s meeting, but I also ask that you do some thinking in advance about a very important question: “How do we increase the membership of Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter?” Perhaps a better way to put the question is this: “How do we make membership in Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter so attractive that others will want to join?”
Those of you with good memories will recall that I made a similar plea at last year’s Annual Meeting – a plea I repeated in a President’s Message following that gathering. In part, I wrote, “The big challenge for FFSC between now and the time of next year’s Annual Meeting is to increase its membership base …” Unfortunately, at the upcoming Annual Meeting, I will not be able to report that we have met this challenge over the intervening year.
This is certainly not from want of trying. A membership committee, comprised of board members Esko Männistö, Cathy Perry and JoAnne Rudo, has been at work. One of their ideas implemented was mailing invitations to former members to re-join FFSC. That produced some modest results, but we cannot claim to have made a major breakthrough.
I remain convinced, as I was in that President’s Message of last year, that increasing our membership “will simply require our doing a better job of letting people know what we do.” And what we do continues to be significant. For example, I have been impressed recently by the number of people who tell me how much they enjoy this bi-monthly FFSC newsletter. Our monthly film series continues to attract an appreciative audience. Attendance at our weekly language classes increased this winter. And, as the pages of this newsletter make clear, there are a number of special events we sponsor or co-sponsor, like the April 10 Robert Goldstein book reading and signing in cooperation with the Leif Erickson Lodge. FFSC is currently working with other local organizations in planning the bi-annual Finland Summer Festival for late summer. Progress is also being made to bring Finlandia Foundation Performer of the Year Marja Kaisla to Seattle this fall through a joint arrangement with a local college.
Personally, one of my long-time interests has been to have FFSC sponsor an excursion to Sointula – that almost mythical site of Matti Kurikka’s ill-fated attempt to establish a socialist utopia on Malcolm Island off the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island during the early 1900s. There is a precedent for such an activity. It was in 1971, within five years of the organization of FFSC, that Leo Utter and Pentti Uuspää organized a trip to Sointula. There are still those in our community who fondly recall that adventure, but now – over four decades later – the time seems right for new generations of Finns and their friends to experience Sointula. Those who go will find themselves enjoying a piece of Finnish and Finnish American history right in our own backyard.
If you, dear reader, are not now a member of Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter, I appeal to you to join and thus help to continue the kinds of activities indicated above. You will find a membership form at the end of this newsletter. If, on the other hand, you are already a member, please come to the annual meeting and bring along your own ideas for adding to our ranks. A growing organization is typically a healthy organization, and healthy organizations can make the lives of their members fuller, richer and happier. That’s what FFSC aspires to do.