Wednesday night I went to the annual membership meeting of MPACT Memphis at their headquarters at 506 S. Main. Although I was very active in the organization at one point, including serving on their board in 2004-05, I haven’t done much with them lately. So I wanted to attend and find out what what’s going on with them these days, and I was very very impressed. Here’s a quick report.
Outgoing chair Jenny Sharpe gave a farewell speech. She commented that there’s a lot going on in Memphis, but sometimes that isn’t obvious on the surface. MPACT, she said, is an organization that puts young professionals in touch with all that’s going on in the city. She also praised MPACT because “it’s easy to point a finger and so many in Memphis do it… but MPACT lifts a finger.”
Next up, executive director Gwyn Fisher gave her report. A year ago, MPACT had 248 members. As of Wednesday, there are more than 650 members. If I’m doing the math right, that’s a 162% increase in one year. Very cool.
She then listed some of the year’s accomplishments. Next American City Magazine contacted MPACT, praising it on being a model young professionals’ organization. “You guys are the face of civic engagement,” they said. Together the magazine hosted an URBANEXUS event on The New Face of Civic Engagement in Memphis, attended by over 150 people.
Their Volunteer Expo, where nonprofits can get the word out about opportunities to volunteer, became so popular that MPACT had to move it to Oak Court Mall this year. There were 120 exhibitors. Wow. Back when I was active in ’04-’05 there were something like 36 exhibitors, so that’s a huge increase. As for number of visitors, “we stopped counting at 2,000,” said Gwyn.
This Thursday, 10/29, they’re holding Creative Conversations at Memphis College of Art. It will inspire attendees with ideas of creative projects that are helping communities progress, and it will provide an opportunity to work with creative leaders to develop your own ideas. Keynote speakers are Helen Johnson, founder of CreateHere which is creative organization in Chattanooga; and Christopher Reyes, founder of Live from Memphis.
Gwyn then noted several members who serve on community or nonprofit boards, or who are active in volunteering in the community.
Next Gwyn talked about MPACT’s Race for the Cure team. This was a member-driven project: Someone who moved here said, “Hey, this was my cause in my former city, I’d like to get something going here.” MPACT’s team is now #4 in citywide funds raised.
They have “I (heart) MEMPHIS” stickers. “Take one and stick it somewhere,” said Gwyn.
Then Gwyn unveiled the new tagline, “Connect. Discover. Contribute.”
In previous blogs, I’ve teased active Mpact member Susie about bugging me to take a million zillion surveys. Well, those surveys are very important… they will be used to compile a Voice of MPACT, a study of where young, involved citizens want to see their community go. Local elected officials are already asking, “When is this going to be done?” and it will be used nationally as well. Go to MPACT’s home page and you’ll see links to the surveys. “Link to these surveys on Facebook and Twitter,” Gwyn said. “Feel free to annoy people into taking them.”
Next up, the new board members were introduced and approved by the members. Incoming chair Shante Avant gave a speech. Congratulations to Shante.
Next up was the treasurer’s report. He laid out MPACT’s financials in a nutshell – both where the money comes from, and where it goes. I really appreciated the transparency there. When I was on the board we had access to those figures, of course, but it’s nice to see the data being presented to the membership itself. They also raised more funds than were raised when I was on the board 4-5 years ago, a good sign. The MemphisED partnership was noted as a major funder. MPACT has met or exceeded all the goals that MemphisED set for it.
Then the treasurer pointed at piggy banks placed around the room and said, “FEED OUR PIGS!” Heh. Haven’t heard that phrase since BBQ Fest. You’d be surprised, Gywn commented, how much money an organization can take in from “feed the pig.”
Next up was a report from the Community Service committee. They have monthly events where they volunteer for organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House. They also try to get members connected with external volunteer opportunities for great organizations like MIFA.
The Civic Engagement report was next. They host events such as issue forums, meet and greets, and lunches with local elected officials. They commented that MPACT’s civic programs are among the best attended of all MPACT events.
Next up was the Member Connections report. Wow, Paul Sciubba skipped poker night at Bardog to be there, that’s dedication from a board member if you know Paul. Anyway, they host monthly happy hours and restaurant tours. They also host special events – for example, they’re doing a Grizzlies Night next week on the 28th ($85 seats for $25), and they’re planning a holiday party.
(Not sure if this would fall under Member Connections but I can’t resist making a comment here. MPACT is a much stronger organization in almost every way than when I was on the board, but there was one thing we did better – when I was on the board, there was BEER at the annual membership meeting.)
The Member Connections committee plans the entire next calendar year in December, so if you have ideas, now would be a great time to join and give your input. They’re also looking to start a series of seminars that will be open to members only, where a member who is an expert in a particular field (e.g. finance, personal training) will give a presentation.
Next up was the MPACTive program, in which groups participate in healthy events like running 5Ks or mountain biking. They have 18 runners in the Race for the Cure. Suggestions for new projets are welcome.
MPACT Toastmasters was next. Toastmasters is an international organization that helps members improve their communication skills. Members do speeches (prepared or impromptu) at meetings, working toward a goal of Competent Communication. If you want to improve your skills in that area, a new group starts November 10 at the Mpact office on South Main.
Personal development projects: MPACT partnered with the Leadership Academy on their 1 year Fellows program. MPACT also partnered with Leadership Memphis on their 3 month Fast Track program – “that’s what got me where I am today,” commented Gwyn. MPACT members receive special consideration when applying for these programs, because membership is evidence that applicants are already involved in their community. Mpact also partnered with LaunchMemphis, an entrepreneurial organization that hosts great events like Startup Memphis, in which 5 new businesses got launched within 48 hours. “And we mean entirely launched,” Gwyn said. “Business plan, marketing plan, website, everything.”
MPACT’s annual fundraiser will be Saturday, February 27. It will be a “Soul of the City” gala and the Mpact Maker awards and the Voice of MPACT results will be presented.
Stuff coming up soon: Restaurant tour at Owen Brennan’s tonight; RiverArtsFest Saturday-Sunday (MPACT office will be open); the aforementioned Grizzlies Night 10/28, with $85 tickets for $25; Creative Conversations 10/29; Trolley Night 10/30 with Mpact’s office open and free Ghost River beer. BEER!
It’s 7:37 PM and I’m at home right now… a good evening so far. I got on PokerStars and sat down at a 10c/25c game with $20, and got up an hour later with $44.95. Yay. Then I put on makeup for my Disco Zombie Halloween costume that I’m wearing to the “Thriller Nights” Halloween party at Paula & Raiford’s Disco tonight. Watching The Ultimate Fighter and the first hour of TNA Wrestling, then heading over there.