Report on Fourth Annual OLLI Town Hall Meeting
TOWN HALL MEETING, October 31, 2008

Approximately 60 members attended the fourth annual OLLI town hall meeting. President Pat Carroll began the meeting at 10:00 by welcoming everyone and reported on developments related to the agreement negotiated between the Mason Foundation and the Osher Foundations pertaining to endowment payouts, which are now far more favorable for us. He said Mason-OLLI relations were excellent and noted there has been little progress on the University-Based Retirement Center (OLLI's future home), now projected to be ready sometime in 2012 at the earliest.

Executive Director Thom announced that Debbie Halverson had accepted the job of Membership Committee Chair. He noted the Board has extended support for the Loudoun OLLI program through calendar year 2009, which reflected a general change in the Board’s interpretation of its broad mission to make learning for older adults more widely available in Northern Virginia.  Thom gave an overview of the proposed 2009 budget and then led the group through a discussion of our "PMI" (pluses, minuses, and interesting ideas) and elicited some responses from the members:  
  • P (Strengths):
    • Program (i.e. courses, activities, and sense of community).
    • Outstanding staff and volunteer leadership.
    • Active participation by Mason and by volunteers.
    • Location - close to DC talent, affluent community.
  • M (Weaknesses):
    • Turnover - members leave in large numbers, almost all for personal reasons (some discussion of this; some felt cost/benefit analysis played a significant role even though they wouldn't admit it to the OLLI rep who asked why).
    • Parking.
    • Limited classroom space.
    • Shortage of volunteers (Thom mentioned the 80-20 Rule, saying we aren't any worse than other organizations).
    • Traffic - difficulty getting between campuses in 30 minutes. No public transportation access.
    • Abbie Edwards complained about the habitual drop-off in attendance, felt it was embarrassing for outside instructors.
  • Interesting (Opportunities/Challenges):
    • Membership Committee Chair Debbie Halverson is planning to set up hobby groups, such as board-game clubs, so there will be more fun things to do, especially in the off-season.
    • Bob Bohall suggested we come up with more year-round activities and courses to make greater use of off-season time. Since transportation is an increasing issue, we should encourage car pooling and seek volunteers to transport members who can no longer drive.
Following the PMI discussion, the Development, Program, Membership, Finance and Communications Committee Chairs provided updates, noted volunteer opportunities, and asked for feedback.
The membership raised the following issues during the meeting: 
  1. Open houses are a huge amount of work -- are the results worth it? Thom said he thought there was value to the process even if the number of new members is relatively low. However, we will need to decide if it is worth spending significant amounts on advertising or direct mailings since "word of mouth" continues to be the most common way to bring in new members.
  2. Growth -- why pursue 1,000 members when we are bursting at the seams as it is? Thom and Pat said growth would primarily be at locations other than Tallwood. We had to continue strong recruiting efforts to ensure we make up for the 30 percent loss rate every year. And if we hit 1,000, we can apply for another $1 million endowment from the Osher Foundation. Both stressed that we were not pushing hard to reach that level.
  3. Loudoun: OLLI member Nick Cirillo argued the case, which he raised in a letter this week to the Editor of OLLI E-News, that OLLI should not subsidize Loudoun -- they should be self-sufficient. That led to a lengthy discussion of how much we owe Mason and what Mason receives in return. The Treasurer challenged Nick’s impression that the OLLI Board intended from the beginning to cut Loudoun loose as a separate LLI as soon as we got them established. Someone noted that Manassas and Sterling were much too far from Tallwood to be united with our organization, but Thom noted that we will continue to explore possibilities of expanding our relationships in those areas.
  4. FOLLI donors list in the catalog: a few members objected to the inclusion of names of members who have donated to the Friends of OLLI. The intent was to more publicly recognize giving by OLLI members and to encourage more participation in giving to meet needs not covered in the operating budget. Most attendees seemed to think it wasn't a problem. Bob Bohall suggested it be inserted only once a year. Ben Gold suggested we publish a single list without the levels of giving.
The executive director distributed index cards for the purpose of collecting written suggestions from meeting participants. Four cards were returned with comments and ideas.

The meeting adjourned about 12:20 and everyone then enjoyed the wonderful refreshments and Halloween decorations provided by the Hospitality Committee in the social room and annex.
Prepared by Gordon Canyock, Treasurer 2008-2009
Updated: November 5, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University. Materials in this publication subject to OLLI-Mason copyright may be reproduced for noncommercial educational purposes as long as credit is given to OLLI-Mason.
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