2016-09 From the President: Summer Retreat Discussions...

Over the past few years many of us have had conversations about the future of UMRA and what the organization does for U of M retirees. Should there be a strategy to grow more members and become a much larger organization with eventually a possible need for hired staff? Should it maintain the current membership level with possible small growth using only volunteers to accomplish the mission? And of course, what else might UMRA offer to members in the way of programs, activities, and benefits is always an important topic.

The UMRA Board, under President Jean Kinsey’s leadership, held a daylong retreat in mid-August to discuss these questions with the goal of arriving at direction for the Board’s future deliberations. The focus of the discussions was on membership strategy, involvement, and outreach to the larger community.

The Board jointly agreed that a key outcome of UMRA membership should be a sense of community and camaraderie. Creating that community should be a guiding principle for the Board’s work. Involved are communications, lunch meetings, and interest-centered groups.

The monthly newsletter and the website are our primary means of communication. The website has been re-vamped and can now accommodate up-to-date announcements and has the capacity for blogs.

The survey that was sent to all members prior to the Board retreat showed that members value the monthly luncheon as one of the most important activities for this sense of community. However, some lunch attendance has been at or above current capacity, which means we can’t always accommodate everyone who wants to come, and the room has become quite crowded. The board plans to review the luncheon format.

Several members have agreed to look for other activities and events that would help to build community and perhaps also ease some of the pressure on the luncheons. Currently UMRA has a photo club and one book club, which are interest-centered. Members might be interested in other, less formal, activities, such as: happy hour gatherings, less formal lunch get-togethers, another book club, a travel club, and opportunities for off campus gatherings such as attending plays or concerts together. Committees are being formed to investigate both creating additional engagement opportunities and identifying alternative venues for the UMRA luncheon-speaker events.

Please know that as members you are welcome to join any of the work groups that will be addressing the issues of how to create a strong community for our University retirees. In future newsletters I will highlight the Board’s discussion at the retreat regarding UMRA’s relationship with the University.

— Donna Peterson, UMRA President, 2016-17 dcp@usfamily.net