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Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049
352-669-9443

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We Derive Strength from Unprecedented Times Carl Seibert

It is April 21 and I must admit that I have never felt as challenged to write my quarterly column as I do this time! I have taken the liberty to be the last column submitted in hopes that we might by now have a little more direction on when our lives can return to a sort of normalcy. The planner in me is completely disrupted by all the uncertainty!

A lot has happened in such a short amount of time. As business owners (yes, our lodges are small businesses), the outlook is challenging since there are no deadlines. How long must we wait? Do we dare gather again soon or are we better off remaining virtually together for the time being?

We have addressed our loneliness by using technology, but oh how we miss not hugging each other!

We have been thrust into the world’s largest virtual social experiment where we had to hold meetings to conduct business online, share our knowledge online and work together online. True, it is an abrupt change for our “business,” but are we embracing it as the opportunity it is, and are we getting creative and seeking out new ways to address member and community needs?

Look how we have come together in just the past few weeks.

  • We donated the food in our walk-ins to community food banks, first responders and health care workers.
  • We took care of our infirmed members and others who were forced to become infirmed.
  • We virtually installed our new lodge officers.
  • We used technology to hold lodge meetings and board meetings, etc.
  • We have sent e-messages to our members to address payment of dues even amidst the crisis.
  • We assured our members we will reopen when it is safe.

Because of the more senior age of many of our Florida members, all indications are that it might take months before our members feel it safe to return to a pre-COVID-19 lifestyle. For this reason, we must continue our focus on developing new models for our lodges so we can be ready for what is to come. We must:

  • Embrace technology.
  • Become more accepting of non-in-person interactions that still help our members feel included and involved.
  • Permit the paying of dues online as well as making donations, supporting events, and paying for food and drinks – basically, improve our online platforms.

Many of us have been forced into a world where we order takeout and groceries online for either pickup or home delivery. We have “attended” a visit with a doctor via our computers or phones. We have all become more tech savvy and this is a good thing!

Developing an online community for our members has enabled us to become more inclusive of our members, helping them feel more a part of our lodge and our care! We must continue to be there for our members especially when we can’t be with each other physically!

No one can predict today what the world will be like one month from now let alone one year from now. We must adopt a flexible mindset to be prepared to deal with whatever comes our way!

The introduction of the online technology for lodge secretaries, CLMS, took a lot of longtime secretaries out of the game. The Grand Lodge is now introducing the same for lodge treasurers. We cannot allow the challenges of technology to affect us as they have in the past. We must embrace technology, master it and make it a part of our lodges going forward. When we reopen, it cannot be a return to business as normal. This exercise should help us better understand where the gaps and vulnerabilities are in our business. Were we ready for an abrupt business interruption longer than a hurricane? Were our financial reserves enough to weather the “storm”?

How many lodges discovered when they tried to communicate with their entire memberships by email how disheveled the email list was? Just last article I proposed a solution to member communications. Perhaps now it will have even more meaning significant enough that I will share it again:

An idea I have often suggested for improving communications with our members is what I call divide and conquer. A lodge of 300 members usually has 30 dedicated members. Take the membership list and draft 30 teams chaired by one of your 30 (10%) devotees. Use the full membership list and rotate the selection of team members among the captains allowing each team captain to select their team. In the end, each of the 30 will have nine members they are tasked with keeping up with. Imagine the camaraderie that will develop as each team captain learns how each of their team members wishes to be communicated with! It is my belief that email, texting and Facebook are not working and are not enough. They are not inclusive of everyone! We can’t expect non-officer members to go to our websites to become self-informed. Phone calls are a thing of the past unless the person being called wants them. We think we are great communicators because of social media and instant messaging but I believe (and I am guilty of it, too) that we are worse communicators now than we have ever been before. Perhaps in 20 years everyone will use modern methods, but today, as we work to retain both our new and longtime members, we must determine how each individual wishes to be communicated with and then communicate with them in that manner! Nine people to keep up with is nothing and what have we got to lose? Poor attendance at meetings and events? Burned out volunteers? Loss of money?

The input of 300 people will always produce more solutions than the input of 30. Once our members feel like they are part of the solutions to challenges, they will no doubt feel more involved and will feel as if their opinions really do matter. We just might find a renewed sense of belonging among our members and that can lead to them proposing their friends and families for membership – a win-win for everyone!

The need to communicate is not a one-way street! Every member should contact their lodge to ensure that the lodge has their correct address, phone number and email address. Become a proactive part of your lodge community! Let them know you wish to be a part of this new norm!

Our lives have been threatened and our lifestyles restricted. Our economy has been wrecked and so too have the personal security and income of almost everyone!

Imagine a restaurant that was not at least experimenting with takeout and delivery. It might be hard for them to recover from this. We have already heard of several apparel retailers who are seeking bankruptcy protection and the outlook for many mom and pop businesses is bleak.

We have the time to revisit our operations. We must create plans to put into action as soon as the economy reopens. A welcome-back party is but just one part of a comprehensive reopening strategy! We MUST be a strong community ourselves before we can contribute to the community of others!

Elks are strong, we are resilient, and we are patient!

Learn how to grow and heal together. We will emerge stronger; this I know!

Please visit https://floridaelks.org/carls-corner and join the conversation by logging in and posting your comments.

Carl Seibert, COO/State Secretary

Florida State Elks Association