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Our Challenges are Many, but they can be MetCarl Seibert

In my last article, I proposed a case for the badly needed support of our lodges and their financial stability, a case designed to achieve profitability and one that required the inclusion of every member of the lodge. Here are the highlights:

  • Involve all members in the solutions to the challenges of the lodge.

  • Gather the business-minded members of your lodge and immerse them in the understanding of all operations.

  • Gain member buy-in for operating the lodge and club as a business and profitably.

  • Begin a maintenance fund for lodge repairs and beautification.

  • Understand the bar and restaurant are not THE “lodge” but rather it is the members and their well-being.

  • Grow membership based on a financial commitment to the upkeep and support of the lodge.

We are now preparing for the election of new leaders in our lodges and what better time than now to ask those declaring an interest in joining or extending their tenure on the leadership team their positions on the above ideas. For sure, if your current leadership team is not addressing these concepts or have not attempted to involve the membership in a lodge sustainability program, I ask, should they be continued on the leadership team? Is the status quo a sustainable strategy for your lodge?

We are now preparing for the election of new leaders in our lodges and what better time than now to ask those declaring an interest in joining or extending their tenure on the leadership team their positions on the above ideas. For sure, if your current leadership team is not addressing these concepts or have not attempted to involve the membership in a lodge sustainability program, I ask, should they be continued on the leadership team? Is the status quo a sustainable strategy for your lodge?

But you say we can’t get anyone else to take on these leadership roles. What now? Refer to bullet point item number one above. Have you involved ALL members of the lodge in developing a solution to this problem? My guess is that most don’t even know this problem exists. If you can get more than the customary 5% to 10% of your membership involved in solving the problem, maybe, just maybe, someone in the group will have an answer! This begs the next question. How do we get more than the customary 5% to 10% of our members to even show up? Let me begin by suggesting that you NOT hold an emergency membership or town hall meeting. This signals impending doom, and many would probably be ok with that! Remember, you have allowed them to be only dues-paying members for years. If you signal your need for them to do something, they will for sure not show up! This is where you hold a member appreciation function at the lodge, a member forum to update them on new and exciting changes coming to the lodge. Create an excitement around the event and make it positive and enlightening; make them not want to miss it! Maybe even hold it over several events or days to eliminate the bad date excuse. Tell them you are trying to get EVERYONE into the lodge for the event and create an expectation of attendance! Take roll call! Cover all reasons not to attend including that of being unable to drive or requiring assistance. Form a committee of dedicated members who will drive them to and from the lodge and even have a contingency for those who simply cannot or will not attend. Take the event to them or involve them through a phone call or email campaign. Settle for nothing less than 100% participation!

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! Speaking of our membership numbers, statewide and over the last 15 years our lodges have initiated an average of 5,313 new members each year! That is great, indeed, BUT we have lost an average of 5,803 members each year through their nonpayment of dues, many of them members for less than three years. No matter how you look at it, that is a net loss in membership, a revolving door so to speak. Over the past five years I have begged Exalted Rulers to find a way to remove that revolving door from our buildings, but few have succeeded. Instead, we bring new members in, we work them silly, and then we wonder why they stop paying dues as they figure out that working in a restaurant was not what they signed up for! Nowhere in the Elks does it say a lodge must contain a bar and restaurant. You know what? If your volunteers are burned out and no one wants to step up to operate a restaurant, close the restaurant. Anyone who is joining for the cheap food and drinks is not joining for the right reasons anyway! Few lodges operate the bar or restaurant at a profit to begin with, so to think their patronization of a money-losing or, at best, a breakeven operation, is helping the lodge is ludicrous! All the while the facility incurs wear and tear on its building systems and equipment and no profits are being reserved to pay for their repair or replacement.

There are just too many options in the world today for dining – a restaurant on every corner, meal kits, restaurant meals and groceries delivered direct to the home, and healthy eating. No wonder we are failing and failing miserably at operating restaurants! Even with volunteer help (must I say more after reading the preceding paragraph) we are failing miserably! There have to be other options, and one size will not fit all. Every lodge is unique and made up of unique individuals. Each must solve anew its problems for itself. And before you get too excited about leasing your kitchens to a proprietor, this strategy is not for the faint of heart! There are MANY obstacles both operationally, legally, risk-assumption wise, and tax related to mention a few. I beg you to consult a qualified attorney before getting too excited about this option as the barriers to success are many!

As you elect your officers, I beg you to vet your officer candidates and demand inclusion of all members in the understanding of and subsequent solving of lodge challenges. Demand that your officers attend the training opportunities afforded them by the state association and require that they take initiative to learn and understand their jobs. Recently, through the efforts of Rachel Wright in the state office and supported by a think-tank made up of select lodge secretaries, a secretary resource page has been established on the Florida Elks website. A similar resource is being produced for lodge treasurers and that effort will be followed with a resource for Exalted Rulers, etc. We are also working to supplement our online resources with training videos starting with a series on reading financial statements. These resources will be available to all members and are being developed to help satisfy one of my mantras – if we don’t make these “volunteer” jobs easier, no one is going to want them! Being willing to self-educate, a desire to learn and initiative are key qualities to demand of those you elect to the leadership positions in your lodge. Elect them and then hold them accountable!

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

 

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Florida Elks News Editor:
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Entire contents copyright 2018 by the
Florida State Elks Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049
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In order for the Grand Lodge to support the transportation needs of attendees with disabilities you are urged to contact the Grand Lodge if you require special assistance. Special coaches capable of kneeling to accommodate wheel chairs will be placed along the routes for those in need. If you require assistance please contact Tina or Jessica at the Grand Lodge as follows:

TinaH@elks.org

JessicaR@elks.org

 

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