It’s time once again for the annual update of our statewide membership numbers! To borrow a phrase from last year’s report, we were once again “so close.” Last year we were just 209 members (0.37%) from a statewide membership gain and this past year which ended March 31, 2016, we were just 315 members (0.56%) away from a gain! We have certainly slowed the pace of our losses and maybe, just maybe, 2016 will be the year we record our first significant gain since 1991! Congratulations to everyone who helped contribute to our success this year! We start the year 55,536 members strong!
Well it seems like I say this every year, but just when I think it can’t get any better, it does, so, again this year I will say that in March we held probably one of the best Officer Training seminars ever in the history of our association!
Here are a few of the comments we received from the participants:
- Had a wonderful experience as a first-timer. Thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the training. Excited to get back and share with my lodge.
- My head is swimming! I learned so much; so glad that I came. I feel more confident in my new position.
- Very informative with vast information.
- Very good presentations. Questions and answers informative and useful for future problems that will arise.
- The speakers were very dynamic; great topics and presentations.
- Great. This is the best meeting I’ve been to in seven years!
Each year we get better and better at providing education and training on running an Elks lodge, but more importantly it seems, each year we are getting better and better attendees, attendees not coming in with an agenda, attendees not hung up on issues that are no longer issues except in their never-going-to-change minds, attendees who truly embody leadership, and attendees who are dedicated to our core Elks principles!
As elections go, I believe this year’s were mostly without controversy and many positions went uncontested! Numerous lodges are reelecting their Exalted Rulers for a second consecutive term and when you have a good one, why not? As a general commentary on our elections, could it be that we have finally gotten word to the group at the Legion Hall waiting for the currently seated Elks officers to fail, to stay there because their negativity is no longer welcome? Could it be that we are telling the members who feel they are doing the lodge a favor by serving as an officer that we’ve got this and they too are no longer needed? You know, when we elect officers who want to serve and want to do their best and want to get along with others and who see the need to operate the lodge responsibly and as a business, it just seems like the lodge becomes a much friendlier place to be! This quickly turns into members more willing to patronize the bar and restaurant and attend your functions and even volunteer, and the big even, even attend your meetings! Isn’t this how an active fraternal and patriotic organization is supposed to act?
Then there is our community involvement! In my travels to lodges and districts and having attended a few awards functions this season, and in my general correspondence with Elks throughout Florida, are we just a little proud of the results we are beginning to see from our pivot toward more active involvement in our communities? Did the Grand Lodge and especially our Past Grands from Florida score a solid victory for Elkdom when they approved all of the new grant programs that most of our lodges are participating in? Bob Grafton said it years ago that we needed to get out in our communities and be seen as the people we are, volunteers working to better our communities. He said if we do that it will result in new members. It’s happening, folks! We are evolving into THE volunteer organization for the 21st century! In my estimation we still have a few more trying years ahead of us, but if we continue to bring the right people into our lodges and at the numbers we have been doing so, we should in a few years see the exodus from non-payment of dues slow down a bit, as the members we are losing are the ones who don’t like our success! But, back to the grants, we must be careful in our use of these grants lest we lose our focus on the ultimate goal, that of increasing membership. Danger number one: If we are not careful, as the community finds out the Elks have money we will just become a bank for others! This is no different than what I have cautioned about just giving away money. Regardless of how well-meaning your donation is, demand something in return. If benefactors of our wealth refuse to become members or at least support the lodge in other in-kind ways, are they really worth our investment? Many of us belong to several service/fraternal organizations; they can, too! Don’t just accept no for an answer. Walk away with the cash and find others more worthy! Danger number two: not branding the project as an Elk event. The true success of the grants strategy will be measured by the sustainability of our projects, their visibility and their association with the lodge. We must not allow others to just take our money to fund their projects and exploit our volunteers. Over the last couple of years we have asked the Lodge Secretaries to list their lodge major project when completing their updates of the lodge data with the state office. As of now, and when you subtract out the lodges that name the Harry-Anna Trust, Elks National Foundation, and the state major projects as the lodge major project, you end up with about four out of 10 lodges with a major project. Filter that a little more and take out the very generic projects such as veterans, breakfast with Santa, food gifts for the needy, etc., and you have just a handful of lodges that actually have a true Elks-branded lodge project, something they run, something they fund, and something their members do. This is what will give your lodge structure, this is what will build the lodge and this is why people will join your lodge. They want to be as proud of your lodge project as we are of our Youth Camp and Therapy Services state projects. It’s a project only your lodge will be known for, a project that is ongoing and substantial, and a project you can hang your hat on! It is one that makes the lodge who you are and what it is!
We can do this! Things are turning in our favor. We are gaining clout in our communities so we must now make our statements and create our futures! It starts with leadership in the lodge and cooperation from all involved. When these things align I believe we can be unstoppable!
I want to close with a little news from the state headquarters, an alignment of our own so to speak. Many of you have probably already heard that we have done a little restructuring of our operations at the state level as a result of the doubling in size of our operations over the past 15 years! We see this trend continuing over the next 15 years and as we grow, our business needs grow, too. Slowly we have been growing the infrastructure upon which our growth has been based including our resources and staffing. This past February, there was lent a little more formality to this growth and I was named the Chief Operations Officer (COO) for the operations of the Florida Elks. I will also remain as State Secretary. Many of our operations benefit from a coordination of resources and the efficiencies that result from this coordination. Going forward, for reporting and coordination purposes, the Directors of our Youth Camp and Therapy Services have become a part of a management team rounded out by our Director of Accounting; our Director of Marketing, Communications, and Brand Management; and myself. Already we are building the synergies by which we will continue to grow our projects and operations, and I think you will be happy with the results! I am humbled by the faith that has been placed in me by the leadership to lead this new effort. However, our continued success will be accomplished only through the talent of all our staff and the contributions of our many volunteers and supporters!
My aim in these articles is to inform, educate and instill a sense of responsibility in our success. I do this by sometimes offering ideas that are not your normal run-of-the-mill thoughts and ideas. We are not perfect and sometimes we have to look at ourselves as others see us before we realize the need to improve. So how am I doing? Let me know what you think! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.