Do we expect too much of too few when it comes to the operation of our lodges? Is there any wonder why we burn people out? This concept changed in our lodges about 20 years ago as membership dropped and we pivoted toward an all-volunteer business model, but is this model sustainable? It might be sustainable if we have a steady supply of new members to run things, but what happens when we the boomers are played out (the youngest are now 51) and we must then seek new members from Generation Y, the millennials? I guess we will have our answer in about 10 years, won’t we? So, do we just ride out what we are doing today and hope for the best, or do we plan, posture our lodges for the next generation, control what happens and have a say so? The latter will require a little work and the former a bit less. Will we watch what happens and be proud or will we watch what happens and then wonder what happened?
Two things that will always matter are money and members, neither of which we seem to ever have enough of. The business philosopher Jim Rohn once said, “money is usually attracted, not pursued.” The same could be said for our members; they too should be attracted, not pursued. Think about this a minute: our money and our members being attracted, not pursued.
Now let’s look at our business practices and apply the attracted versus pursued test to them starting with our members. Let’s see, we award members for being top recruiters. Are these gained members attracted or pursued? We offer financial discounts to former members who reinstate their membership during certain times of the year. Are these gains attracted or pursued? We rush people to a commitment to meet a deadline for number counts. Isn’t this also pursuit? When was the last time your lodge held an open house to attract and educate potential members about membership in the Elks? I’m not talking about handing out brochures at a community event and hoping someone will call or about obtaining a one-time open-to-the-public liquor license for the day to hold an event at the lodge to pursue customers for our cheap drinks. What I’m talking about is a planned event held at the lodge where pre-qualified prospects have been invited to learn more about being an Elk, where the orientation videos are played (yes orientation videos – why is this reserved for an indoctrination-type event after they have already decided to join?) and prospects are exposed to the obligation they will be asked to make to their lodge and community. I’m talking about an activity held to attract new members with like minds and attitudes who are willing to give of their time and who understand there is a financial commitment to supporting the lodge with more than just their lounge and restaurant dollars.
The next generation is all about quality of life and lifestyle. What are we doing in our lodges to attract these types of individuals? They will not be interested in drinking our deeply discounted (ok, cheap) wines and yesterday’s beers. If we want to attract them, they are going to want options. They are not going to come to the lodge and be the same people week after week tasked with doing all the work. They are going to be up at 6 a.m. to do a charity fun run, catch their grandchild’s Little League activity at 10 a.m. and then come to the lodge to assist with the latest lodge project while socializing with others who too have already had a busy day! We must share the burden equally among many and not the few as we do today! We do this by attracting members to what we have and not what we want them to build!
Then there is money and I am not talking about the cash flow that barely supports our bar and restaurant operations. In fact, it could probably be argued that most of the time it does not! I’m talking about the attraction of money as an investment in the proliferation of the lodge. Money to cash flow the operations will forever be pursued until such time that we operate as a business. This would mean pricing, service and quality all on par with those we compete against every day! There is a reason drinks are priced the way they are in a restaurant. That doesn’t mean our prices need to be that high but they could sure stand to be higher! Then we could focus more on attracting customers, our members, and we could then compete with our nicer facilities and even be open more! Our forever focus on fundraising is a turnoff to many and often keeps them out of the lodge. This is because they feel pursued. Our focus should be more on attracting those who wish to give and participate!
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.