For Elks lodges, the toughest leadership test is now upon us — how do we bring members back in an environment where a COVID-19 vaccine is still under development and our economy is still reeling? The turnaround will require innovation. It will require building a cohesive team, and it will require leadership both in the management of our lodges and among our members. Recovery is NOT just reopening and doing things the way we have always done them; it is the reimagining of everything we do and how we embrace our changing member expectations that will determine if our lodges will come back strong!
The establishment of a new normal for the lodge is well underway. So, too, should be the reimagining of your lodge operations. While at this inflection point, you must reset the way your lodge team cooperates and not allow it to serve as a U-turn that leads back to familiar routines.
However, if your lodge is searching for positive outcomes from the crisis, you are on a path of reimagination and that is the type of positive outcome you will need. If you need to start down that path, how about hosting a workshop about “lessons learned in a pandemic,” complete with Zoom participants?
There are a host of new challenges facing our lodges, things such as muted demand, new expectations from our members, and new operational challenges because of health and safety restrictions. With these in mind, here are a few ideas to help you lead your lodge’s reemergence.
Recovery of Revenue
Speed matters. Even while not back to full strength, it will not be enough if your lodge plans to recover its dues and revenues gradually as the crisis abates. Has your lodge made a concerted effort to connect with members who have not yet paid their dues? I am not talking about a mailed dues reminder or even a letter reminding our members about the good things we do for the community. What is needed is a genuine conversation with our members who are delinquent in their dues, explaining to them why THEY matter to our fraternity and not just their money. This, I believe, is the touch it will take to show our members that we truly care about them and we want them to remain a part of our family!
As club operations ramp up, have you done anything to rethink your operating model to include those who are not comfortable with coming back into the lodge? How about a remote sales model providing curbside pickup for meals or even home delivery? Are you allowing your members to experience an event at the lodge remotely, complete with event favors and the occasional shout-out to those at home? Our members really appreciate being included and I am sure they would understand a small surcharge to cover the added cost if it allowed them to feel wanted and a part of what we do.
New operations present new challenges such as packaging costs for meals to go, decreased sales of high-margin alcohol, and added costs of complying with new hygiene and safety protocols. Just the cost of cleaning supplies and disinfecting wipes alone have gone up in price and are hard for us to buy in bulk. This must factor into our pricing decisions and might also need to encourage buying cooperatives among lodges and districts to assist in buying in bulk and lowering costs.
Has your lodge reached out to other organizations that may be struggling to adapt to the new normal? Perhaps there are some nontraditional collaborations we should be considering, some “we help you; you help us” partnerships!
It’s the now-or-never moves that need to happen before the full recovery starts — targeted campaigns to win back the loyalty of our members. We must tell them how we are evolving the membership experience with a focus on increased health and safety. Our pricing and promotions must be based on post-recovery data, not old standards. We must only spend our limited resources on proven successes, and we must train our sales forces (think 50/50, QOH sales, etc.) to support remote selling with flexible payment options.
Many of our lodges offered Zoom meetings throughout the crisis and perfected their skills not just in inclusion but in social listening. Now that we have members utilizing these channels, we must use it to our advantage. People who had never used a fast-food ordering app or home delivery of groceries are now experts at it! Don’t think for a moment that corporate executives are not planning new innovations on these platforms. So should we, in a way that allows our members to be heard as we personalize our member offerings. Make Zoom planning and problem-solving a new norm in your lodge!
We cannot wait. We must be already engaged in creating new innovations that strengthen our links to our members and our communities!
Our comeback will take time and will not be complete when it comes time to select our leaders for the new year. Our officer election process must also evolve, especially since our new leaders are oftentimes newer members. We must place a premium on character and results rather than on expertise or experience. As we invite new people into our lodges, we should always be on the lookout for members with leadership potential and not just people to fill the bar stools. It is also time for our more long-standing members who have taken a step back to reimagine their roles in this process and mentor our new leaders not in the way we have always done things but in the values of Elkdom we hold so dear. We must allow our new leaders to experiment with new ideas, but we must also hold them accountable for being responsive to our members while also creating value in a membership.
The Road Back
Our dream should be the dream of possibility! When we portray ourselves as being an organization that is with the times, we will win our members back and invigorate new ones! Business as usual will not be nearly enough — the game has changed too much. But by reimagining how we recover, operate, organize and use technology, our lodges can set the foundations for enduring success.
How is your lodge reimagining itself? Please visit https://floridaelks.org/carls-corner and join the conversation by logging in and posting your comments.