Five Changes you can Make Today that will Give your Lodge a Fighting Chance
Membership in the Florida Elks peaked in 1990 at 93,213 members. Twenty-nine years later our membership has fallen almost 40% and stands at 55,285. In 1990 we had 127 lodges today we have 95. Of the 16 lodges added since 1990 only seven remain as stand-alone lodges, the other nine were forced to merge or have someone merge with them to survive. Since 1990 we have lost 47 lodges. In 29 years we have eked-out four very small membership gains, and each was erased the following year. These statistics are reflected in the Elks nationally and in fraternal/service organizations the country over. So, what have we learned from all of this? Will the 30th year since our membership peaked be a repeat of the same? Or, will 2019 be the year of the turnaround?
In the many years I have studied membership and the lodge dynamic, including even the human factor, I have written often about my thoughts on what it will take to turn the ship around! Short of another world war, yes our 45 years of growth began in 1945 after WWII, WE are going to have to right the ship and I know that trying to make it work with the numbers we have is not the way! At best and doing the same old, same old, in 10 years our membership will be down to 45,000 in 76 lodges. Today we are at 55,000 in 95 lodges. If we were a corporation the 19 under-performing lodges that would take us to 76 would be closed today, and many believe we would be better off shedding those 10,000 members! But shedding dues paying members is not good for the bottom line and will just cause the lodge to have to raise even more money to support the ever-burgeoning fixed costs of maintaining the building and subsidizing prices at the bar. We all know the same 20-25 people do all the work in the lodge anyway so to think we don’t have just dues paying members today is preposterous.
So, what do we do? We focus on five main themes, five long-term and sustainable fixes using the leadership and members we have today.
- Get a handle on the lodge finances, understand where every penny comes from and where every penny goes.
- Ditch the ER appointed House Committee and let the Elective Officers & Trustees run the lodge and house.
- Re-elect your ER and make service as ER a two-year term, even longer if you find a good one.
- Eliminate all the ancillary meetings, they are burning-out the officers & turning away new prospects.
- Adopt a Member Bill-of Rights – we must stop the membership revolving door!
- Get a handle on lodge finances. Few of us understand the lodge audit and tax return. Make a deal with their preparer to schedule a delivery conference with the board and interested members to explain in layman terms what all the numbers mean and where help is needed. Treasurers and secretaries must develop QuickBooks reports that are accurate and meaningful to those making operational decisions. If you aren’t getting them demand them and if elected personnel haven’t the ability hire them done!
- Ditch the House Committee. Can you say politics? No room for this, we must run our business like a business and it requires continuity!
- Repeat ERs. Elect good ones to start with and this will be easy! No business can survive changing the CEO annually. We are a business and we no longer run officers through the chairs to get their experience.
- Way too many meetings. Elect capable, business-minded officers and trustees then let them run the lodge. An officer or trustee should chair every committee and engage members. Force members to become an officer if they wish to RUN the lodge! Members should attend meetings to stay informed and to provide the checks and balances. Trust but verify!
- Give members the right to be just dues paying members if that’s all they desire. Therefore, every lodge should raise its dues. Most members are just dues payers so if that’s all they want to do have them contribute more to the bottom line. The 25 doers in the lodge contribute way more in money than just their dues. Spread the burden and quit making the 25 raise all the money to operate the lodge. Dues should provide every penny to cover the fixed costs of the lodge. Every activity that opens the lodge doors MUST pay its way. Every lodge related hall usage or rental MUST contribute to the additional costs. The bar and restaurant must produce a profit and get not a penny from dues. Heck if we did this we could lower dues! Dues can’t be set by just taking today’s total expenses and dividing it by the number of dues paying members since most every lodge is subsidizing the bar and restaurant.
We must allow members to be members first then put them to work. Teach them our ways and it will stop all the bickering and mistrust. Our current model of putting them to work on day one causes them to quit. By throwing them to the wolves on day one they become frustrated and they soon see that’s all we wanted!
Five main themes, five long-term and sustainable fixes using the leadership and members we have today! We can do this if we try and when others see us solving our challenges from within they too will want to join us and become a part of the success!
Let’s debate this! Invite me to your lodge or District and let’s explore these ideas together! Better yet, become the role model for success and let’s share what worked and what didn’t!
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 and let me know how your lodge is overcoming the obstacles to growth and change. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.