Spring is in the air and a new lodge year has begun! The officers have been trained and installed and the year ahead remains a blank manuscript with the story yet to be written! So, what will the story of your lodge be? Will it be the equivalent of “steady as she goes?” Will you be singing the song “We’re in the Money?” Or, are there “storm clouds on the horizon?” One thing is for sure; the lodge is headed somewhere and regardless of where that is, the path taken to get there will make all the difference!
There’s a commercial running on television right now promoting Beaches and their all-inclusive resort vacations. The music in the commercial comes from a song by Erin Bowman titled “Good Time Good Life.” In the refrain, she sings “they’re all about a good time, you’re all about a good life.” Every time she sings “good time,” the pictures on the screen are of kids having fun, and every time she sings “good life,” the pictures are of parents enjoying their good life! What better message to convey about a family vacation than good times for a good life!
Now let’s relate the song and message to an Elks lodge, an Elks lodge where members come wanting to have a good time and where the officers and doers are all about sustaining the good life. Perhaps in charting the course for the year, the way in which we embrace this aspect in our lodges will have everything to do with making it just another year or growing the Elks life.
Too often when we sell membership to a new prospect, we sell the steak but not the sizzle. We get them to that one breakout event that sells the good time, but we fail to mention the part about the obligations we have elsewhere and the things required to maintain a lodge. How can we continue to provide the good times if we don’t pay attention to the good life? The members who attend our good-times functions and who bring their friends and neighbors love our food, drinks and fun, but to many of them, the Elks are just there to entertain them. As soon as the next fun thing pops up at the club across town, our members are there just like they are when it comes to their next vacation! Left behind at the lodge to tend to the life that allows us to provide the good times are the same 20-25 people in every lodge who are the worker bees – the officers and volunteers who attend to the business of the lodge; the members who hold the fundraisers needed to remain charitable; the people cleaning the kitchen, inventorying the food and taking out the trash; and the people who will one day say enough is enough and move on to become part of the good-times bunch! The cycle lasts only a few years and then repeats itself indefinitely. Can we not see that our members are leaving out the back door as quickly as we bring them in through the front? Can we not figure out a way to balance the good times with the good life?!
It starts when we recruit new members as we sell the life of Elkdom. Our solicitations MUST include a discussion on what it takes to maintain the lifestyle. Would our car hold up if all we did was pay for gas to make it run? Of course not; we must also wash it and keep it clean and we must maintain it and service its components. We must put more into it than just what it takes to make it run. In a private country club environment, the members are often required to spend a certain amount of money at the club each quarter or pay an equivalence if they don’t. Your time-share maintenance fees and assessments: do those pay just to make up for those who don’t pay their fair share, or do they also pay to maintain the building and common areas? How about your church? Do you think when they put last week’s shortfall in the weekly bulletin and provide a status report for the year that they are just doing it to be transparent? Of course not; they are efficiently communicating the reality of their operations in hopes that the congregation will dig deeper in the future to make up for the shortfall!
How does your lodge communicate the financial need of the lodge to new members? Do we apologetically tell them what the dues are and then feel so badly about the cost that we neglect to tell them that dues only make up about 25% of what it takes to operate the lodge? Are these members even remotely made to think that they will need to shoulder some of the burden for helping raise the money needed to make ends meet?
How many members have ever even seen their lodge’s budget? Isn’t it high time that we start mailing a copy once a year to every member with plenty of detail that explains what it takes to maintain the lodge? Our accountants each year include an amount in our financials for depreciation but how many of our lodges actually bank that money into reserves to anticipate air conditioner replacements, roof replacements, hurricane deductibles, etc.? Isn’t this a cost of doing business? Shouldn’t this be a part of the operations we budget for?
If we could just double the size of the working group in each lodge, that 20-25 people who do it all, can you imagine the effect it would have on the lodge?
Every year at our officer training seminar I speak often with the new officers about two things. I talk about the need to begin on day one training their replacements and I talk about adding new people to the lodge operations team. Our lodges are too large and far too complex to be run by just a handful of people. We need more working hands and we need people of differing backgrounds with differing opinions. If all the people on the team have the same mindset, there are a limited number of solutions to the problems, but by bringing in more and diverse opinions, the solutions to our problems become limitless.
Those of us who are only about the good times had better start thinking about the good life we enjoy as Elks. We must become more than just a patron at the bar or an attendee at an event. We must all share the burden of operating the lodge both physically and financially and we must act soon to lift the burden from the few who are shouldering it now and tiring quickly. As membership in clubs and social groups continues to decline, so will our lodges. The Order of Elks was built on social interaction and benevolence toward one another and mankind. It will not survive in a virtual world much to the chagrin of the new generation!
The good times and a good life can coexist but only if we give each the respect each is due!
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 working to preserve the good life! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.