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?
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!
Has anyone noticed just how much technology has creeped into our lives these days? I sure have, and I have also noticed how much technology has creeped into our Elks lodges! Think about it. The Secretary manages membership and dues through a computer program (CLMS), the Treasurer keeps the books through a computer program (usually QuickBooks), the bar and restaurant sales and inventories are managed through some sort of point of sale (POS) program, and on and on!
Fortunately, I am young enough to have the resolve to embrace technology and wonder how I lived without it! On the other hand, I am old enough to remember my many years as a Lodge Secretary and remember when membership and dues tracking were done on ledger cards and when the Treasurer actually reconciled the checkbook by hand!
Is it just me or does it seem like our American way of life has been under increasing attack as of late? Just this week alone, we continue to reel from the antics of the NFL and their players demonstrating against honoring our flag and those who sacrifice(d) for it and now the politicization of the horrific murders in Las Vegas! When will the insanity end?
As an optimist, I am always on the lookout for us as Elks to turn misfortune into opportunity and believe it or not, I think there is gold to be mined in these turns of events!
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?