I'm Perplexed and You Can Help!
One of my responsibilities as secretary of the Florida State Elks Association is to always be on the lookout for ways to improve our lodges, our committee work and our major projects. In this endeavor, I am constantly talking with our members to understand what makes them tick, why they give what they give, and what works and what doesn’t. There is one thing, however, that I cannot quite figure out, so I am going to use this article to see if I can get a conversation started through which I hope to obtain a better understanding of the issue. Please read through to the end and if inclined to comment, I will provide options for doing so!
One of the things we should all be terribly proud of as Florida Elks is our longstanding reputation for service to others, especially our children and veterans, and, more specifically, our two outstanding major projects – Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services and the Florida Elks Youth Camp. We forever strive to connect our members to our major projects so that they may duly share in their successes, but for some reason I suspect that many of our members would not rank our major projects as one of the aspects of membership they prize most. And, if I ventured further with my suspicions, I would guess that most feel little or no obligation to support our major projects financially. It is the latter which puzzles me most, and this is what I seek to better understand. My question is this. If you are a financial supporter of our major projects, what motivates you to do so? If you are not a financial supporter of our major projects, what motivates you? Is there anything we can do to motivate you to become a supporter? What things have you heard that support your decision to give or not give?
We are now in the third year of a campaign to more equitably distribute the funding requirements of our major projects across our 55,000-plus members instead of amongst only our 94 lodges. Our motivation is based not just on the successes other nonprofits are experiencing with sustained (monthly) donation programs but also on the need to lift the obligation off our lodges so that lodges can hold their fundraising events to support local needs. Dollars that remain local in the community are newsworthy and improve a lodge’s ability to attract and retain new members. We are all familiar with the saying that charity begins at home. With that, we do not disagree! The member-based fundraising goal for our state major projects is $1 million each year. Currently we are raising only $750,000. This is raised mostly through lodge-based fundraising and donations. If only 4,386 of our over 55,000-plus members would give just $19 per month, we would meet this goal and relieve our lodges of any need for major projects fundraising. These 4,386 members represent just 8% of our over 55,000 members statewide and equate to only 47 members per lodge on a median basis. Forty-seven members donating an average of $19 per month – sounds easy, doesn’t it? Then why are we having so much trouble finding these 47 donors per lodge? To date, we have only 134 monthly donors. That’s less than two per lodge, but these donors do way more than expected! The average of their donations monthly is $23.65 and we have donors giving as little as $2 per month up to $150 per month! At these rates, we would raise $1 million per year with only 3,524 monthly donors, or 38 per lodge! So, where are we missing the boat? What is keeping our members from becoming sustaining (monthly) donors? What are we doing wrong in our marketing of this program? Why are our lodges not seeing this program as an easy way to meet their per-capita obligation each year instead of having to use prime fundraising events to meet the obligation? Wouldn’t a lodge be better served to use their fundraising events to support local initiatives instead of state initiatives? A picture in your local paper donating money to a local cause would provide a lot more local credibility than a picture of you donating money to our state major projects. People in your community will be more apt to join with you when they see you keeping the money local.
So maybe this is the first you have heard of our sustaining donor campaign. Believe me, getting started could not be any easier! Simply visit our website at www.floridaelks.org. In the upper right corner of the website, hover over the word “Donate” and when the page peels back, click on the donate button. Complete the required information and don’t forget to click the “yes” box on the line where it says to automatically repeat this gift every month. That’s it; you are done! You are now a sustaining (monthly) donor and a supporter of both our major projects! Your donation is now on autopilot and your credit card will be charged for your monthly donation each month like clockwork. Your name will be printed every quarter in the Florida Elks Magazine declaring you a sustaining supporter of our major projects! Now, and this one is entirely up to you, but the next time someone in the lodge asks you to donate to the major projects, tell them you are a sustaining donor and that you already give! Go further and tell them that they can give, too, and work with your lodge to obtain the donors you will need to remove this obligation from the lodge. Then, adjust your fundraising events in the lodge to support local needs once your obligation to the major projects is being met through some very dedicated members of your lodge! Also, don’t forget to show these members your appreciation as they have now put you in a great position to support your community and gain new members! Even your lodge can become a sustaining donor as can nonmembers.
I do hope I have moved you to act, and I hope that action is to become a sustaining donor or to increase your donation if you are already a sustaining donor. If this is not the action I have moved you to, then I hope your action will be to share with me why you are not moved to become a sustaining donor or what I/we can do to earn your trust and become a sustaining donor. Let me know you joined and you will get a personal thank you from me!
Please visit https://floridaelks.org/carls-corner and join the conversation by logging in and posting your comments. Should you prefer not to participate this way and because I seriously want to hear from you, I am taking the unprecedented step of welcoming your comments via email to me at email@example.com. Your opinion matters, so please let me hear from you!
Carl Seibert, COO/State Secretary
Florida State Elks Association