This year, International Lions President Joe Preston has challenged every Lion to “Just Ask One” person to join our association. This effort has been successful so far, as over 1.38 million members are now officially on record. This represents a net gain of 19, 997 this year. However, there are still districts that are losing members faster than new people are joining; and by the end of the year, our net gain will likely be reduced unless we strengthen our efforts to invite new members.
There is one solution that all club leaders can use to prevent a net loss; and that is, we can “Just Keep One.” Retaining our current members is just as important as inducting new ones because our current members often become disinterested because they may not feel needed or that their help is appreciated. One way we can renew the commitment of those who are thinking about dropping out of the club is by finding ways to recognize their service and hard work. Recognition is key to membership retention.
Recognition is “the use of skill and imagination to show appreciation.” There are two types of recognition: formal and informal. Most clubs provide some formal recognition through the awarding of perfect attendance pins for those who come to meetings regularly or certificates of appreciation for serving on the board or on a committee. The District and Multiple District also provide formal recognition for those who contribute to Lionism beyond the club level.
But informal recognition is also needed because there are times when a pat on the back or an encouraging word may be all that is needed to keep a member involved. All kinds of recognition are needed: completed tasks deserve recognition; high quality work performed deserves mentioning; and sometimes people just need to be recognized for who they are.
Everyone needs to be noticed and feel relevant. Recognition motivates members to continue their active involvement and signifies the respect of their fellow Lions. As members are recognized, they gain self-confidence that they can complete tasks; and they continue a pattern of committed service.
Providing recognition also has benefits for the club. When members are recognized, they are willing to work harder together. This increases club service productivity. Recognition also builds club cohesiveness as members celebrate the successes of their peers. As the pride of the members grows, their positive contributions gain status in the community. As the status of the club grows, potential members are drawn to the club, thus increasing membership.
You would think that everyone would agree that rewarding members is worth the effort. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why club leaders are not using recognition as much as they should: Leaders claim not to know how or have the time to recognize the efforts of others; some don’t believe in giving awards and believe that people don’t really want recognition; others feel awkward and uncomfortable being creative with awards; some fear that members will stop working once they are rewarded for their service; and some believe that since no one recognizes how hard they work, they should have to recognize anyone.
While everyone is entitled to an opinion or excuse for not recognizing others, the reality of the situation is this: Lions are volunteers who give of their time and energy because (1) they believe they can make a difference in the life of those they serve, and (2) because they can contribute to strengthening their community. What better way to keep their spirits up and their dedication strong than by recognizing them formally or informally at the club level.
Lions Clubs International has developed recognition strategies to help club leaders motivate and retain their members. Here are a few of their ideas:
1) Think outside the parameters of formal recognition and come up with some fun ways to recognize your members for their hard work. For example, if someone comes up with a “bright” idea, surprise them at a meeting with an energy saving light bulb and a thank you for their contribution to solving the problem.
2) Determine what motivates the recipients and provide that as your award. If one of your members has been driving someone regularly to get therapy or treatments, consider presenting a $10 gas card as a way to say thank you.
3) Make sure the form of recognition is appropriate so the member is not embarrassed or ridiculed. While the award can be funny, make sure you are not making fun at the expense of the recipient’s feelings in the process (e.g., framing an embarrassing photograph of a member and presenting it publicly at a meeting).
4) Make sure the recognition is genuine. If you are giving an award, make sure your intent is sincere and that you had a purpose for giving the award. Don’t give an award without a reason because it will take the meaning out of the recognition.
5) Be specific in what you are recognizing so you can make your award fit the effort. If you value someone’s time spent on a project, you might use a calendar and mark some days when the volunteer can take time off.
6) Make recognition a habit. For example, think about things they can say: “Thank you for your work.” “We really appreciate you!” Consider ways you communicate your recognition to others: Put something on the club website, in the local paper, or in a personal card or note to the volunteer. Build recognition time into club meetings: Have a “Lion of the Week” or “Lion of the Month” and recognize a member for something special she or he did to help the club or those in need. Have some fun and create some unique awards that only your club presents to its members.
As we continue in our Lions year, I encourage every club leader to become more focused on recognition as a way to retain members. Model the Lions Code of Ethics and build up your members and not destroy them. If you are successful in changing the environment of your club, your members will enjoy the recognition and remain active and vital members.
Kathy and I continue our international service over the coming month with visitations to Springfield, Missouri; New York City; Mobile, Alabama; Minot, North Dakota; and Saint Catherine’s, Ontario. At every stop, we find the Lions we meet to be great examples of service and commitment and we recognize as many leaders and workers as we can. If you’d like to know more about our visits, please go to our website: http://www.littlefield4lionsid.com.
Best wishes to all who serve.
ID Robert Littlefield