Written by Brother Kevan McBeth, Executive Director - Elks of Canada
My wife Cheri owns a photography business here in Regina, and a few years ago she joined a Facebook group that connected her to people from across Canada and the US. Each year, these ladies get together at one of their houses and they spend the weekend visiting and taking photographs in different locations. This year, Cheri is hosting the event, so as of last night, we had guests from Oregon, Miami, Winnipeg, and Texas in our home. I had never met any of these women before, so one of the first questions they had for me was "So Kevan. What do you do?"
I told them that I work for the Elks of Canada, an amazing fraternal organization that serves Canadian communities across the country and supports children through our national charity, the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children. Many of them had heard about the Elks from their interactions with the Elks in their own communities in the US and in Manitoba, and we talked about some really amazing things that the Elks have done in their communities, like supporting over 200 children in one community in Oregon who are so vulnerable at the moment, they can't afford to eat on the weekends - so the Elks provide them with food through a community food bank programs.
The funny thing is, that lately, I have been talking to a lot of people about the Elks and when I share what we do and how amazing some of the things our members are doing in the community, people are intrigued and want to know more. A couple of the people we talked to recently are even fired up enough that they want to start Lodges in their communities! How's that for awesome!!
Changing the way that we talk about ourselves.
But here's the problem- we don't always tend to lead with the "awesome" when we are out in public and people say "so what do you do?" or "how’s your Lodge doing?”. We tend to focus on some of the negatives that are happening around us. “Well….our membership is down.”, “We can’t seem to find enough volunteers.”, “We don’t have as many people as we used to”. These are all things that we hear ourselves say on a daily basis. In fact- if you Google Elks of Canada, and look at the newsfeed, you’ll see that the majority of the articles and pieces that feature Elks leaders in our communities, we talk about how we are “dwindling in numbers” or “just trying to survive”.
Now, I am not saying that this isn’t true- the truth is that our membership is lower than it was 20 years ago. We have lost some great Lodges along the way as well. And My guess is that, unfortunately, we will lose more in the coming years.
But is that the whole picture?
I certainly don't think so. In fact, when I talk with many of you, I hear the passion in your voices- I see the pride in your posture and the smiles on your faces when you talk about what's happening in your Lodges. But, I will admit, there are times when I have to wait a bit and hear about the things that are going wrong before I get to hear about all the things that are going right in your Lodges.
We need to change that negative tone that we've been leading our conversations with, especially when it comes to representing ourselves our local communities, media and (especially) to potential members. As potential prospects of our Order, would you join a Lodge if what you heard was "our numbers are dwindling", or "We don't ever seem to have enough volunteers"? I think most people would run away as if their hair was on fire after that kind of pitch.
Let's start to lead our conversations with awesome.
What if, instead of telling people the story of how our numbers may be getting smaller, we do something different. We lead with how awesome the members we have are. We lead our conversations with some of the amazing stories that we have about local Lodges doing incredible things for their communities. How about we start our conversations with the fact that we donate millions of dollars to children with hearing disabilities and the provincial programs that support them? We need to start leading our conversations with our Awesome.
Show them what it means to be Elks Proud.
This is why we started the Elks Proud movement- to get us all re-focusing our thoughts and our actions behind what is really important. About WHY we are all here.
When we have a chance to share who we are, what we do and why we do it, share with people your stories, like the ones that we've shared recently on social media. Give people a glimpse into the pride and passion that you have for your organization. Speak to people about the things that get you excited about being an Elk. Show them that and the rest will take care of itself.
And when we start to do that as an entire Order, we’ll begin to feel that sense of pride in our Lodges and ourselves, and that pride will spill over into our communities and attract those friends and colleagues to the Lodge. When we lead with awesome, I promise you – more awesome will follow.