Well, here we are heading into another year of service in our respective communities. As I mentioned in my remarks at the Grand Ball, I would again express my appreciation for the outstanding work of the host committee and their volunteers. The people of Newfoundland, and in particular Gander, proved once again that they are a special group. Their wit and zeal for hosting Elks functions, be it a district meeting or a national convention, is second to none. So on behalf of all the delegates, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Newfoundland Elks members for hosting the 2019 Convention. I consider it a great honour and privilege to be acting on behalf of the Canadian Elks membership as your National President/Grand Exalted Ruler for the ensuing year.
This year will be a critical one for our organization. As the delegates heard during the budget debates at convention, we find ourselves in a position whereby if we do not stop the trend of declining membership, we will have to make some tough, and probably very unpopular decisions as a National Executive.
We need EVERY member on board to do their best in finding new people to join our organization. The issue of declining membership is no longer the problem of the E.R, the Lodge Membership Director, the Association, or the Grand Lodge; it is up to EVERY member. If we are to survive, we need every member to take responsibility, and every member to attempt to bring in at least one new member this year.
Declining membership lately in a large part is unfortunately, the death of a lot of our long standing, elderly members. This, we have no control over. However, and most concerning to me, is losing existing members. This trend is usually the result of disrespectful treatment from other members, poor leadership, or a feeling that the Lodge is stagnant and not doing anything. We all need to remember why we became Elks, and remember that we are all volunteers.
My theme for the 2019/2020 year is “THANKS FOR CARING”. So, what does this mean?
It means that we care about each other, we care about our communities, and we care about what the Elks do. Without this caring we have no reason to join, partake in meetings or fundraisers, or help others. I firmly believe that if we tap into the hearts of our family, friends, workmates, etc., this is the key to getting new members to join the Elks.
Demonstrating (not just talking) to a new person unfamiliar with the Elks, that we ARE a caring group of people who help others and have a lot of fun doing it, is what will get people interested. There is still that perception in the communities we serve that we are still an old boys club, so let’s dispel this myth.
When you bring a new person to a meeting, it is very important that the Lodge Executive also invite someone within your community you have helped to attend and tell their story. The potential new member can then hear for him/herself how the work of the Elks changed this person, or this person’s family so that their life is now so much better. This will ‘touch the heart’ of the new, potential member in such a way that they may want to join, and be part of such a caring group of individuals.
The last thing potential or existing members want to be exposed to at a meeting is infighting, dissension, and overall disrespectful behaviour. Who would blame members for wanting to leave an organization where all the members do is fight? There is nothing wrong with a respectful, healthy debate, but when it turns nasty, that type of behaviour will cause people to leave. And, quite frankly, this is unacceptable behaviour unbecoming of an Elk.
This is where good, strong leadership comes into play. Good leaders control the headstrong and encourage the timid to speak without fear. As a member of this organization we take an obligation to treat all members with respect and dignity. As leaders of this Order, we have to remember that each member has something to contribute, and we must be respectful of this. No idea is too small or insignificant for consideration which could eventually contribute to the success of your Lodge. So, be kind and look for the goodness in all members.
Your National Executive have some challenges this year with our membership. To address this concern, we have already proposed some changes, and have also asked the Past Grand Exalted Rulers to assist in coming up with ideas in how we can increase our revenue stream.
To assist in this year’s operating budget, significant cuts to our operating expenses were made, but there is only so much we can cut other than some of our social programs. As our programs are seen as ‘sacred cows’, the executive feels that we need to look for additional revenue outside of the affiliation fees, in order to continue to deliver our programs.
We have also initiated an ‘Operational/Organizational’ Review Committee, chaired by Immediate Past Grand Exalted Ruler, Brother Ron Potter, to review our current practices and provide recommendations to ensure we are operating at maximum efficiency. It is my sincere hope that we can reverse the trend of deficit budgets, and start to grow again.
I am looking forward to travelling across Canada this year, and meeting many of our dedicated members. It is my sincere wish that the discussions I have with the members will reveal the pride they have in their work as Elks, and that they will share their ideas on how we can improve our membership and our Order.
I also hope that I have the opportunity of meeting some of the families we have helped with our good and charitable work, once again demonstrating that Elks are a proud (Elks Proud!) and caring organization.
So, from my heart to yours “THANKS FOR CARING”. Keep up your good work, and hope to see you soon.
Yours in Elkdom,
Elks of Canada