Dissension & Retention: Membership is More than Growth

Every year someone stands before your club, the District or the Lions state membership and discusses how we need to grow membership.  While that is certainly true and we all want new members, especially younger and more vibrant members, we cannot ignore the value of retaining the members we have in our clubs now.  This article is going to focus on something we ALL must address if we are to stop reducing in size as Lions: the loss of our members and the role that dissension in our clubs is playing in that loss.

Why We Lose Our Members?

Since this is an article, I cannot ask for a show of hands.  If I could, I am confident that the room would be full of hands when I ask this question.  How many of you have ever wanted to leave your club because of disagreements, arguments or political plays and controlling behaviors going on in your club?  Have you ever wanted to leave because of a member who makes things difficult for other members?  What about dreading attending meetings or events to avoid specific members?  That is what I mean when I say “dissension” in your club.  It’s having constant disagreements with nothing to show for it.  Someone is always upset and it’s usually the same person(s) creating the tension.

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are not alone.  I have spent the last 2 years working with clubs over what I refer to as “personality” issues.  These are problems that arise because one or more members of the club cannot or will not work with the others in the club.  I know I have made that sound very simple when their problems are much more complex.  Some of these clubs have lost many members and some clubs have split off completely.  Sometimes, no matter what the District leadership says or does will provide a mechanism for a club’s survival.  It is up to the members of the club to work together, or not.

Why Did You Join?

Let’s go back to the beginning.  Why did you join the Lions?  You had a purpose.  Was there a project or event that drove you?  Were there friends you wanted to share time with volunteering? Did you have a passion for a specific need that we, as Lions fill?

Everyone who joins a civic or community service or outreach program has a reason for doing so.  It’s important that you know your reason and that it was for the right reason.  I am going to be very open and honest here.  If your reason was NOT to help others in the community or others that we serve, I am not sure Lions is for you.  If your reason is not STILL to help others in the community, take a look at what changed and when that changed.  We need to focus on getting that back.

It’s Not About You

I love our club, our District and the Georgia Lions.  I love the part that I play in each role I have taken to make it better (hopefully).  But it’s not about me.  It’s about those WE SERVE.  And right now, this article is about you and your club.  This article is about helping you take a look at your club, your board of directors and your members to ask: who are we serving? Are you serving your ego? Your need to be correct? If that is the case, and we have ALL done it (just ask my wife), try one of the following things next time you catch yourself in a meeting:

  • Take a step back before responding
  • Say the following: I think we should all lay our ideas out and think about them until the next time we meet
  • Let’s all agree to allow the other person to speak freely without talking over one another
  • Could I suggest that we vote by secret ballot since this is a hot and contested subject
  • Abstain completely if you are too emotionally involved

It takes strength and courage to do these things.  But Lions are known for strength and courage in the face of adversity.  It is why we are an organization that accepts members by invitation only; so that we can accept the best of the best and those who can make the difficult decisions.

I am always here for anyone who needs help.

PDG Mark Rice

District GMT Coordinator