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Membership News
Membership News: Searching for Success Stories

By Faith Quinlan, CT State Grange Membership Director

  DECEMBER 1, 2020 --

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor  the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.  Charles Darwin, 1809.

This month I met with my new Membership Committee. There is a representative from each Pomona and they are active, intelligent and diverse women who helped kick off the meeting with great suggestions. I am pleased to introduce my team, Barbara Prindle, Mountain Laurel Pomona; Karen McDonald, Nutmeg Pomona; and Shelley Cameron, Eastern Connecticut Pomona.

Based on this meeting I will be reaching out to all of the Community Grange Membership Chairpersons. I will share resources for their use, instructions for how to use all the tools and resources that are available to increase membership and  community  participation, plus gain more exposure for their events. The committee would also like to learn more from the Granges that have succeeded in gaining new members this year. Sharing some of the stories about how members come to us, where they are from and what drew them to find out more about the Grange  can  be  helpful in our efforts to speak to what people like and create membership opportunities.

A special surprise  I  received in the mail  this  month  is  a letter from Joe Stephenoni, National Membership Director, congratulating 5 Connecticut Granges for a net growth in membership at their Community Granges. I am forwarding those congratulatory letters and they should arrive at those Granges soon. Unfortunately, though some of our Granges succeeded, our state saw a net loss of 95 members, a 5.56% loss. Not all of the country is doing poorly with their membership growth. Oregon State Grange led the states with a net gain of 54 new members. Nationally there was a net loss (no figure given), of course a trend all states are fighting to change.

Through my research about what experts have to say behind the continued  decline  in  membership for fraternal organizations, the answers are always the same.  I have  mentioned them  to  you  all many  times  before. What I am actually searching for is a success story. I  want  to  share  how  an organization  made  changes  and turned things around.   Below are a few excerpts from an interesting and   slightly   optimistic   view   of fraternal organizations that are finding  a  way  to  maneuver through  the  challenging  world  of membership.  This article is from www.ABCNews.go.com .  Article written by Marc Lallanilla on October 25, 2007 titled, “Can Civic Groups Like Moose, Elks Survive?” “The Chicopee Falls Moose Family Center in Western Massachusetts is one example of an organization that has successfully fought to earn its place in the community. “It was a dark, no-windows-in-the-building place,” administrator Bruce Adams said of the all-male, beer-drinking, clannish nature of the lodge.  Now, the Moose Family Center has full wireless Internet access. Free computers are available for children and adults. The club also sponsors 15 soccer teams for boys and girls. These days, according to Adams, “there are many times when you can come into our center and there are more women than men here. We provide activities for the entire family.”

“We’re not your grandfather’s Moose Lodge,” said Adams.

The Chicopee Falls Moose Family Center also supports the community by providing athletic fields and other support to programs that have been slashed from local schools’ budgets. The group also recently  gave  $25,000 to the local public library, Adams said. And Adams’ approach seems to be working. Total membership, which hovered around 1,100 in 2001, has since swollen to over 2,000 members.  “This is why younger people want to be a member here -- because we’re helping our community,” he said. “Soccer moms are joining, soccer dads are joining.”

“The Group is also considering a membership-at-large status, which would allow people to join without requiring attendance at regular meetings. This new level of membership, however, has not yet been approved or implemented by the Optimists.

The Thinning Herd

For some smaller chapters of the Elks, the Moose and other groups, where fewer than a dozen elderly members struggle to keep a club operating, efforts to boost membership may come too late.

This leaves some experts asking what, if anything, will replace these groups?”

My hope is that WE will be what replaces these groups. The groups that are unwilling to change and adapt. I am so proud of the people who have been stretching out of their  comfort  zones  and  trying the Zoom meetings and other new technologies. That willingness to grow keeps us all young and flexible and get us to our evolution to be relevant and growing during the 2020 decade.


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