We all know that volunteer organisations have a financial bottom-line, but for us there is a far more important “bottom-line”; our membership. If we think about it, when a “for-profit” organisation wants to get a job done, they rely on their staff, contractors and suppliers. Every new job means a new role, and a new cost.
When Lions has a new task to be done, we call for our members to put their hands up. Almost every job in our organisation is carried out by a volunteer! Whether that be direct community service, training and leadership, publicity, or management; we are lucky to have talented and generous people that devote their time and committment to continuing the good work of our Association.
So where do young people fit in? The question of course, is ‘where DON’T young people fit in’. Its great to have legions of loyal and skilled members who have been with us for decades – they are the engine room of our organisation. They know us through-and-through; how to administer a club, how to get a project going, how to quickly mobilise in an emergency, and who to talk to in the community to make things happen. This is an extraordinary resource that we ought to celebrate.
We also know that if we don’t fill the younger ranks of our organisation, in the near future we will struggle to match our past achievements.
Our new, younger members don’t simply bring their labour. They bring their expertise, ideas, creativity and networks; that will not only help to grow and develop Lions, but ensure that our brand of community service remains current and relevant within a continually changing community.
There is a lot of interest in developing our Leo movement; and this is something we ought to encourage. In Australia we are very lucky to have many clubs that are active in developing Leo clubs around Australia. Leos are one of the ways more experienced Lions teach and share with young people the core principles of our organisation – about the benefits of giving-back to the community, about civic pride and about giving generously of your time to benefit those most in need. We ought to feel positive too, based on the real-world experience of our clubs that are developing Leo clubs, that young people DO want to contribute. They are also very good at it because ‘looking after your mates’ is a very important and fundamental part of that stage of our lives.
We also should acknowledge the growing contribution of our younger Lions (some of whom are also Leos).
I read this wonderful story, in the Townsville Bulletin, shared in the District 201Q2 newsletter, about one such contribution.
“With three percent of their members over the age of 65, Laura Batts
is a rose among Townsville Lions Club’s membership ranks.
The 23-year-old uni student has been involved in the club
for as long as she can remember, but as the youngest member, she wants to get
more youngsters on board.
She will today join her fellow volunteers at Centro Shopping
Centre, outside Kmart, to try and increase the number of people involved in the charity club.
Lions membership chairman Trevor Gray said it wasn’t just
younger people, but men and women of all ages, who were needed at one of the 17 Townsville based clubs, two of which are Leo clubs, for members aged under 30, plus an all-female Lioness club.
…and Ms Batts said she wouldn’t give up her time spent with
the organisation for anything.
One of our realities is that Lions used to be a younger persons organisation. Many Lions started in their 30’s and have given a lifetime of service to their communities. It remains very possible and achievable for us to become what we once were. An organisation of young Australians and an organisation where our family life is inter-mingled with our Lions life.
As we encourage more younger people to join our organisation, the challenge will be for us to change it to become relevant and engaging to those newer members. It’s no secret as to what that new type of club is likely to be like:
- less ritual
- less formality at meetings
- more acknowledgement of new contributions
- fast-tracking of younger members into leadership positions
- more diversity in age and culture.
What always remains, is the core part of Lions work, those things that led us all to join. An organisation that is practical and community-service focussed, that is friendly and fun, that works to help the most needy in the community.
Are you a Lion, a Leo or interested in membership development. We welcome comments below.
Photograph courtesy the Townsville Bulletin