Sunday, February 19, 2012

What's Happening at Service Clubs (A Guest Blog)

Since I’m helping celebrate my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday, I invited association executive Jim Nagel to write a guest post about the decline in membership in Service Clubs (SCs). Here are his thoughts ...

“What the Hell happened to Service Clubs?” “Why the quick (or not so quick) steady decline of membership?” My response was “Why don’t people use buggy whips anymore?”

Service Clubs, via staff, societal events (911/Katrina) and spotty volunteer leadership has had every opportunity to reinvent themselves. Sadly, no one did. Some tried but their own model prevented success.


So, if these organizations are no longer relevant or have a place in communities what does that mean for volunteerism? What does it mean for the communities they serve? Is there a replacement like a WalMart for Sears?

Let me ask you some questions to ponder and would love YOUR thoughts:

  • Since most SCs are located in small towns in North America and small towns are dying, the government will have to provide the “extras.” Will they, given the economic times?
  • Did air conditioning, television, and especially the internet make these models obsolete? How has the recession impacted you?
  • Knowing things were changing, women began being allowed to join these groups in the late 1980’s. SC's really never adapted to this change. Why not?
  • What are the benefits of being in a SC today vs 25 years ago when membership in these organizations were at their height?
  • The aging of SC’s have created a leadership vacuum. Their boards look like a retirement home rather than the diversity of the Starship Enterprise. We want young people ... just not in leadership positions? How do you fix? Can you?
  • SC’s have not embraced social media to attract their own children or grandchildren. Most SC’s and associations are static noise. They are still catering to a demographic that does not use social media much. How do you convince somebody who still has the time light on their VCR blinking that QR codes have a future?
I interviewed Seth Godin about SC’s some time back and asked him if Service Clubs had a future. I was impressed that he had done his homework and told me “if they don’t change, tell them to enjoy the ride.” Are you enjoying the ride or is somebody taking you on one?

Finally, all the questions above are real challenges not only to SC’s but associations struggling to engage younger people to join and older ones to adapt. We live in very interesting times. The entire subject of the movie Midnight in Paris deals with nostalgia..I recommend it as a must see. Living in the present rather than thinking the Good Old Days were better….Woody Allen at his best.

So let me ask you this – “Is your association living in the present or looking for those Good Old Days to return?”

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