In the past week, I had two separate conversations about the issue of change with two active and engaged members. They have similar backgrounds, with 10 plus years as members, and having served in leadership roles in the club, district level and beyond. The conversations however were strikingly different, and reflect the challenges we face as leaders of Sertoma, and of our clubs. In each case, the focus of the conversation dealt primarily with the issue of growth.
Both members are and rightfully so, concerned about the lack of growth in our membership. We all agree that since the early 1990’s Sertoma as a whole has been losing more members than it recruits, and disbanding more clubs than it Charters. It is also, they shared, a trend that cannot continue. It was at this point, where the conversations diverged down very different paths.
One member is concerned that “all the changes” in the past decade was driving people out of the clubs, and keeping new members from joining. The other member was frustrated that in light of all the need and opportunity to change – their club refused to do anything “different” and was faster than the national average going away. The club offers nothing to encourage others to join, and no real reason to stay.
I asked, each to help me understand their perspective about change. To be fair, we have made changes in Sertoma, – changes that have affected the Board, and the focus and operation of the headquarters. Yes, Sertoma made some changes to address issues with the IRS and our tax status. My concern is – what changes did Sertoma make (or not make) that changed a club’s activities, or experience to drive members out or keep them from joining?
It is too large a discussion for a blog, but a discussion I hope others will consider and continue with their own members and clubs. For example – what is the impact of making hearing health our mission? We know that is not the primary mission for some clubs, but as an organization, we need a shared mission. It is what allows us to build brand, awareness, and ultimately support and participation. It is not required of any club – but is there any advantage to being involved? Does this change offer opportunity, or is it restricting growth?
This is only one example, but in the end – the question that each of us needs to ask, “Is my club not growing because of what Sertoma has changed, or because of what my club has failed to change?” I don’t have an answer to that question –how each member and club responds to change in his or her community, or in Sertoma will influence that member’s perspective. In the end, that will determine if we become victims or the masters of change. Either way it will be what defines our destiny as an organization.