Jay Copp 2012-12-10 23:58:54
Survey of Lions shows why clubs flourish Why are some Lions clubs growing and others shrinking? What are the characteristics of clubs with satisfied members? Why do some clubs have dissatisfied members? Answers to these questions emerged from Project Refresh, a global membership study by Lions Clubs International. LCI coordinated results from a survey of 7,800 Lions in 134 nations with membership data, revealing why some clubs are stagnating or in danger of disbanding while others are flourishing. LCI’s membership records show that the size of a club matters in its long-term survival. Clubs with less than 15 members are less likely to survive beyond 10 years. Fifty-seven percent of clubs in North America with 11 to 15 members last another decade; that number for clubs worldwide is 53 percent. In contrast, 71 percent of clubs in North America with 16 to 20 members survive beyond 10 years, and the chances of survival rises as membership increases. For example, 90 percent of clubs with between 31 and 35 members last beyond a decade. The survival rates for new clubs improved for those that chartered with more than 25 members. In North America (figures were comparable worldwide), 61 percent of new clubs with 25 or less members when chartered survived a decade. That figure jumped to 70 percent for new clubs that began with 26 to 30 members and increased to 83 percent for clubs with 41 to 50 members. LCI undertook Project Refresh because of stagnating membership: three of five clubs did not grow in 2010-11 and a third did not invite a single new member. Glass Box Research Company in Chicago undertook the survey. North American clubs are doing relatively well in welcoming women. Just 14 percent of clubs in North America have no women, compared to 25 percent of clubs worldwide. Also, 43 percent of clubs in North America are more than 30 percent female, compared to 37 percent worldwide. On the negative side, the location of clubs does not match the population grid. Seventy percent of clubs in the United States are in rural areas, where just 41 percent of Americans live. “Lions are particularly underrepresented in suburban areas. So this represents a big opportunity for Lions,” says Shad Thomas, president of Glass Box. The membership data also reveal this unsettling demographic: Lions in North America have a uniform age profile regardless of their location. In rural areas Lions are predictably older, matching the population, yet Lions in suburban and urban areas also tend to be older, unlike the general population. For instance, about half of adults in urban and suburban areas are under 50 years old; however, only about 20 percent of Lions in these areas are under 50. (Underscoring the importance of this age discrepancy, a primary reason Lions quit is lack of younger members, as reported in the Nov. 2012 LION.) “We know from our survey that in larger cities half of those interested in volunteering are under the age of 44. So we need to find ways to make our clubs attractive to them,” says Ken G Kabira, group manager for Membership, Programs and Communications. Kabira suggests that district extension teams and Guiding Lions purposely target members under the age of 45 in populated areas to learn what kind of volunteering they want. So why do Lions become Lions? Eighty-six percent of survey respondents said it was to serve their community. Fifty-seven percent said it was to participate in a specific service or cause, and 41 percent said it was to be with friends who were already members. Matching membership data with survey results, LCI discovered that 27 percent of North American clubs showed both stable/growing membership and high member satisfaction. (The global average was 32 percent.) Lions were defined as satisfied if they agreed that they enjoyed being a Lion, took pride in being a Lion, received a sense of accomplishment from service as a Lion and responded positively as well to six other assessments of their experience. These successful clubs, called Gold Clubs, were then compared to the clubs, called Blue Clubs, that either showed member dissatisfaction or declining growth. Interestingly, the Gold and Blue Clubs differed in size, the former averaging 34 members and the latter 23, but were similar in terms of gender, age, marital status, presence of children, education, work status or income. The survey further revealed that Gold Clubs broke down into three types, and Blue Clubs clustered around three separate frustrations. One type of Gold Club was family oriented , wanting to involve the children and families of members in service (not to be confused with Family Membership clubs). The second type of Gold Club displayed a social orientation wherein members said their club has regular meetings that allows for socializing, is very welcoming and makes a member feel as though he or she belongs. The third type of Gold Club was the philanthropic: members said their club provides valuable services that directly help others and raises significant funds for charity, but their interest in the fellowship aspect of club life was not as strong as family-oriented or social clubs. Members of the Blue Clubs identified their frustrations thusly: 30 percent generally indicated they wanted more support, 25 percent wanted better gender balance and 19 percent wanted improved openness. Those characterized as wanting more support wished their club had more members, wished they were more knowledgeable about services of other clubs, wished district leadership provided more support and inspiration and wanted to have a mentor. Those characterized as wanting better gender balance did not necessarily say their frustration was about the number of women in their club but wanted their club to equally involve men and women and wanted more women to serve in leadership roles. “So this data about women is not just about quantity but more about the quality of the experience our female Lions have. It’s about leadership,” says Kabira. Those characterized as wanting improved openness said they wanted more protections in place to ensure club funds were used properly and more protections to ensure that club elections are run fairly. So the frustrations centered on transparency. After completing the survey, LCI held focus groups with Gold Club members to assess how these clubs dealt with the issues that vexed Blue Clubs. In terms of finding support, the Gold Clubs tended to be proactive. “They actively used the internal and external support and resources they could access,” says Kabira. Clubs found support through strong leadership within the club, or members held district or international positions that lent support. Clubs also availed themselves of zone and district resources and LCI resources. Gold Club members in focus groups showed a mixed attitude toward women and equitable behavior. Attitudes ran the gamut: some valued women highly, others somewhat valued women as Lions and some resisted gender equality. Gold Club members distinguished themselves more in fostering openness. Regarding elections, nominations can be made by any member, positions are available to all and a “next-in-line” approach is avoided. Elections also involve advance notice, formal ballots and open results. In terms of governance, monthly financial reports are shared, books are readily available and multiple signing authority exists. Also, key decisions are made by a club vote, and officers change yearly. The survey showed a gap between what’s important to Lions and what they experience, especially among Blue Clubs. The biggest gap was in finding ways to involve children and families of members: this was important to Lions but relatively few Lions said their club did well on this score. The second biggest gap between desire and delivery was incorporating a sense of fun into service. Gold and Blue Clubs members showed little difference in their regard of Lions’ rituals and practices such as the Lions vest, pin exchanges, Lions songs and cheers. Is wearing a vest important? Thirty-seven percent of Gold Club members said it was, 48 percent said it was practiced but is not important and 15 percent said it was not practiced. The numbers for Blue Club members were 33 percent, 55 percent and 12 percent. Is a cheer/roar important? Nineteen percent of Gold Club members said it was, 50 percent said it was practiced but not important and 31 percent said it was not practiced. The numbers for Blue Club members were 19 percent, 51 percent and 30 percent. “Our customs and rituals are beginning to lose relevance to many of our members,” says Kabira. The survey of Lions shows that ample opportunities exist for increasing membership, given what Project Refresh’s survey of non-Lions revealed (October 2012 LION). In fact, the preferences of non-Lions for service loosely match the three types of Gold Clubs. Nearly 40 percent of non-Lions surveyed are interested in volunteering. Some want to involve their family when volunteering–matching the family-oriented Gold Clubs. Some want a volunteer experience with networking opportunities–matching the social Gold Club. Some are interested in volunteering for specific causes–corresponding to the philanthropic Gold Clubs. A major takeaway of Project Refresh is the need for clubs and district governer teams, as well for GMT and GLT teams, to be sensitive to member satisfaction, says Sue Haney, manager of LCI’s Extension and Membership Division. “Being a Lion is an experience. Clubs that offer satisfying community service to their members are our future,” she says. She recommends clubs use the tool “How Are Your Ratings?” on the LCI website to assess and improve the experience of members. Making service central to clubs also is a lesson from the survey. The Community Needs Assessment tool, also on the LCI website, helps clubs more effectively serve their community. Because the number two reason Lions joined was to participate in a specific service or cause, this tool can identify potential new members and valued hands-on projects. Finally, LCI’s Club Excellence Process helps clubs get better by developing action plans. “CEP is not just for clubs with issues. In fact, chances are it will help even more clubs that are doing well,” says Haney.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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