Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt 2012-12-11 00:24:48
Get in the Game Fun Competition Can Result in New Members The McGregor Lions in Minnesota had long been a strong presence in their small community of about 400 residents. But recently the club’s membership was dwindling— so much so that they had difficulty staffing their annual Corn Feed. The Lions needed a new plan to breathe life back into the club before it was too late. Lion Don Pearson remembered an idea his brother, a Lion in Arkansas, had shared with him, and brought the concept to the McGregor Lions. Soon the Lions were divided into three teams, each with the goal of recruiting the most members. The incentive? The winning team members would have dinner served to them by the second place team and cleaned up by the third place team. “Basically, the prize was bragging rights,” Pearson explains. The Lions must have really wanted those bragging rights, because when the contest year concluded, they had welcomed 24 new members. Sometimes a little friendly competition is just what a club needs. Find the Right Reward For the McGregor Lions, winning the VIP seat at dinner was the right prize. But for the Denver Lions the sought-after award is a twice-yearly drawing for a weekend at a mountain vacation home. And clubs in West Kauai, Hawaii, are vying for a quarterly zone trophy. “Rewards are at the heart of competition, be it bragging rights, giveaways or public recognition. Think about what you can offer to make a challenge something members will want to take part in,” says Robert J. Rosenthal, vice president of Communications and Marketing at VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.org). Track Progress To keep the competition at the forefront of Lions’ minds, it’s essential to have a tracking system and regular reporting. Rosenthal warns that without clear tracking, clubs could run into conflicts or confusion as the challenge goes on. “The important part is getting and keeping the focus. Our secretary kept official records, and I would occasionally put together reports for meetings,” says Pearson. “We kept the pressure on by giving updates and having the captains rouse their teams.” Remove Barriers What factors might keep your club members from participating in a contest? The McGregor Lions’ usual policy is for the sponsor to pay for prospective members’ meals, which could have been a prohibitive cost for some. “We decided that the club would pay for all prospective member meals during the contest. Our secretary sponsored several new members. This would have been a significant expense for her if we had not covered the meal cost,” explains Pearson. Remember the Real Prize While members may get caught up in the excitement of competition, don’t forget that the real goal is making new Lions feel welcomed and valued. “The important part was to get the focus on new members and keep it there,” says Pearson. The Lions developed a “New Member Quick Start Guide” with information on club history, service projects, meetings and finances, to bring new members into the fold more quickly than in the past. Did the winning McGregor team claim their prize? Pearson reports, “Yes, and there was some good-natured ribbing and some comments about thumbs in the gravy, but the dinner, like the contest, was fun.”
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