Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt 2013-05-14 19:21:48
Extend the Reach of Lions’ Fellowship Hold a Friendship Night In January the Freedom District Lions in Maryland had a very special meeting—they inducted 16 new members. Finding this crew of new Lions didn’t take a fancy strategy or a lot of work; it just took being friendly. Led by membership chair Lanny "Doc" Palmer, every member invited friends to a relaxed evening of interesting presentations, heartfelt stories and a glimpse at Lions’ fellowship. Inspired and charmed, the guests were hooked. A “friendship night” like the one the Freedom District Lions held is an easy endeavor any club can try, and it just might turn friends into Lions. “A friendship night is a Lions club event to which selected members of the community are invited and informed about Lionism and the community service activities of the club,” says Beltsville Lion Ted Ladd, who has conducted training sessions on friendship nights for Maryland’s District 22-C, Multiple District 22 and at the 2012 USA/Canada Forum. Since Ladd’s club began holding annual friendship nights in 2002, membership has steadily grown from 26 members to 44, despite losing some members. “We have lost 22 members to death or moving since 2002, but the friendship nights have more than offset those losses,” explains Ladd. Set the Stage A successful friendship night begins with the invitations, which Ladd recommends offering in person. Myron Horn of the Freedom District Lions concurs. “Every Lion asked somebody. Some invited quite a few. We had 35 potential members show up,” Horn says. The setting and tone are also crucial to pulling off a great friendship night. After years of disappointing results holding the event at their meeting location, the Freedom District Lions tried an effective new idea of convening at a restaurant. The South Carroll Lioness Club in Maryland infuses fun into their friendship nights by having a theme such as a Hawaiian luau. “We played Hawaiian-themed games, wore Hawaiian clothes and ate Hawaiian food. The atmosphere was fun for the guests, and it was a chance for our club to have some fun and show prospective members what we’re all about,” say President Ellen O’Malley. Make a Plan For the South Carroll Lionesses a friendship night is simply a time to pleasantly introduce Lionism to new people, but other clubs may prefer to have a set agenda. A typical agenda might include speakers on club history, service projects, meetings, management, a Q & A and testimonials. “The most important part of the agenda is when members share stories about significant moments from their time as Lions. In my opinion, these testimonials are the most effective in bringing in new members,” says Ladd. Follow Up Remember those new friends by quickly bringing them into the Lions fold. Ladd suggests keeping in touch by inviting them to the next meeting, service activity or fundraiser. The South Carroll Lionesses follow up individually with the friends they each invited. Although some guests may want to join on the spot, the Freedom District Lions ask them to attend one club meeting before finalizing their membership. “This gives the membership a better opportunity to know the guests,” says Horn. Added Bonus Although the primary intention of friendship nights is building membership, Ladd points out that there is a surprise benefit for existing members as well. “Going over the history of Lionism, reviewing the club’s service accomplishments and hearing testimonials from fellow Lions promotes morale, and in an unexpected way, generates member enthusiasm for continuing to bring in new members.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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