Thank you for your comments.  This coming year we have had to raise our dues $1.00.  What do we do you ask?  In the past five years I have felt we are stagnant but our growth (new Members) has equaled or exceeded our deceased and departing members.  We have given the option to our members that if we lower our initiation fee then dues will need to be increased drastically.  This they do not like!  The other area and this area is a sore spot with me is lapsation.  We do pursue those that laps and find out why, but at the beginning of the year we are usually around 300-400 members not paid.  We begin giving a 30 day grace period, then we send them a reminder notice that they have not paid their dues for this year, that usually generates about 40-50% of them to come in and pay.  After that we again notify the remainder after 60 days, and that usually brings in another 10-20% to pay their dues.  At 90 days into the new year we begin a phone calling campaign, this is done by the committee and also each Knight and the ER take 10-15 names and personally call them.  This usually generates another 10% to pay up.  After that, monthly we continue to call and draw down the list, until we get to a point where we must give up on them.


We explain to our members that other Lodges are paying outrages dues (we site examples like you have) and some even charge usage fees.  We keep are prices down on food and bar items, sometimes to low, we offer dinning room specials weekly (items that are not on our menu).  We offer the use of our large ballroom (which divides into 3 section) to our members to host parties or dances for their community groups (office parties, church gathering, weddings, reunions, etc.) at the cost of $200 per section unless they spend $500 on Food ONLY, then we waive the room fee.  We do a lot of High School Proms, a lot of wedding receptions and a lot of local business function parties (Mack Truck annual party, Boys/Girls Club Steak Dinner Night, Basket Bingo’s, NASCAR Parties, Business Christmas Parties).  These help off set our expenses and help us keep our dues low.


But like other organizations we too are struggling. Our Budgets which are planned out to be ZERO Balance Budgets over the past several years have been busted and we have lost money.  Our membership stays up but our expense grow but our budget doesn’t and therefore we loss $ every year.


Our membership (the Majority) is rapidly becoming seniors on fixed incomes with little or no leeway to afford increases.  Each ER has tried in the last several years to trim expenses and increase profit margin without hurting the membership’s pockets.  Just because our numbers seem steady and large doesn’t really show you how we keep it low (dues).  


Unfortunately our younger members are not as involved as were our older members when they were the young member’s ages.  Society and Life styles have changed and there is a real generation gap there.  Our leadership is young (ER, and Knights, me being the oldest at 51) our trustee’s are just the opposite.  All of our leadership have full time jobs and most have families to tend to, this is good and this is bad.  They don’t have enough time to spend on the Lodge.  Next year (April 2004) when I take over as ER, my other commitments outside the lodge will have ended or be ending in that month, so I will have time to focus my attention on the lodge as my second full time job.

Before I became a Knight I had planned out my other commitments so they would end by the time I became ER this coming year.  Choosing your Officers is critical in controlling a lot of things in the Lodge.  Your Officers need to be business savvy or else train them to be business oriented. Develop a 3 year business plan and a 5 year business plan with functional budgets.  Know your membership (average age, annual average income, availability, willingness, likes, dislikes) and cater to the majority, even if it is not what you like.  Spend time brain storming on ways to bring in the masses of the membership.  Find ways within statues to increase the profitability of your Lodge without draining the pockets of your members (i.e. we needed to refurbish our old worn out kitchen electrical appliances and found out to switch to gas would be cheaper in operation expenses, so we came up with a “Kitchen Up Grade Raffle” giving the winner a 50/50 of the total sales of tickets, we ran this 50/50 for 8 months and in conjunction with this raffle we also set up a Donation Fund (for members only).  The raffle is open to anyone with $10 per ticket chance.  Between the 2 items we have more than enough $ to replace our kitchen and the 50/50 winner will receive somewhere around $6000.00 as a Christmas present). 


As you can see it takes lots of work and discipline to narrow your concentration to 1 item at a time.  Next year our major concentration is resurfacing our parking lot ($77,000 to $100,000) which is what the members want, choice of the masses do we raise dues to help this project or do we recruit more members.  I put it this way to the membership, if every member would get just 1 new member or lodge membership would double and our income would increase by xxxx (members) times $xx.xx which = $xxx,xxx.00 plus $100 per new member.  When they see these numbers and the fact that this would keep their dues down they get exited.  We haven’t made it there yet but I know that even if I could get 30% of the members to do this it would be successful.


Well I have rambled on to much, hope this helps some and gives you some ideas.  I would be glad to talk with you more if you need too.


Gerald Morrow




-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Jones [mailto:calcru@mindspring.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2003 10:11 AM
To: MDonegan@myactv.net; Mike1967@aol.com; GMorrow@thejeffersonschool.org
Subject: [Fwd: couple of questions on elks membership growth]


Perhaps the official e-mail address for Hagerstown doesn't work . If these do(off your website), please let me know.


Mike Jones

-------- Original Message --------


couple of questions on elks membership growth


Wed, 03 Dec 2003 17:42:34 -0500


Mike Jones <calcru@mindspring.com>




Granite Knitwear dba Cal Cru




Bob Dillon who used to be a member of this lodge but returned to your lodge worked with me on trying to start a lodge in the Mooresville, NC area. One thing that he mentioned to me that seemed incredible is that your lodge has thousands of members yet your dues are only $40 or so and you don't even send dues notices out.  In addition, it doesn't appear that you all have a health club, pool or other facility that draws members in. Despite that, Hagerstown appears to have grown every year in membership.

I was wondering what is it that your lodge does that so many others can't seem to duplicate. Larger lodges like Greensboro and Souther Pines in NC have great facilities that are phenomenal deals(pool and golf course respectively) but their dues are $150 plus a facility charge if they use them. There membership though seems to have plateau at around 1100 or so each.  Small lodges like ours struggle mightily though we have grown from 245 to 354 since 1996 thanks mainly to the women members and resisting the urge to raise the lodge dues above $50. Other small lodges unwisely raised their dues and saw membership drop dramatically. charlotte, nc for example went from 245 when it doubled its dues from $50 and now has 95 members. Ditto for Statesville, NC and now New Bern went from 350 to 300 in the first year alone by doubling their dues to $100.

To me( I am in the minority and when I mention this to other Elks their eyes glaze over) and have never been to your lodge, it seems that the leadership of Hagerstown has wisely kept the dues low to keep lapsation to a minimum. Kept the initiation fee high which I think gives a "I don't want to waste that fee by dropping my dues" syndrome.  

Still there has to be something else that has allowed Hagerstown to grow every year. Leaving dues at a reasonable price is important but you don't have that kind of steady growth without something very positive going on. I looked at some of your online newsletters and while impressive I don't see how you keep thousands engaged in elkdom.

So that's my question? Any secrets you care to share? How important a role do you think reasonable dues play?

Please let me know if you care to reply


Mike Jones