Posted by paul on March 9, 2018

lions international


Membership is Leadership is Membership

We Lions are fond of saying, early and often, that we are the largest service organization in the world. The words “1.4 million members” roll off our tongues automatically. Our accomplishments are legendary: the eradication of river blindness in large parts of the planet is just our most recent. These deeds and our scale are the legacy of our Association’s history and the envy of other nonprofit organizations the world over.

Lions are not timid creatures. They are clever, resourceful, and relentless in their pursuits. They work in teams, not alone. They communicate well, not only within their team, but tell the surrounding area of their presence. They observe carefully, size up the situation, trail carefully and then go after their game with complete commitment. Unless injured or separated from the team, they never go in alone or lightly. They settle internal disputes quickly and fairly and keep them from ruining the team. They allow each Lion the full use of their gifts, with praise and honors befitting their efforts. And they are always looking for that next opportunity to improve their team.

Human Lions are much the same way, but we tend to get a little grumpy about the Governor or Director coming to us with yet another plea to grow our club’s membership. That’s understandable and natural. No one wants to feel that they aren’t doing a good job. No one likes to be told their efforts, while good, aren’t good enough. Hurting people’s feelings and making them feel inadequate isn’t the goal, even though sometimes they accidentally hit that target squarely. The number one goal and critical priority is to grow our Association’s leadership by growing our membership. Strengthening each club’s size also brings with it opportunity to build its strength.

Our Association’s great wealth is not in money, but in you, the everyday Lion. You are our greatest treasure. Your talents make our association what it is. Some have the vision to spur others to action. Some are wonderful communicators of these missions. Some invent new things to help people. Others excel in the critical work of secretaries and treasurers, keeping our business straight and on the level. You don’t have to hold an office or a title to be valued in Lions, but the talents of every member are absolutely critical to our overall success.

Your talent and experience is what makes us unique. You don’t have to be wealthy to be a great Lion. It doesn’t require a high public position. It speaks well of us that some of our highest officers quietly prefer the title “Lion” to whatever protocol title they actually have. But it’s our human capital that makes us who we are.

So let’s be a little selfish: that’s why solid efforts to recruit new Lions are really so vital. We need fresh ideas, talents and capacity. We need the recruiters, fundraisers, and marketers. We need the ace number cruncher and paperwork champ. We need the webmasters and facebookers and public relations people. We need the creative graphic artist and writer. We need the guy that’s great with kids. We need the woman whose voice gets heard when it counts. We need people of all shapes, colors and sizes, because everyone brings their unique experience and perspective. We should bring in that mechanics, carpenters, and equipment operators because you never know what skill they will bring. And everyone needs another ten people that bring their own work gloves to get the job done.

Lions has one of the finest leadership development programs on the planet to help members grow. But it can’t train what it doesn’t have. Companies buy other companies sometimes to acquire skills and expertise that would take too long to develop internally. That’s exactly where we are now. We don’t have the time to wait while we train everyone into the roles we need, and we can’t just go buy another group.

That’s why membership is leadership is membership. That’s why having a membership drive and a good club membership committee is so important. It’s not there to please the leadership as much as it is to make our great heart beat stronger than ever. It is our absolute top priority.

Someday soon, it will be great to say “two million Lions” or “Five million Lions” at convention. We all will cheer! But it will be even better to say “We Serve” for another hundred years to the people in our home towns.

Let’s get to it. We Recruit so that We Serve.

An Essay by Past District Governor Charles Short
Lafayette Lions Club
Lafayette Indiana USA