Whenever I get an opportunity to visit a Lions event where students are present, I always take the opportunity to find out what they know about Lions Clubs. I do the same with their parents as well. Not surprisingly, most of them have never heard of us or, if they have, the only thing they are aware of is us providing and collecting eyeglasses or selling brooms, but that’s it.
How sad. Somehow, we Lions seem to have missed getting the word out to our younger generations. I hear time and again from our clubs that young people just don’t want to be bothered. But that is absolutely not true. We need to get them involved or there is no Lions Clubs in the future.
I recently read a book by Jonathan and Thomas W. McKee called, “The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer.” The authors say that despite what popular opinion of millennials is, their generation is highly motivated and very involved in volunteering. They provide these tips to harness the potential of this generation as volunteers:
1. They are impatient. This group grew up with computers in the classroom, video games, online shopping, and fast-paced television programming. To them, “Googled” is a verb - as in I Googled it” – that has replaced going to the library or the store. Give them the opportunity to use these skills and abilities, find out why they are impatient and you may find a way to improve your club.
2. They are multitaskers. Studies show this group is saturated with media of all types and that has turned them into multitaskers – most of the time they did homework while watching TV, texting and listening to music. Be mindful that this generation does things differently than how we’ve always done it. They often accomplish things faster and more efficiently than we do (while listening to loud music). Instead of giving them a to-do list, just ask them to help you achieve the desired outcome and see what happens.
3. They think “digital.” The authors say that we are like a videotape, if we don’t like a part, we need to fast forward through it. The younger generation has never had fast-forward, they just jump to whatever part they need to get to. The under-30 generation processes information quickly and groups that subject them to slow-paced trainings and meetings only serve to bore them. This generation is cause-driven and they don’t want to wait for someone else, they want to do it themselves so we need to give them an opportunity and let them run with it.
4. They are tolerant. Diversity is a value for this generation, they are tolerant and slow to judge others. They do not have an inherent respect for titles and positions, they focus on personal authenticity. They ignore biases and work with anyone that can help them accomplish common goals.
5. They are looking for causes. This generation is highly motivated by specific causes and always looking for a way to make a difference. Does your club communicate its cause? Remember, this group cares about outcomes – why we do what we do.
6. They are team players, but… This generation wants to be able to use their unique talents and abilities to make a difference. They say they want a community of people their own age and with adults who trust them. We need to empower them and give them opportunities to share their insights and skills.
7. They don’t want to be managed; they want to be led. We must be careful not to micromanage the younger generation. We must earn their trust and get them excited about the cause and the desired outcome.
Our Lions Clubs are slowly fading away and we need your help right now to chart a new course. We need to get our younger generations involved and active in our clubs. We are losing Lions members at twice the rate we are bringing them in and that is simply not sustainable.
There are great opportunities to get younger members involved. If there is not a good fit in your club, consider starting a branch club. A branch club only takes 5 members to start and operates independently, but under the oversight of the main club. They can be cause focused (such as a robotics club, sports booster club, etc.) or just a group of younger members that has a different approach.
The days of the “supper club” meetings are slowly coming to an end. We can continue to enjoy them in our clubs, but need to recognize that many of today’s younger generations don’t have the time or interest in participating, they move too fast and these just don’t fit into their lives. A branch club would be a great solution. Younger clubs may not even meet at all, working out details of projects online.
As Lions, our motto is “We Serve.” But without Lions, we cannot serve. We need your help over the next few months. “Ask One” is our program encouraging every member to ask someone to join their club. But before you ask them to join, bring to work a project with you. Let them be a part of what we do, let them see the difference we make. Share that with them and you may just earn a new member in your club.
Thank you for your commitment to your clubs. Now, let’s build them back up and make our communities notice us. We are Lions, hear us roar!
DG David Defazio