Service clubs, like my Kiwanis club are struggling to grow their membership. Young people – especially young professionals, it seems – simply do not have time to socialize in the environments of these organizations that were created in a different time; a slower time.
Kiwanis has addressed this issue head on.
- They have authorized “internet clubs” where members meet via email, or on social media sites where they plan their service projects. Their physical activities and actual time commitments are limited to the service projects themselves.
- They have authorized “hybrid clubs” where some members meet regularly – like conventional clubs – and others connect primarily via the internet and attempt to physically meet with all club members once per month rather than weekly.
So, what do Kiwanians do? Why are they valuable? Internationally, regionally, and locally; Kiwanis Clubs work on projects that primarily benefit children. Locally, our club members read to preschool and kindergarten aged children in several schools and childcare facilities in the Winona area. We also give away hundreds of books a year to those children.
When my local Kiwanis Club took over the Christmas Tree collection effort, we turned it into a public service training activity for young people. That project became a part of our Kiwanis effort to educate the next generation of public service minded individuals. More generally, Kiwanis helps with that by sponsoring “Kiwanis Family” organizations at many different levels.
In Winona, my club sponsors a Circle-K Club at Winona State University. There are ten such clubs in the Minnesota-Dakotas District of Kiwanis. We would also like to start a Key Club at Winona Senior High School. Key Clubs are the largest Kiwanis Family organization with seventy two clubs in our district and 5,000 clubs worldwide. Winona needs a Key Club.
Other Kiwanis Family clubs include middle school Builders Clubs, and elementary level K-Kids Clubs.
The newest Kiwanis Family Club is for adults. Kiwanis Aktion Clubs are the only service clubs for adults with disabilities, with more than 500 clubs serving 11,000 members worldwide.
I think all service clubs are important. They are important bright spots in the “thousand points of light.” They are important elements of service in our local community. For more information about The Kiwanis Club of Winona, see http://www.kiwaniswinona.org
I would also be happy to discuss your service club in future columns. Let’s talk.
This commentary was subsequently published July 23, 2014 in the print edition of the Winona Daily News under the title: Clubs adapt to attract new members