People who know me well know of my love of membership-based organizations. I have studied them most of my adult life. Some of my study has been formal, in a classroom, but much more has been informal, as a member of many different membership-based organizations. They are all different, just as we are different. They all have their own personalities, challenges, issues, and health. Just like us!
When I think of membership-based organizations, organizations like churches, Chambers of Commerce, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Junior League, sororities, fraternities, alumni groups and professional associations come to the forefront of my mind. These are formal organizations, with defined requirements for membership.
Informal organizations also come to mind. Organizations like prayer groups, neighborhoods, book clubs, Facebook groups, supper clubs and groups of friends who even occasionally gather are informal organizations. These organizations may be difficult to gain entrance and consequent acceptance into, but rarely have defined requirements for membership.
Why are membership-based organizations important? Are they fabric of society? I believe they are. What does that mean? What does that look like?
The members of an organization are the weft of the fabric, while the mission of the organization is the fabric’s warp. In case you don’t know, the weft of a fabric is the threads that run width-wise. The warp of a fabric is the fibers running length-wise.
You can’t have weft without warp the other; if you do, a hole exists! And the same can be said for formalized membership-based organizations. You can’t have a mission without having members. For informal groups without a written mission statement, your mission statement may be no more complex than something like this: “Get together with friends to talk about books we’ve read” or “Gather with friends to catch-up over a meal”.
If you’re in such a group – and I dare say you are, regardless if you recognize it or not – don’t worry if you’ve never thought about your group having a mission statement. Fun can be had, memories can be made, worthy work can be accomplished without the formality of a mission statement.
My book club doesn’t have a mission statement, but I would challenge anyone who doesn’t believe we’ve done worthy work. We have collected toothbrushes for parents needing to stay with their children in our local children’s hospital. We have collected new and very gently-used books for the waiting and exam rooms of a local pediatric practice. We have collected wedding gowns and other formal dresses to be repurposed into infant burial gowns for those infants never leaving the hospital. And one of our very talented members, Jeanne Prud’Homme graciously fashioned those previously-owned gowns into the bereavement gowns. We have supported our members by volunteering our efforts to help their causes, thereby magnifying the power of volunteerism. I’m sure I’ve omitted some other things we’ve collected or done.
I want to know what your informal organizations have done! I know it’s a ton and some of the ideas will be unique and I’ll be thinking, “Now, why didn’t I think of that?”
For decades, nearly all membership-based organizations have seen a steady decline. There may be a membership increase for several years, but all too often, the decline then begins. Why? I invite your comments. This may be a topic for an upcoming blog.
In the meantime, I leave you with a thought and invite your comments about it as well. Do you believe a strong community has strong membership-based organizations as a foundation? What is the connection between strong membership-based organizations and a strong community?
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Copyright July 2, 2020 by Rebecca Henderson