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? 

#membershipbasedorganizations #fabricofsociety #JeannePrud’Homme #membershipbasedorganizationdecline #decliningmembership

Copyright July 2, 2020 by Rebecca Henderson

4 thoughts on “The Fabric of Society

  1. Thank you for this article Rebecca. It brings back memories of many membership organizations I both was a member of and served on the boards of including the Girl Scouts, the March of Dimes, a local library in Missouri, and Habitat for Humanity, as well as being a member of local and Texas state-wide financial marketing and advertising groups. I met a lot of great people through those groups and associations over the years. And of course MANY years ago, things like Girl Scout leader/Cookie Mom, PTA, Little League Team Mom, Pioneer Club with my children, etc. lead to some lifelong friendships. Most of my “memberships” in recent years have involved groups like Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) or other Bible study/prayer groups.

    Being a part of groups and organizations with common interests and goals is wonderful. It oftentimes leads you in directions you would never have taken on your own, or exposes you to different ways to look at things and allows you to meet people whose path you might not have otherwise crossed.

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    1. Debbie, thank you so much for your thoughts……some of my best friends are those I’ve made in membership-based organizations. I didn’t realize we shared our Girl Scout and Habitat for Humanity board work! How cool is that?!?! Tell me more about the Pioneer Club….

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  2. Rebecca, you are so right about the value of these membership organizations and the ways they add vitality to a community. Like small groups within a church, these organizations allow us to become acquainted with individuals within the larger scope of our world. But your observation on the mission/purpose is significant–without it, an organization doesn’t grow outwardly and will eventually fall apart or rot on the vine. I don’t have an answer for why groups are declining. But I do know that they are like a good choir or successful sports team: not a solo spotlight but the blending and compilation of talents to produce an entirely new voice or accomplishment. We need their grace in our local communities. Good thoughts from you!

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    1. Nancy, thank you SO much for your thoughts….you are so right about membership-based organizations not being a “solo spotlight”. Excellent analogy! And it truly takes the “blending ad compilation of talents” to make each organization special and enable it to give its all to the community and therefore society.

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