Can Local Organizations Manage to Survive?

In Pacific Palisades, organizations like the American Legion, the Optimist Club, the Historical Society, the Lions Club, Rotary, the Temescal Canyon Association and the Village Green are all on the endangered list. If these organizations were wild animals, there would be an outcry to save them. Most likely, the millennials would be leading the charge.

But since these organizations, in general, don’t know how to appeal to the younger generations, they are slowly declining, not only in the Palisades, but across the country.

Some club members blame under-35 residents for not joining. They maintain that this generation, born between 1982 and 1994, is too self-absorbed and is unconcerned about getting involved in the town as members of clubs and organizations.

Ryan Akins, who grew up in Pacific Palisades and graduated from Palisades High in 1995, has a different take.

When he spoke to the Rotary Club the first week in July, he noted that adults between 20 and 34 are a larger generation than the baby boomers. This group represents 50 percent of the global work force and in 10 years will represent 70 percent.

“If you don’t tap into the millennials, your club won’t exist,” said Akins, who lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and has a Dale Carnegie franchise.

This poses two questions for service organizations: 1.) How do you get new members to join? and 2.) How do you keep them active in the club?

Using the acronym PESTO, Akins said Purpose is the first thing that an organization has to address to attract millenials. The generality of a mission statement or a logo on a Facebook page or website doesn’t draw new members. He took the Rotary Club’s statement “Service above Self ” and asked what it meant.

Members gave general answers, which prompted Akins to challenge the group to be specific. Akins talked about how important it is for service clubs to have an updated website and Facebook page. Millennials, who are hooked into technology via iPhone, iPad or computer, will not pursue an organization if they find a static picture on the Internet with a P.O. box as the contact information.

Clubs are urged to explain current and upcoming projects and fundraisers, and display what they want to accomplish across the top of the page.

The E in Akins’ acronym is Elicit ideas from millennials. Most of these adults graduated from high schools and colleges that required community service. Many started their own nonprofits in high school or college. Let them bring new ideas and excitement into the organization, and let them lead.

One Rotarian, who also serves on the Village Green committee, asked how they could attract younger members for the privately run park. “I remember when snow was brought in and kids got to play in it,” Akins said. “Are you still doing that? I would also have musicians and artists and make it a vibrant center of town.”

The S in PESTO stands for Social. Most clubs have social events, but what about simply carving out time for a fun activity among members? “How many times do you get together just to have fun?” Akins asked. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of Team Red, White and Blue— a new veterans group that provides opportunities for veterans to socialize through a hike or a run or maybe even a happy-hour mixer.

Akins said the T stands for training, and suggested that clubs ought to consider instituting professional development. We’re not quite sure how that would look, but we bet there are some millennials in our reading audience who could tell us exactly what they’re looking for.

Finally, there is the O for opportunity. The opportunity to lead should be given to this new generation, who are educated, technically capable and, from what we can tell, enthusiastic about making a difference.

If anyone can save an “endangered species” it will be the millennials.

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