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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Keeping service clubs alive in these trying times

By Barry Schrader.................................August 25, 2009

Recently I was invited to address one of the Kiwanis clubs in the county and found the members most attentive as I lectured them on the decline of service clubs and how to fight back.
But I forgot to tell them to think outside the box when it comes to big-time fund-raising. Even though selling peanuts is a time-honored tradition among Kiwanians, and other service groups have their annual fund-raising events, why not think about raking in a million dollars instead of a thousand or two?
So I bring up the delicate subject of video poker, something Illinois has approved for each county and municipality. Why can’t the Lions, Rotarians, Kiwanians and Exchangeites band together and approach the County Board of Supervisors plus the city and village officials about exclusive rights to operate the video gaming machines throughout the county. They would then control all placements. The Catholic Church has made millions over the years with bingo, and it is also a form of gambling.

County Club Signs

Moving on from that controversial subject, here are some thoughts that I shared with the Kiwanees. Service club memberships have been on the decline nationwide over at least a decade and the slide appears to be continuing as we face even tougher economic times each year. I have belonged to six national service clubs over the past 40 years and saw two of them dwindle to so few members they lost their charters. The same is true for many fraternal and lodge groups.
But service clubs are needed in this country now more than ever. Their causes are just, their community contributions tremendous and their willingness to help their fellow man most commendable. Whether it be the Freedom Shrines of the Exchange, the eyeglasses and helping the blind efforts by the Lions, or the worldwide polio eradication campaign of Rotary, they are all to be applauded.
So what is wrong? Well first, their dues are sometimes more than a person can absorb and additional costs like weekly lunches and raffle tickets, etc., add to the cash outlay for a member. Then there is the matter of someone asking you to join. Looking around at the service clubs I have visited locally, I find the average age is not the national norm. If you count the number of members over 65 and those between 30 and 40 in most clubs, the older population wins hands down. Clubs need the young blood, those able to physically work on projects and the enthusiasm to look at new ways of doing things. Those of us in the older age bracket have “paid our dues” with work and contributions over many years and should be able to rest on our laurels. But if we are the dominant age group in a club, who will come along to take the load off our shoulders? The addition of women into the national service clubs has saved some from folding, but even the women find their time commitments limited due to their own careers. The answer is simply more new members. If a club doesn’t grow by 10 to 20 percent a year, while normally losing 10 percent to attrition, then it will continue falling behind.
I tossed out a few more suggestions at the Kiwanians about blogs and Facebook which they graciously absorbed. If any other service club is willing to tackle the subject of their relevance and future, give me a call. But I will expect a small percentage of your video poker profits ...

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115