|OCTOBER 13, 2010 --
As I’ve traveled the nation having conversations with our members this year, there are certain things that have become apparent. The first is that communication remains a challenge within our organization.
Looking back at how we’ve done it in the past, it seems that members used to come out in greater numbers to hear what the National and State Leaders had to offer. I am sure they also spoke up to let those leaders know what they and their local Granges wanted and expected. Our advantage is that transportation is now relatively fast and easy. We can drive much greater distances in less time than they could 60 plus years ago due to road improvements and more reliable and comfortable cars. Our disadvantage is that there are more demands on our time than ever before. It is our belief, at the National level, that we must give value to our members for their time or we cannot expect them to give of that precious commodity.
For the first few decades of the Grange’s existence, the postal service was the only method to communicate between Granges and members, outside of physically going to talk with them. Today, the postal service is trying to reduce service while steadily raising the cost of this type of communication. While most members have alternatives to only using the postal service, it still remains an effective and important communication tool for many people. When the telephone made its way into rural America, it became an essential tool to keep local members informed of what was going on. As that technology matured, we held teleconferences and sent faxes, all of which served to improve how we communicated throughout the Grange.
With the advent of the electronic age, our organization began building websites and using email to foster the exchange of ideas within our organization. Today, members use voice over internet with Teamspeak and many daily use social networking sites like Facebook to reach out to our members in new ways.
As the number of methods increase, the challenge is how to use them to ensure that every member is “in the loop” within their Grange. It is obvious that if your Grange only uses one method of communication with your membership, you are leaving some of them out. Those who attend meetings and activities need to share information with all the other members. Newsletters, telephone trees, email blasts, websites, and Facebook all add to the critical communication flow within your Grange.
It is crucial that every member be kept “in the know” by your Grange. It makes them aware that you consider them important, it gives them positive things they can share with others, and it builds their pride in your Grange. All of these things make it better for your Grange and builds the sense of family within your Grange.
Your National Grange has adopted many of these technologies to help our State and Community Granges. Many of our departments have been able to increase their service and benefits to our members and Granges while actually having no increase in the cost of doing business. Our constant goal has been to help our State and local Granges to take advantage of every opportunity to grow.
Communication has always been a challenge and I expect it will always be a challenge. As new methods appear, we need to have our members evaluating and testing them to ensure that our organization continues to grow and prosper. Internal communication within our organization ensures that we remain relevant and responsive to our membership and that contributes immensely to our continued success.
Our history of advocating for improvements in communication shows that our members have always been concerned about communication. Today, the challenge isn’t so much of how to give people a voice, but how to maximize and share it with a diverse membership.
Communication is essential to success and the first step is within your Grange membership, while the second step takes the message out into your community. I commend every Grange that seeks to improve their communication and urge every member to offer their ideas and suggestions. What will be the topic of conversation and action at your next Grange meeting? What answer are you going to propose to this challenge?