Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I've never been one for making a lot of resolutions on New Years. One view is that most of us don't keep them long enough to see any change and if you need to change something why wait until the start of a new year? The other side of the coin is that if you never decide to change something that is bothering you, you most likely will never change it.

Last year, I put in an article that it was important to set goals and one of mine was that I was going to paint a car. As the last day of the year is ticking down, I know that I was only able to make about a day and a half of progress on that project. This is one case of circumstances stopping that goal from being fully achieved. I will say that I am closer to finishing than when I set the goal.

If you're going to set forth some resolutions for yourself, ask yourself what do you want? What would be the desired result from a resolution?

I know that I want 2010 to end with a number of results. I want to spend quality time with my family during the year. It would be great to have a carshow ready classic car at the end of the year. I want to see our Grange team achieve great success this year. In looking forward, there are many things that can be placed on this list, but these three are the most important to me.

Family and the classic car thing are personal to me and in this post I'll talk about our Grange team achieving great success. Grange success is not just a personal issue, it is an issue for thousands of other Grange members.

In 2010 the National Grange team will continue to improve our communication with our members. We will offer new opportunities to learn how to be successful as well as continue our tried and true methods. We will add new people to our team at the National Grange level. Teamwork will be one of our major focuses this year.

I view success as new people becoming part of the Community Grange and getting involved. They will become new leaders within our organization and as they grow as leaders, they will bring new leadership to the Pomona and State level. Not only will new members join in, but our existing members will be experiencing new energy and excitement as Grange members.

We will build upon each success just as you build a stone wall, rock by rock from the bottom. The wonderful thing about great success, is that it isn't anything new in our Grange. We have had great successes, we still are achieving great things, and to expect tremendous things in the future is not that much of a reach.

Our challenge is to let existing members, who haven't had the opportunity to experience success, to feel the emotions that success brings. We also are going to share with new members what it feels like to achieve their goals though the Grange.

I hope each member will join me in setting a resolution for 2010 that their Grange will achieve success. It is when we work together as a team that we will achieve our goals!

May each member have a safe and happy New Year celebration and a prosperous 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What does Brotherhood and Sisterhood mean?

I was recently asked what Brotherhood and Sisterhood means in the Grange?

It means many things to different people, but in essence it is the desire to become family with a group of people we want to associate with. We have common ties or bonds that bring us together in spite of other differences. These ties also keep us together when we have disagreements and give us strength in times of trial or trouble.

To be a Brother or Sister in the Grange means our Grange family gives us the authority to express our opinions and to advocate for issues that we are passionate about. We are not bound within the Grange to one viewpoint on political ideas, religious beliefs, or current event issues. Instead we are given the opportunity to work with others to come to a group consensus on issues. We thus gain strength by working together with others to advocate for the issues we share in common without sacrificing friendship over issues we don't agree on.

We become Brothers and Sisters through the Grange initiation ceremony which promotes the highest moral principles through lessons drawn from the farm, the field, and the farm home. This shared experience gives each member a common thread to draw upon. When we differ on topics within the Grange we remember the lessons of friendship, and after the vote is taken we remain true friends and family. Thus each remains true to themselves and yet finds comfort, companionship, and safety in the company of Grange family.

No matter what the passions of your life may be, the Grange allows you freedom to grow as you see fit. As family, each is encouraged to become the person they wish to be. We share a set of moral values that give us a bond that promotes and treasures friendships that can last a lifetime.

There is so much more that Brotherhood and Sisterhood mean to the members of the Grange, but to me it is all about being part of a great family.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Leading from where you are

I've had a lot of dealings with lawyers over the past two years. Name protection, Grange property disputes, members filing charges against others, and a few other issues have all taken some of my time. The internal issues that led to attorneys getting involved almost always involve leaders who either didn't do their jobs, or leaders who didn't believe that the rules applied to them.

Grange leaders are not just the officers, much less the Master/President. I've seen many Granges were the leader was not one of the "major" officers. It is important that Grange officers, especially the Master take the time to check out the rules before doing things as they are are elected leaders.

The National Digest is available free of charge on the website and is also available for purchase through the Grange Store. Each State Grange has the responsibility to make their By-Laws available to each member who asks for it. The positive thing about our system of rules is that if you have a question you ask the Master at the level you are at. If you think that they are right, great. If not, you can appeal (ask the next level)to get the ruling of the next level. Subordinate/Community and Pomona Grange to State to National.

When we don't follow the rules or when we choose to interpret the rules to fit our desires, it often creates a situation where no one wins and our organization loses. Yesterday, I was made aware of a situation where a Community Grange wants to do something that is clearly against the rules. The State Master and I had a long conversation about options that the State Grange has to deal with this problem. I reminded that Master that ignoring the issue is not an option. We are the leaders and must do the right thing, even when it is difficult or unpopular.

Leaders who choose to disregard rules for their own goals open themselves up to a lot of risk. Our rules allow one member to file charges against another for improper or illegal actions. Our rules allow the Master, and/or Executive Committee, with jurisdiction to remove the offending officer which puts them into a Grange trial just as any member filing charges does. If legal actions were to be taken, there can be some legal liability to the officers or members for knowingly doing illegal actions.

Our judicial code, chapter 12 in the Digest, sets forth the due process that happens when members or leaders break the rules. I would hope that we would seldom need to use this chapter as we should be able to solve problems and disagreements without resorting to this avenue.

It is much worse for our Grange when members go outside our Order and file lawsuits in civil court or force the State Grange to file the suit to correct an illegal action. The moment that lawyers get involved we lose some control of our destiny and the lawyers and judges gain some control.

The big issue is always financial. The more we spend on legal fees, the less we have for member services, training, and new materials to help the Community Grange. But there is another cost. Lawsuits tend to create divides within Granges and within Communities. Sometimes those divides can endure for decades after the lawsuit is settled.

While there will be occasional situations that require a lawyer, every member can often be a part of a solution that does not include lawyers. Become a Grange leader, regardless of your position, and speak up. Ask questions, learn the rules, and encourage all members to participate in our process. I've seen cases where if a group of members had loudly said no to their peer, no lawsuit would ever have been filed. When you expect the State or National Grange to be the "bad guy" you in effect give permission to the member to break the rules. Remember that we are all a part of the State and National Grange!

We should expect the highest standards from our leaders at all levels of the Grange. They need to do the right thing for our organization as a whole. In spite of the new information I received, I am seeing our membership getting more involved and viewing themselves as part of a great national organization. As each member grows as a Grange leader the future gets brighter. This is a great step to involving lawyers and judges less and less in our internal affairs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

State Masters Pledges

This week in Washington, D.C. has been a whirlwind and I still have two days to go in the office. Today I reviewed the pledges that each State Master made at the Session for their State. There are four areas in which they were challenged to make pledges in. Every State is represented expect South Carolina due to Brother Hammett's illness.

The first area is in new organizations. Out of 35 State Granges pledging, 36 new Granges were promised. Six States pledged two new Granges while five didn't set any goals. 1962 was the last year that 36 or more Granges were organized in one year. Considering that organizing one or two Granges is feasible for any State, this goal is achievable. We all know that it will not necessarily be easy, but we can do this.

The second area is in reorganizations of Granges that have either had their Charter revoked or have disbanded. 29 Granges were promised by the State Masters. Kansas led the group by pledging three and five others have pledged two in their State. Reorganizing at least 29 Granges was also last achieved in 1962. The task of reorganizing is often easier than organizing because sometimes we have assets that are being held for that Grange.

The third area is in revitalizing existing Granges. The State Masters have promised to conduct programs and follow up the successes in 100 Granges. California leads the pledges with the promise to aid 20 of their Community Granges. 18 other states have pledged from two to eight Granges revitalized within their borders. California led the nation last year in successful revitalization efforts and is determined to continue their efforts.

The fourth area is in starting Junior Granges, either new or reorganizations. 38 were promised at National Session. Eleven States pledge two Junior Granges. 1982 is the last year that at least 38 Junior Granges were started. This goal may actually be the easiest to accomplish. I have never seen an effort to start a Junior Grange fail because of the interest of the kids.

These pledges that your State Masters have made are only going to be achieved by teams of members working together. I ask that you volunteer to be a part of a team as we need every member with a passion for the Grange to give what time they can afford. This task will be accomplished by many members giving a bit rather than a few giving a lot. Each member is important to our goals.

I can not put into words the feeling that you get when you are part of a team that organizes or reorganizes a Community Grange. I can verbalize the emotions that seeing a Grange that was failing becoming a vital force within their community. The pride in seeing a new Junior Grange starting out is unbelievable. Those members who have accomplished these things know exactly what I am saying. I want more members to feel all the great things that happen when we achieve success.

Remember that success comes one day at a time, one step followed by another, and one Grange at a time. 2010 is our time for success! Together we will achieve our goals!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reflections on National Grange Session

The 143rd National Session is over and as I sit in my office and reflect on it, I am pleased with what was accomplished.

The Special Session on Sunday the 15th went well and the session overview had a lot of great questions asked.

Monday's activities started with the delegate tour and was a time for renewing friendships and making new ones. That afternoon, the committees began their work until it was time for the host banquet.

Tuesday we tried something new and committees met until noon. We had the honor of having eight dedicated Grangers present to be recognized as Heroes of the Grange. I felt it was an honor just to share the head table with them. That afternoon we opened the Session and started working.

Wednesday opened with the Ag Breakfast and our speaker told us about the efforts to improve agriculture in Afghanistan by the National Guard. This is one project that shows the local people that Americans care about them and want to help. The Delegates worked a number of resolutions and made great progress during the day. That evening we had a lengthy and passionate discussion our policy on industrial hemp as well as introductions of each State's delegation.

Thursday brought elections and we continued to make progress in getting the work of the Session finished. That evening we tried another new thing. The spouses of the National officers, or someone selected by the officer if not married, closed the National Grange. The officers stated that this was to show our love and respect for those who enable us to serve the Grange as officers. The business meeting of the Assembly of Demeter was held that evening. Brother Valentine announced that he was stepping down as High Priest and the Assembly elected officers with a new High Priest.

Friday finished the final working day of the Session. We continued to have spirited debate and discussion on the issues of the day. We finished the election of the two officers not completed on Thursday and installation was held at 2:30 p.m. Brother Valentine did an outstanding job as the installing officer. Session closed prior to the scheduled time as our work was done.

Saturday saw the 6th and 7th Degrees conferred and we closed the week with our celebration banquet.

We packed a lot into the week of Session and while we were all tired at the end, the sense of accomplishment, pride, and fellowship was strong throughout the entire week. We made a lot of positive changes in the Rules of the order, added to the ritualistic work, updated our policy in many areas, and recognized many members and Granges for outstanding work.

I am feeling so much pride in our organization. We have so much to be thankful for and our future is so bright. Next year, you need to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a Session that promises to be even better!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

I hope every person in our country takes a moment to reflect on the gift that our veterans have given us.

We have a country where we change our leaders by the ballot, not by the bullet. We have the right to gather and discuss the successes and the failings of our government. We have the right to publicly disagree with anyone. We have the right to be right or wrong as long was we don't harm others. We can associate with whom ever we choose and we can be as unique as we want. We can read anything, share our opinions, and live the lifestyle we desire because of our veterans.

Our military veterans and those currently in the service are the ones that changed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States into functioning documents. The beautiful words that express the desires of men and women to be free would have little meaning if citizens had not answered the call to service and fought to earn the freedoms outlined in those documents. Our founding documents carry such great weight around the world because our brave citizens chose to back up those words with their actions as Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen.

It is fitting that the armistice of the first world war be a time to reflect on the gifts that our veteran's have given us and the sacrifices that they have made on our behalf.

My respect and thanks go to each veteran from those brave men who volunteered to fight in the American Revolution to our courageous men and women who today continue the fight against terrorists who seek to destroy our country and force innocents around the world to adopt their beliefs.

We must never forget the deaths, the changed lives, or the bravery of each veteran regardless of when they served. Peacetime or war, the members of the American military have always stood for the principles of our great nation. Each American family joins today in remembering the sacrifices that have been made to ensure our countries freedoms.

Join with me today in thanking God for so many citizens who answered the call to serve our country. Take the time to thank a veteran and also the ones who serve today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Farm Animal Welfare

Agriculture, especially animal husbandry, is under attack by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This past year California voters passed a proposition that may end the egg industry in that state as well as impact many other areas of livestock production. The voters in California have joined with voters in Florida and Arizona to regulate specifics of raising and caring for livestock through the ballot.

Ohio has taken a different path in this Novembers election. The voters passed issue 2 by a 64 to 36 percent margin. Issue 2 establishes a thirteen member Livestock Care Standards Board. No more than seven members on the board may be of the same political party. The Ohio General Assembly would have the power to set the terms of office for the Board members and determine any conditions for the Board members' service. The proposal states that the Board would consist of:

The director of the department of agriculture, who would serve as chair of the Board;
Ten members appointed by the Governor with Senate approval, which must include: one family farm representative, one member knowledgeable about food safety in Ohio; two members representing statewide farmer organizations; one veterinarian licensed in Ohio; the State Veterinarian; the dean of an Ohio college or university’s agriculture department; two members of the public representing Ohio consumers; one member representing a county humane society; One family farmer appointed by the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives; and One family farmer appointed by the President of the Ohio Senate.

In addition the Department of Agriculture will be vested with the enforcement authority.

Instead of depending upon voters making decisions based upon campaign ads or bumper stickers, which may not be accurate, Ohio farmers will have the advantage of science, best practices, and thoughtful consideration being a part of the process to create the rules that they must live and operate under.

The HSUS has a reputation of being an extremist animal rights organization with tremendous amounts of money to spend to accomplish their goals. From my perspective, after visiting their website, they care more for animals than for the people who's livelihood depends upon the care of those animals.

I would challenge every Grange member to research issue 2 from Ohio and to consider what the possibilities of this issue are in your state. Isn't it better to create an opportunity for farmers and others to work together in creating livestock management practices based on good science rather than face a ballot based upon an emotional argument that might harm a portion of our agricultural economy?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grange Values and Principles

A member recently forwarded me a website that claims the Grange is, in essence, a satanic organization. Of course it also claims that about all other fraternal orders are also in the same category. All I’ve got to say to such claims is, Bull!

To those who have questions about Grange values and beliefs, I am happy to respond.

Does the Grange promote or oppose religion? The Grange was created and remains non-sectarian in rules and basic principles as outlined in the declaration of purposes. The Grange encourages its members to worship the Supreme Being in the way their conscience dictates. Our ritualistic work contains many direct quotations from the Bible and God is mentioned often. We have one officer called the Chaplain whose duties include prayers during the opening and closing of the Grange. One requirement for a Grange to have a legal meeting is to have a Bible open during the meeting. Our rules clearly state that denominational religious matters are not allowed to be discussed within the Grange meeting. The Grange is designed to be a place with high moral values, members are encouraged to be active in the church of their choice, and the meetings are to be neutral ground for all beliefs.

Is the Grange a secret organization? If having a password or membership card is your definition, then maybe. However, if any member can know everything about an organization then I would think that there are no secrets. In 35 years of active membership with leadership positions at all levels of the Grange, I still haven’t found any secrets. I do know many things that only members are supposed to know, which sounds like just about every other organization I am aware of. That is what most people refer to as a privilege of membership. Even this member only information is often readily available to the public if they really want it. If you don’t believe me, just check out ebay.

Does the Grange promote worship or reverence toward Greek goddesses? No. We do have three officers Ceres, Pomona, and Flora whose titles do come from Greek mythology. These three officers get their titles to show our respect for women and our regard for agriculture. These three names do carry direct connection to agriculture and the officers emblems are also tied to that connection. Ceres emblem is the sheaf of wheat, Pomona has fruit, and Flora has flowers. They remind us that women have a critical role in society and that they bring refinement and improvement to our lives. Our organization does not believe that organizations for men or women alone are as strong as one that requires both as equals.

Are there any rites or rituals in the Grange? What the Grange has is our formal ritualistic initiation ceremony for each of the seven degrees. The first four are done by the Community Grange, and the Pomona, State, and National Granges each confer one. The degrees are designed to follow one after the other. The first four are based upon the seasons of the year and the stages of life. The three that follow emphasize specific lessons that all people should live by. Grange work is demonstrated by the use of symbolism. Symbolism is an ancient form of teaching that is effective and often inspiring. As an example, the symbolism of the first degree is drawn from a farm in springtime, childhood, and the seed. The point of the degrees is to give lessons that each can use in their daily lives and to give each member the bond of friendship and fellowship as Brothers and Sisters in the Grange.

I would suggest that we don’t argue with people who are not interested in what we’ve got to say. When people have their mind made up and just want to make accusations, it is futile to try and argue. I do want our members to talk with those who have questions. We should answer questions and where we don’t know the answer, we need to find out what our rules are on that issue. After all, as our Order teaches, we need to continually learn and to strive to improve ourselves.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Planning National Session

This morning was spent meeting with the National Grange staff on primarily National Session. It doesn't seem possible that in about 20 days, we'll be in Grand Rapids. It is always interesting to be involved in planning the Session, it is never boring.

The reality is that the broad planning stage is long over. We are down to nuts and bolts planning and dealing with the surprises that seem to pop up every day. Jessie, our convention planner, is sweating out planning an event that she has never seen, but is doing great.

The lessons of planning are that: first you need the broad plan that serves as a road map. Second you break out the pieces and develop more detailed plans that are specific to each piece. Third, you adapt and change as things come together, or don't. Lastly, you implement your plan.

While it often seems difficult to have fun during this stage, you should also plan to have a bit of fun. Insert little things that will show your humor or allow others to share theirs. Never do everything the same way you did last year. Always seek some way of improving things.

Let everyone on your team be a part of the planning. Don't just work them, let them be a creative part of the planning, either specific pieces or in the broad planning. The bigger your team the more success you can achieve.

While there are still a hundred things to do, I am confident that our staff, officers, and hosts will put on an excellent National Session. We have a great team and you will have a fun, educational, and productive Session when you arrive.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There Really is Bad Publicity

This morning I received notice that another Grange in Oregon has an article in a large newspaper talking about the decline of the Grange. Why do members who are experiencing success in their Grange speak of their Grange in a positive light but members who are giving up speak of the "Grange" as being in decline?

I get frustrated at myself, the State Grange leadership, the Pomona Grange leadership, and our long-time dedicated members when those long-time members talk to reporters and tell them all the negative things that they see. Then I remind myself that these members have given up and see no hope or future for their Grange. They must be assuming that because they haven't had success, no one else has either. Most importantly, they are not looking or listening to what is happening around the country.

The problem as I see it, is that much of our membership never looks at the big picture. Their view of the Grange organization is of the local Grange. Pomona, State, and National are viewed as almost different organizations having little relevance to them. Do they get regular communication from other Granges or the Pomona? Does the State Grange send them information or is the perception that they just want the quarterly report? Do any members of that local Grange read the communications, check the websites, or just ask for help from the State or National Granges?

I understand that National Grange can not visit each Grange, nor can we do more than provide communication through our publications, website, and many training sessions. While we have expanded our communication tool box dramatically over the past couple of years, it is still dependent upon our members to chose to open the paper or email, click on the website, view the video or blog, listen to the podcast, or show up at a meeting.

How does an organization with over 2,500 units teach their members that there is bad publicity? When a member is quoted that the Grange is dying, declining, or failing who does it hurt? It hurts all of us. Remember no one wants to join a dying organization, and the reality is that we're not dying!

There are potential members in every community. Each person has a different awareness of the Grange, some have barely heard of the Grange while others have a perception of the Grange. While their perception may not be accurate, that is the starting point for your Grange if you want to recruit them.

Newspaper stories can open doors to potential members or they can close doors. What our members say about their Grange to reporters will influence what they write in the paper or say on the radio and TV. I'd settle for a balanced story. We have some Granges failing, but we also have new Granges, and many Granges experiencing success. However, it is our job to tell the media about the good as well.

Publicity is important to your Grange. Bad publicity will hurt you, good publicity will help you. I challenge each member to share their ideas on how we can teach the members of each Grange about the importance of publicity. I ask because each member has the opportunity to contribute to the health of the Grange and this issue is critical.

Now that I've expressed my frustration with bad newspaper stories, I want to state, in my 35 years as an active Grange member, I have never seen such optimism and excitement among our members as I am seeing today. I know that it is tough for a State Master to deal with a Grange that has never asked for help and now wants to close. However, many states are building revitalization teams to aid these Granges and are achieving remarkable successes.

Don't dwell on the negatives, focus on the good things you can do. Vent when you see a negative story, but find a way to build a positive future. Listen to what others are saying, but create the future you and your members want. That is what Grange members do!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Grange is not the Meeting

I hear far too often that the meeting is the focus of a Grange. We worry about having a quorum to hold a meeting, we worry about the length of the meeting, and we worry about why members are not at the meeting. Maybe you're worrying about the wrong things?

Meetings are necessary and important, but not for themselves. The Grange is the reason for the meeting. The meeting is a tool to allow members to create action, to learn, and to socialize. The meeting isn't the important thing, it is the tool to do the important things.

The Grange is people, not a building and certainly not just a meeting. Our meetings and meeting structure are time-tested and generally the more you deviate from our normal process, the more time you use doing less.

Instead of worrying about a quorum, try worrying about why people would want to come to your meeting. Do you have fun at your meetings, do you laugh or smile a lot? Does a member who attends usually learn something new? Do your members go out of their way to make a new member or visitor feel welcome and part of your Grange?

Instead of worrying about the length of the meeting, how about worrying about the content of the meeting. Does the leadership of your Grange check to see if committees are going to have reports? Does your Grange have any unfinished or new business that has the members doing something? Remember business is where we create the action that will interest people. Are you skipping some of the orders of business to save time? If so, consider the possibility that someone is looking for that order of business.

Try worrying about the members who do attend before worrying about those who didn't show up. If those who come to the meeting get to leave the meeting with new information, a sense of accomplishment, and some good times they will share with others. The things that they will share will help create the public perception that Grange meetings are worthwhile, fun, and everyone is invited.

Take the time to look at the order of business and the meeting set up structure. You will find that it is one of the best ways to hold a meeting. Members looking at each other and with a clear plan to accomplish the variety of things that a grass-roots organization needs to do.

Remember that the meeting is not the reason for your Grange. The meeting is the tool that allows your Grange to do things. Make what you start at meetings and what you accomplish at meetings the focus of your Grange.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Our Best Days

Have you ever heard the phrase, Those were the best days? I've heard people say it about themselves and about our Grange. I don't get it. No matter how bad a day, week, or even month I may have, I always have hope that the future holds new and exciting opportunities.

If your best is behind you, then what is there to look forward to? I know a man who just celebrated his ninetieth birthday. Every time I talk to Gil he wants my opinion on current events and what each may hold for the future. If he can look forward to the future with such hope and anticipation, why can't many younger people?

Our role may change in life, but the opportunities keep coming. I always believed one of the most important things we choose to do is bring children into this world and then raise them to be good productive citizens. That phase of my life is over as my kids are grown and out in the world, but I've discovered the next phase. Grandchildren! I see that my role has changed, but the importance of what I do has not. New things, new experiences, new opportunities.

I look at the history of the Grange and see a chunk of American history. Good times, tough times, and a few ugly times. But each problem and challenge is followed by a period of renewal and growth. We just keep setting the bar higher and higher, we keep growing and improving. So with the Grange. We've been written off a number of times, and we keep coming back stronger than ever.

I believe that our best days are yet in front of us. I'm headed to Homer, Alaska to present a charter to a new Grange this week. Just try and convince those folks that our best days are behind us. The opportunities are ours for the taking, provided that we are willing to work for them. Hope and persevere, what a concept!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Report 2

It seems that I read more books while flying than when I'm on the ground. Not sure if that means I fly too much, or if I need to find time to read more. Regardless, I did read a book titled "Who Killed Change?" by Ken Blanchard, John Britt, Judd Hoekstra, and Pat Zigarmi. Like most books on leadership it is designed for business, but is quite applicable to the Grange.

It is a quick read and offers simple clear ideas of who can aid change to become permanent and how they can support the change process. It is written like an old mystery and will give you something to reflect on.

If you've never read anything by Ken Blanchard, this would be a good one to start with. It is well written and gets to the point quickly and keeps it simple. This is a great book to start your leadership library or to add a basic principle styled book to your existing collection.

If you wish to improve your leadership skills, grab a book like "Who Killed Change?" from the business or self help section of your friendly bookstore and start turning pages!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


This morning when I check my email, I saw a notification of a story about the Grange in the State of Oregon. After going to the newspaper's website and reading the story, I want to share my thoughts on publicity.

It is critical that when our members speak to their local media that they be positive. Gloom, doom, and pessimism is gladly reported by the media in most cases. They may even slant stories to create controversy or excitement in a story. They seldom will focus on the positive side of things. We must not give them the opportunity to present a negative view of our organization.

There is no harm in telling the media about the good things in our Grange, but there can be great harm in telling them them about our problems. Most reporters will take the attitude of the people they interview and bring it into the story.

When you deal with the media honesty is the only policy. However, you don't need to bring up the negative things. If they ask, answer with a positive take on the problem. Remember you don't have control over what they print, but you do have control how you present the facts and your attitude.

Let's not take the negative side of things to the media. Local newspapers, radio stations, and even TV stations do not go looking to harm organizations within their communities, but they will report when members say negative things. Remember that the media wants to hear about people and action.

We create public perception of our Grange, let's make sure that perception is positive and encouraging to potential members who may wish to join.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Report

Read a great book on the plane home Wednesday evening. "How the Mighty Fall" by Jim Collins.

Collins studies businesses as they can be tracked and analyzed in a number of ways. However, much of his analysis is applicable to non-profit organizations such as the Grange.

He found five steps in the process of decline. He found that the time in each step could vary immensely and that decline could be reversed in the first four steps of decline. He defined the steps as: #1, Hubris born of success; #2, Undisciplined pursuit of more; #3, Denial of risk and peril; #4, Grasping for salvation; and #5, Capitulation to irrelevance or death.

In reflecting on what he wrote, I realize I've heard from all levels of the Grange some of the symptoms of some of the steps. I will say I've never heard indicators of Step 5 from the National level or from my home state. I have heard it from a number of Community and Pomona Granges and maybe one or two states.

After reading the book, I am even more enthused by what is happening at National Grange and many State and Community Granges. We are on the way back to being one of America's leading organizations. Unlike business, we can rescue some of our Granges that have reached step 5. All it takes is new blood and a desire to share our organization with others.

Read this book and share your perceptions of it with your fellow members.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Volunteering Part Two

Yesterday at Cox's Chapel Grange, VA, one of the members talked about volunteering and what the definition was. When he asked for a definition, I challenged him to find one that is appropriate for his Grange. However, after reflecting on his questions I decided to add to my first post on volunteering.

Grange membership is a volunteer action. We choose to affiliate with a others of like mind and within a structure that gives rules and rights to each member. No member is required to be a member, we choose to pay our dues.

Each member volunteers how much time they will give to the Grange cause. Attending meetings, participating in community service projects, fund-raising efforts, and other activities are choices each member make. Membership in the Grange can never be based, nor dues set, by which or how many of these things we do as volunteers.

Volunteering is an action in which no one pays you to do something. If you're being paid, you are not a volunteer in the strict sense of the word.

So why do people volunteer?

Volunteering gives people the opportunity to learn leadership skills that can benefit them in other parts of their life. What we do in the Grange often gives us lessons that aid us throughout life.

Volunteering gives people personal satisfaction. We make friends and are with our friends at Grange and our various activities. We get a sense of achievement by being a part of a team that accomplishes a project. We get to feel the pride that comes from seeing a personal goal achieved by the Grange. Much of the reward of volunteer comes from the feelings we get from being part of a team that does things an individual may not be able to do.

Volunteering is about giving back to others. We can do this in many ways, but Grange is one effective way to share our blessings with others. Why do you volunteer?

Saturday, September 12, 2009


This morning I was watching the news and saw a story on people volunteering, and of course the President of the United States was featured painting a wall in his dress shirt and slacks. I love seeing stories like this as involving people in community service, educational activities, and legislative efforts is positive and empowering for each individual.

Grangers have been volunteering to help people, strengthen their community, and improve society in general since the birth of our organization in 1867. As an organization that is made up of volunteers, we understand the importance of giving back to our communities. No member is forced to do anything, we choose how we are going to participate, we choose when, we choose what we are willing to do.

The difference between volunteers for many organizations and the Grange is that in our Order, each member is empowered to suggest what, when, where, who, and how we are going to do as a group. Each member has the opportunity to suggest projects or activities, the chance to suggest and implement changes to the program, and the choice of whether to participate or not. Our members own the community service projects and the educational and legislative efforts.

We already have important people volunteering within and through our organization. Just because the news doesn't cover our efforts do not change the fact that we are impacting people in a positive manner. Grange members are also looking for those who feel a desire to give back to their community and want the opportunity to be a part of the decision or leadership process.

Grange members are regular people who understand that working together as a team empowers each member and that the satisfaction from volunteering can not be bought.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


When I think of the National Grange staff, I think of a talented group of people who give 100% to being part of a team whose purpose is helping to create growth in the Grange. Having been a member for over 35 years, I've had the opportunity to work with various National Staff members and on occasion been impressed and at other times disappointed by different people. Over the past two years, I've seen each of our current staff members grow as people, Grange leaders, and as friends.

The credit should always go to the team that achieves the goals. I do not believe that the leader ever does as much as the team, even though they often get much of the credit. I know that my staff team definitely makes me look good, often in spite of what I am doing. Each member of this National Grange staff team does great work, exceeds my expectations and adds value to our efforts. They understand that they are working for the local Grange members.

Each staff member brings different skills and abilities to their various tasks. They are willing to wear different hats and help each other as needed. I am proud to be given the opportunity to lead this talented team and truly look forward to each day that we work together on behalf of the Grange.

No matter what their title or job, your National Grange staff has earned my appreciation and I hope our members will appreciate what they do for our organization. I challenge any member who has a pleasant experience when dealing with one of our staff to send them an email, with a cc to me, thanking them for their effort. It is a human trait to gripe when we are dissatisfied, are you willing to brag when you're pleased?