Days like this…

“When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit it
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this”

Van Morrison

I had one of those days earlier this month while attending the Sons of Norway (SON) “Leadership Conference” in Bloomington, Minnesota, a day of education and inspiration held in advance of the society’s International Convention. The title of the conference was “MOTIVATE – MAXIMIZE – MOBILIZE – To Benefit Your Community and Your Lodge.” And the speakers, panel presentations, and community service exercises captured the essence of that theme by providing the local chapter leaders from across the country with tools they can use to make them better at what we do best: enhance the quality of life in their communities.

The program began with a terrific presentation by Rob Zeaske of Second Harvest, one of Sons of Norway’s community service partners. Rob’s message was passionate and poignant: hunger is everywhere; government funding is an important part of solving the problem; but local volunteers are the only way to effectively address the issue. What does feeding the hungry have to do with the Sons of Norway’s common ethnic bond? Other than the fact that Norwegians are some of the nicest people on the planet, there is not direct connection. But members’ shared value of helping those in their local communities who need it may be an even more compelling common bond. Hunger IS everywhere. So is Second Harvest. And so are fraternals. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Our little community can collectively help solve one of society’s most vexing problems – IF WE THINK BIG!

From there, the program included a panel presentation of local chapter leaders discussing how they motivated current members to engage in a community service event and, in so doing, were able to attract new members to the society. This session reminded me that the fraternal brand isn’t built on national advertising campaigns or naming rights to major league stadiums. It’s built on increasing the awareness of what we do to help our communities. YOU ARE THE BRAND!

There was a “hands-on” community service activity co-sponsored by Minnesota’s other domiciled society, Catholic United Financial. Under the direction of CUF’s fraternal staff, SON’s volunteers packed hundreds of hygiene kits for local homeless shelters. A parallel session taught local chapter leaders how to take more effective photographs of community service events for society publications and local media coverage.

The conference wrapped up with an extensive presentation on how local chapters can more effectively use social media networks to build effective on-line member communities, and a tears-to-your-eyes speech by a local community activist who shared his story of how SON helped him raise more than $1 million to address homelessness issues in the Twin Cities.

After attending countless fraternal conventions and convocations that spend hours on reading committee reports, remembering deceased members, and adopting resolutions, it was incredibly rewarding to participate in a meeting that had one primary purpose: helping members improve their ability to positively impact their communities. It made me appreciate who we are, what we do, and why we do it. I hope to see more “days like this…”

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