Grange members attending the organization's 134th annual convention sported lapel pins that read: "We're turning the Grange around!"

A stylized G sweeps from the pin's bottom up to the top like an arrow pointing skyward. "After four decades of declining membership, we are taking steps to make the Grange a relevant organization again," declared National Master Kermit W. Richardson.

In early 1999, the Strategic Planning Task Force was formed to evaluate the "current reality" facing the Grange and to develop a strategy to once again make the Grange a relevant organization. A third party, the Davis Consulting Group (DCG), facilitated the task force's six meetings over several months. The task force delivered its final report to state masters, Executive Committee members and department directors during an intense three-hour session. The "reality" is that the majority of Granges no longer relate to the needs of their communities, do not appeal to young people and families, do not communicate to the outside and have dues structures which deliver little value for little money."

Entrenched leadership that resists change is a root cause of the Grange's current state according to the task force. A disturbing finding was the number of new members dropping out shortly after realizing they would not have much input into Grange programing, direction and policy. The task force concluded that membership development without leadership development would fail to create long-term gains in membership.

Having faced present reality, the task force created a vision for a renewed Grange. A key task force decision was to concentrate the vision on the local or subordinate level. "This is not a top-down plan," stated DCG's Dudley Davis. In fact, the plan calls for the national office to facilitate and accommodate change at the local level. The plan recommends some restructuring at the national office to better serve local needs.

"The Grange, in the 21st century, will be a pre-eminent organization. It will commit to the development of the potential in families, youths and young adults through dynamic programs and experiences that educate, engage and enrich their lives," the vision statement begins: It calls for a commitment to membership, enabled leadership and importantly, a relevance to the community. Ease to membership and strong fellowship are important components of the vision statement. The statement envisions a National Grange that is a partner with local Granges in achieving their goals.

There are 3,600 Granges, in 37 states. While the temptation to invite all Granges to be a partner in the strategic plan, the reality is that there are not enough financial and human resources to do it all at once. So, the task force, after considerable debate, determined that a strategy that helped the most able most ready, most interested and best equipped Granges to make even greater progress, promised all Granges a plan and strategy that offers can embrace. The target is 200 "Action Granges" spread across all Grange states. Participation will require a financial commitment on a Grange's part and a willingness to try new ways and share what works and what does not work with others. In exchange, the "Action Granges" will receive leadership and member development training from the Task Force. The program will last three years.

Interested local Granges will be asked to fill out an application survey and submit it by March 1, 2001. All Granges, no matter size or location, are eligible and encouraged to apply. The final 200 "Action Granges" will be identified by May, 2001, and the program will commence immediately after that.

Assessing the three-hour presentation, Executive Committee Chairman Bob Clouse of California stated, "This was the most important meeting I have attended since joining the Grange."

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