Elk Herd Strengthened By New Blood


There are signs of a small, silent social insurgency sweeping through medium-size boomtown cities and suburbs across the nation: young professionals joining the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a 138-year-old fraternal organization most commonly associated with charitable works, veterans’ causes and Jackie Gleason’s Honeymooners.
Like other fraternal organizations, the Elks have struggled with massive decline in membership as society moved away from Ralph and Alice Kramden and toward Will & Grace. The Elks, whose average member is 65, have lost 600,000 members since 1980 to old age, death and just plain apathy, officials say.
Overall, the Elks are still losing about 19,000 a year as members continue to decline and age. But a youthful burst in membership is helping to stanch annual losses and revitalize faltering lodges.
Perhaps the growth can be attributed to the fact that Elks lodges are oases of unhurried camaraderie, cheap beer, private party rooms and free parking in otherwise overcrowded urban centers — all for an average cost of less than $100 a year in membership dues.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.