1925, at the International Convention of LIONS clubs in Port Clinton Ohio, Helen Keller challenged us to become the Knights for Sight – to fight for those who were blind or visually impaired. LIONS members throughout the World took-up her challenge and forged ahead; pursuing guide dogs for the blind, supporting legal right-of-way for blind people with white canes, buying eyeglasses for indigent boys and girls, collecting used eyeglasses for third world countries, helping with vision screening programs, setting-up eye banks for corneal transplants and, of course, funding research into the causes and prevention of eye disease.
The general public closely associates LIONS with eyesight ,one way or another. For example, while collecting donations during our club’s White Cane sale, a women donated $5.00 because her brother received free eye glasses from the local LIONS – something she’ll always remember. Also, I proudly mention that I’m a LIONS member and people often reply “you’re the ones that collect used eye glasses.” In marketing, the close link between the LIONS and eyesight is called branding – like Xerox is to making copies; when people think of one – they automatically think of the other. Branding is a great thing…something every business or organization wishes they could accomplish or strengthen. Branding gives the LIONS a competitive advantage over other volunteer organizations in terms of fund raising, recruitment and public relations.
In the past decade, LIONS members have pursued other noble interests such as homeless shelters, supporting local school bands, food panties, camps, parks and many other worthwhile endeavors. However, as LIONS members support more and more worthwhile endeavors, we spread our limited resources too thin and, importantly, dilute our brand – of helping the blind and visually impaired. As we dilute our brand, less and less of the general public come to associate the LIONS with eye sight and vision conservation. If this trend continues, at some point we may loose our branding all together – much like the March of Dimes lost their branding when polio was cured – along with a lose of donations and public recognition.
Our heritage of helping the blind and visually impaired, our branding, is slowly slipping away. This is not good for the LIONS or for soliciting donations from the general public. The loss of LIONS branding will lead to further loss of donations as well as a further loss of membership, as more and more of the general public asks the central question: who are the LIONS?
LIONS are the ones that provide eyeglasses to the indigent. LIONS are the ones that collect used eye glasses. LIONS are the ones who support eye research. Let us not loose our focus, our mission, our branding. Support eye research and the Ohio LIONS Eye Research Foundation.[print_link]