The Association of Lions Clubs developed from an idea of Melvin Jones, a community-spirited Chicago insurance agent. At its first Convention in October 1917, the Association was officially designated as Lions Clubs. At that time 22 Clubs were represented, all within the United States, and it was at this Convention that the Association's constitution and by-laws were adopted. By 1927 Clubs had been organised in China, Mexico and Cuba and membership then stood at 60,000 in 1,183 clubs. Gradually, the concept of Lionism has spread throughout the world, until the present day with clubs established in more than 180 countries. In Britain and Ireland alone there are almost 1,000 clubs.
The official name of our association is The International Association of Lions Clubs. Most of us, however, prefer the abbreviated form 'Lions Clubs International'. On our Emblem, which is found on our pins, badges, flags, correspondence, etc. the Lions facing away from the centre represent the past and the future. Proud of the past and confident of the future.
Our motto is simply WE SERVE. Our official Colours of purple and gold each have a special meaning. Purple stands for loyalty and integrity: gold stands for sincerity, liberality, purity and generosity in mind and heart.
Lions Clubs International is organised into Districts and these are grouped together into Multiple Districts. The British Isles and Ireland are known as "Multiple District 105", or simply "MD 105". Each District is identified by its Multiple District number followed by one or two letters. Our clubs lie in District 1O5BS. The District is then divided into Regions and each Region into Zones. Most Zones comprise between six and eight Clubs. This sounds complicated, but it is quite simple when reduced as follows:
- Headquarters: Lions International - headed by annually appointed International President
- Our Country Identification: MD 105 headed by annually appointed Chairman of Council
- Our District Identification: BS headed by annually appointed District Governor
- Our Region headed by annually appointed Region Chairman
- Our Zone headed by annually appointed Zone Chairman
- Our Club headed by annually appointed President
Lions clubs around the world conduct a variety of humanitarian service projects, which benefit communities at local, national and international levels. The quantum of support at all or any of these levels is decided by the membership of each individual club.
- The following are just a few examples of some of the better-known national and international projects and activities:
- Diabetes Awareness: Educational programmes designed to promote awareness of the warning signs of diabetes. Some clubs, in collaboration with local medical centres, conduct free diabetic/cholesterol screening sessions for the general public.
- Sight Conservation and Work with the Blind: A programme of glaucoma screening clinics, eye banks and rehabilitation institutes. White Canes were introduced by the Lions and some clubs provide aids including guide dogs.
- SightFirst: An international programme dedicated to controlling and preventing blindness worldwide.
- Closer to home: Lions clubs raise funds to support worthy causes appropriate to the needs of their local communities. The need could be quite modest, such as toys for a playgroup, or much more ambitious, such as motorised wheelchairs for the disabled. There is no set agenda, and much depends on the way the club develops and the support extended by the local community.
Clubs are born in a variety of different ways, and for a variety of reasons. The reason which stands out amongst all others is the overwhelming desire to help those less fortunate than ourselves. This does not necessarily mean helping those less privileged from a financial point of view. In fact, much of the help provided by Lions has no connection whatsoever with money. For example, it could be that some club members are anxious to help with environmental issues, or perhaps rendering physical support to the elderly or the handicapped. Very often the overriding reason for forming a club is the desire of a group of people to gather socially and cultivate new and lasting friendships, while at the same time rendering service to their local community. Such a club is possibly the happiest of all!
- Clubs fall into 3 different categories, all of whom can benefit their community:
- Club Branch: a small number of people can form a Club Branch, working under the 'umbrella' of a sponsor Club.
- New Century Lions Club: aimed mainly at the under 35 age group.
- Lions Club: Comprises of a minimum of 20 people of all ages.
Once common ground has been established and the group totals the required number of members, the time has arrived to form a club under the banner of "Lions Clubs International". Another club is invited to sponsor the new club, and the District Governor appoints an experienced 'Guiding Lion' to help the new club through its first year. At this stage, three important meetings are arranged:
- 1) Pre-formation Meeting: in which members complete their membership application forms, pay their entrance fees, elect temporary officers, prepare for the Formation Meeting and take decisions on the way forward for their club
- 2) Formation Meeting: a ceremonial occasion when members are inducted and the Club firmly established as up and running
- 3) Charter Evening: an exciting celebration, usually in the form of a dinner/dance held at a prestigious venue, when the club is formally presented with its Charter. Lions from other clubs participate in the event.
The Club Rules are set out in a Constitution, which is in the main common to all clubs. The Lionistic Year runs from 1st July to 30th June, with elections held each March to appoint the following year's officers.
- These are:
- President - conducts meetings
- First Vice President - conducts meetings in the absence of the President
- Secretary - maintains records and conducts correspondence
- Treasurer - takes care of Club finances
- Lion Tamer - the keeper of Club regalia
- Tail Twister - makes sure members behave themselves and fines them when they don't.
It is usual, but not essential, for the First Vice President to be elected President for the following year. Some clubs also elect a Second Vice President. Very often the Secretary and Treasurer serve for more than one year. but this is also for the members to decide and in any case, as with other officers, they must be re-elected every year. In addition to the officers, some members are invited by the President to chair committees which take care of the club's activities.
Every club has a Board of Directors, generally composed of the office bearers plus two members. The Board usually meets independently to discuss broad issues concerning the club; particularly membership matters and report their findings to the Club at the regular meeting.
A club requires at least two separate accounts: Charities/Activities and Administration. The Charities account is strictly reserved for money raised from the public, and Lions are very proud of the fact that for every £1 raised from the public £1 goes back into the community. In other words, we are not permitted to claim administration costs from the money we collect. The Administration account contains the money we collect from ourselves. We collect most of the money through our half-yearly dues, holding raffles and other fund raising activities among ourselves. Also there are the fine raised by our Tailtwister, but these are kept within reasonable bounds.
Every member contributes to the administration costs of the organisation at District, Multiple District and International levels and currently a typical club half-yearly subscription would be £15 to £25. This also covers the cost of the bimonthly 'B&I Lion' Magazine, (posted to every member in Britain and Ireland) as well as our personal accident insurance premium. We each pay a strictly one-off joining fee, usually around £20. This covers the cost of our New Member Kit (Lions pin, etc.) and the administration costs incurred by Headquarters in processing our membership.
So often we have heard it said that being a Lion means spending money, but this is simply not true. The most expensive event in our programme is our annual Charter Anniversary celebration, when most clubs arrange a dinner/dance in a prestigious venue. This event celebrates the "Clubs Birthday" and the average cost per person is in the range £17.00 to £22.00. Attendance is optional, and in any case it only happens once a year. Some Lions really enjoy Charters and participate in the celebrations of other clubs as well as their own. This is their choice and pressure is never brought to bear on members to spend more than they can afford. As far as other social events is concerned, the members choose what to do, or where to go and how much to spend.
Meetings are usually held twice monthly. The Lion Tamer prepares the meeting room prior to the arrival of the other members. The President conducts the proceedings, the Secretary and Treasurer are asked for their reports, followed by the Committee Chairmen, and finally all members are asked to contribute to any other business. Throughout the proceedings, all members are encouraged to express their views and ideas. The Tail Twister collects the fines, reminding members of the mistakes they have made. Some clubs have a break halfway through the meeting and some prefer to finish the business as quickly as possible, leaving members with an hour or so to enjoy each others' company before going home. Minutes of meetings are usually circulated to all members within ten days of the meeting.
The Club's activities depend solely on the preferences of the members. Usually, the Fund-Raising committee is responsible for finding, putting forward and the execution of projects for the raising of charity funds.
There is always an individual or group needing a helping hand and the extent to which the Club contributes depends upon the decisions of the members and possibly the time at their disposal.
This is when members get together and simply enjoy being Lions. The Social Activities Committee plans a programme of entertainment in consultation with all club members. Anything goes in this aspect of Lions.
Basic items of ceremonial regalia used by most clubs include the President's collar of office, gavel, bell, Tail-Twister's collection box, visitor's book and bannerettes. (All clubs have their own individually designed bannerettes, which they exchange with other clubs during inter-club visits and on other special occasions.) The basic items for fund-raising include collection boxes/buckets, tabards, collapsible tables and PR display boards. It takes time to acquire all these items, but as a temporary measure in the initial stages of a club's development, neighbouring clubs usually make their surplus equipment available on loan. The only item which cannot be borrowed is the President's collar of office.