By Payal Gangishetti
Nonprofit Sector News
June 26, 2020

Like many local and other national nonprofit organizations, aging membership is a problem for the United States Junior Chamber, or as it is more commonly known, the Jaycees.

The Jaycees is a leadership training and civic organization for people between the ages 18 and 40. Since its national founding in 1920, the Jaycees has helped more than 12 million young adults in the United States and about 20 million worldwide became leaders in their communities. But the group, which seeks to develop leadership skills through community service, individual training, management skills and business development, is still experiencing an annual membership decline of about 11 to 15 percent.

Justin Wutzke, national president of JCI(USA) said, “Our numbers clearly show that we have been on a steady decline. During the early 1990s, the members of the organization concentrated more on word-of-mouth and network marketing instead of recruiting and encouraging more young people to get involved with the organization’s mission.”

Today, the Jaycees—headquartered in Tulsa, Okla.—has 12,000 members and 400 clubs in the United States, down from the peak of 350,000 in 1976. Moreover, about 300 chapters now have only about 10 to 15 members and only five to 10 chapters have more than 100 members.

Speaking about the plight of how some chapters, such as those in Connecticut, went dormant for some years now, Wutzke said that some state Jaycee organizations want to have control over these local chapters and it is becoming difficult for them to operate. “The Jaycees Connecticut
chapter has lost 50 members in the last two years. It doesn’t have a state representation for over three years now,” he said.

Wutzke said various civic organizations also have experienced a sudden decline in membership over the last three decades due to various reasons like generational and cultural differences. (In fact, many people refer to it as “bowling alone,” after Robert D. Putnam’s bestselling book by that name in 2000. But not all older civic organizations have had the same experience: for example, Lions Club International, founded 1917, has 1.4 million members in 48,000 clubs in almost every country in the world, and about 300 staff members.)

“Unlike any other organization, we are struggling for engagement,” Wutzke says. “Nowadays, college-goers tend to spend their extra time on after school programs and other fun activities. Everything is available on the internet, it has become difficult to attract young people towards community and leadership development activities as they find them to be boring or show no interest.”

Sharlene Duzick, president of the Santa Clarita, Calif., Jaycees chapter and a 20-year member, said, “Teamwork plays an important role in making any organization successful. It’s very important for the members to have face-to-face conversations to solve issues, but these days with the advancement in technology we are losing human connections. Working as a team and trying to reach out to the local communities is what our chapter is working on.”

However, to increase its overall membership rate, the Jaycees is coming up with innovative ideas to reach the public on social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook and Instagram.

The organization is also concentrating on training its alumni network so that former members can act as mentors and provide career guidance, advice on leadership skills, and encourage younger people to achieve their goals.

On the question about changing the age limit of 40 would make any difference in attracting more members, Wutzke said, “Unless the older members of the organization are more open-minded about providing young people an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, nothing much will
change.”

Lamenting the fact how media and the government have shaped public opinion on leadership roles, Wutzke said that these days people think leadership is something that is not attainable by everyone. “We as a society don’t do a good job in making people believe in themselves. We live in a world where we shame ourselves and others, and deal with several mental health issues. Having an opportunity to personally grow and develop is very important and this is what youngsters need to understand.”

Centenary year celebrations canceled
This year, the Jaycees is celebrating 100 years as a national organization. As part of the year-long celebrations, various community and leadership development events were scheduled to take place but, due to the global corona virus pandemic, most programs had to be canceled. However,
the organization has not decided yet whether it should cancel the 2020 JCI World Congress, scheduled for November 3-7 in Yokohama, Japan.

Wutzke said, “Considering the present pandemic situation, the Congress is most likely to be a virtual event, but the organization will take a decision on it only next month” (July).

Meanwhile, Jaycees is planning to soon raise awareness about mental health issues by collaborating with other organizations concerned about it. “Mental health is not getting due attention these days,” Wutzke said. “We want to work with research centers, educational institutions and similar other organizations, where we can come up with project plans that can be
implemented at the community level and help people deal with mental health problems.”

Fundraising amidst global pandemic
While the coronavirus pandemic has put on hold many key project activities in the organization’s fundraising calendar, it hasn’t stopped the Jaycees from raising some amount through organizing virtual events. In the last two months, as many as 815 members have undergone leadership and
communication development training virtually. “Some of our local chapter members have managed to bring guest speakers and organize virtual training to the youngsters,” said Wutzke.

However, Wutzke added, lack of funds have always been an issue. The organization receives $25,000 per year from the Bill Gates Foundation to carry out advocacy work and meet various expenses. However, these funds are barely sufficient, adds Wutzke.

He said the organization mostly depends on local donors and fundraising activities such as pancake breakfasts and other leadership building programs to raise money for their projects, but the sudden lockdown has hampered all fundraising.

One message that Wutzke tries to give to the current generation of younger people is to find an environment that will give them a safe space to fail and learn from mistakes, an environment where they can be vulnerable and learn the skills that are needed to move closer to the goals they wants to achieve.


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By nsn2020

7 thoughts on “Once a booming organization, Jaycees struggling as membership continues to fade”
  1. ..JAYCEES can still be attractive to many and most young people …. the tenets that made them great leaders, accomplished people and motivational leaders are still being searched and wanting in today’s more complex, disposable and misguided world … individual development of a person is still job one … enhancing one’s skills is an asset in itself … caring and engaging in community service is so vitally needed today .. that a tremendous model as JAYCEES is quite appealing …. there are so many choice nuggets of organizational management techniques and principles  that can and should be re-injected into the JAYCEE Movement … utilizing of the veteran JCI Senate organization .. a better ALUMNI Association is really needed … the relationships and experiences a young person goes through in JAYCEES is a lifetime of memories that are timeless … let’s go and make JAYCEES a great place in America … and around the world – JCI! GOD Bless! ‘peace’

    1. When I was a Jaycee (1994-5 Nevada Jaycee President) I did a couple of seminars on Time Management which were the price of membership $80. So if someone attended (usually companies would pay to have one of their employees attend) the seminar came with a free one year membership. Back then Jaycees had a number of programs already set up with training materials so the program was easy to facilitate. I utilized free venue/conference auditoriums set up through the local power company. During that era companies like Career Tracks and others were holding the same type of seminars at a fee of $395. I created that program when a store manager said that he couldn’t sponsor a member or else he would have to do the same for every other organization like ours. So I created the seminar format. I was able to get some membership through that endeavor and I tried to get the U.S. Jaycees on board with it but didn’t get a response (missed opportunity)! I have a very active Active 20-30 Club in Eugene, OR and I was friends with many of their members back when I was Nevada Jaycee President. Today their numbers only amount to 700 in America and Canada. I am currently a member of the Springfield Lions Club in Oregon. World Wide the Lions boast a membership of 1.4 million. But even that number is dwendling as a result of members passing away and such. It is surprising to see how many Oregon Lions were once Jaycee members. I currently solicite new members for my Lions Club by enticing business owners with the fact that their membership dues are tax deductable as a business expense. If you need help with anything contact me at springfieldlionsclub@gmail.com.

    2. When I was a Jaycee (1994-5 Nevada Jaycee President) I did a couple of seminars on Time Management which were the price of membership $80. So if someone attended (usually companies would pay to have one of their employees attend) the seminar came with a free one year membership. Back then Jaycees had a number of programs already set up with training materials so the program was easy to facilitate. I utilized free venue/conference auditoriums set up through the local power company. During that era companies like Career Tracks and others were holding the same type of seminars at a fee of $395. I created that program when a store manager said that he couldn’t sponsor a member or else he would have to do the same for every other organization like ours. So I created the seminar format. I was able to get some membership through that endeavor and I tried to get the U.S. Jaycees on board with it but didn’t get a response (missed opportunity)! I have a very active Active 20-30 Club in Eugene, OR and I was friends with many of their members back when I was Nevada Jaycee President. Today their numbers only amount to 700 in America and Canada. I am currently a member of the Springfield Lions Club in Oregon. World Wide the Lions boast a membership of 1.4 million. But even that number is dwendling as a result of members passing away and such. It is surprising to see how many Oregon Lions were once Jaycee members. I currently solicite new members for my Lions Club by enticing business owners with the fact that their membership dues are tax deductable as a business expense. If you need help with anything contact me at springfieldlionsclub@gmail.com. I was hoping that the Jaycees were only down to 50,000.

  2. Michael Bendick Past president Burlilngame J.C's, District 15 Govnor, and S.F. Bay Area Regional Director....#1 in the state 1989. Aged out 1990 : ) I'm still active though because "Service to Humanity is the Best Work of Life! says:

    I am U.S. Jaycee Ambassador 1596. I would like to help.

  3. Who would want to learn so-called leadership skills from an organization that is so obviously failing to lead even its own members?

    It seems like the point of this organization is mainly to help the self-interested pursue their own interests…

    Also, John Wayne Gacy was a prominent and very active member…

    Perhaps it’s time to let this outdated association, with its incredibly nebulous goals, reach its inevitable end.

    1. I do research on ways of determining who the next serial killer will be. There are around 35 unknown serial killers roaming around the world now and the F.B.I. states that for every serial killer captured 5 new ones are created. So a serial killer can be amongst any group. Some even hold prominent positions in their local church (B.T.K.) So granted John Wayne Gacy was a Jaycee but whose to say that you or your neighbor isn’t?

  4. I just want to share to share with you my experiences as a Jaycee. I am now 70 years old so I was member back in the 1970-80s in St Joseph MN. I was an officier and President in 1976-77. Our chapter was very active wlth about 30-40 membes in a town of about 1800 residdents and we even built two lighted softball parks for our community. The project was completed in 1976 and cost about $100,000 to complete. For over nearly 35 years the parks brought 1000s ofpeople to the community 7 days a week from May to October. We raised all the money locally with community fund raising events. The interest in softball has declined so now there is interest in converting the parks to Little League Baseball instead.

    Another club about 15 miles west of St Joe in Albany MN is also a very active club and still provides benefits to their community as well to this day. One of the major projects they worked on in the 1990s was the creation of the Lake Wobegon Trails in central Minnesota. They raised over $150,000 to encourage the Stearn County Board of Commissioners to consider building the trail on the recently abandoned BNSF rail corridor running west from St Joe to Osakis and north from Albany to Holdingford Minnesota. It covers a total of over 60 miles and connects to addition trails that makes the entire system over 140 miles long. The trails are now connected to three other trails and there are plans for at least three more trails to be conneted to the Lake Wobegon Trails over the next 5-10 years. The trails currently have over 300,000 users on the trails from April to October each year and have inspired sereral new buinessses along the trail communities. That doesn’t count the winter trail uses including ssnowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country sking and just hiking.

    My reason for writing is that Jaycees give young people the opportunity to make a difference in their ccommunities and in themselves. I would likely never have become as actie in my communties without my exposure to the Jaycees! In both communities the older organizations with older members of the Communities resisted the ideas put forth by the Jaycee. Without the efforts of the Jaycees neither of these great community projects would have happened and it’s all because Jaycees are made up of people too young and ambitious to think that something can’t be done! They just go ahead and do it!

    Keep up the good work getting more young people involved in their communities!

    Thank you!

    Cliff Borgerding
    320-293-9364
    Clifflwtrail@gmail.com

    I am currently the President of the Lake Wobegin Trails Asssociation (www.lakewobegontrails.com)

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