Evolve or die. This has been a fundamental precept for operating any business over the ages. As a result, mankind’s proclivity towards innovation has helped see us reach unimaginable heights in nearly every social sector, often as a result of facing unimaginable challenges. Our will to envision electricity in every home, to launch telescopes into space, and to foster peace where none was thought possible has propelled us and inspired us to reach new levels. Whether you are developing a vaccine to fight a pandemic or putting pen to paper on a new book idea, every individual, business and government has had to face their own share of challenges in their quest to evolve or die, and for the Friendship Force it is no different.
In late March it became clear that unless FFI acted quickly to survive, we would not have the luxury of choosing whether to evolve or die. Because of so many who hold close a vision for what is possible with peace through friendship, we not only survived, but we are now positioned to thrive in the months ahead. But our challenge doesn’t end with surviving an economic crisis. In many ways, it is just the beginning.
A stay on international travel does not diminish the efficacy of our mission, if anything, being quarantined has emboldened the need for global connections. This moment has also given us an opportunity to revisit our assumptions about how these connections are made and how we can do better as an organization to strengthen connections outside of hopping on a plane or preparing our guest rooms. In other words, we are being forced to evolve.
How do we help cultivate friendships virtually? How might we gain exposure to other cultures, other people, when we are unable to travel? How can we better entrench our local club into our community and serve as a conduit for cultural awareness and understanding for our neighbors and friends?
Facing a health and economic crisis of this scale has forced us to ask structural questions as well. How do we build financial resilience? In what ways does our fee schedule encourage or dissuade members from joining the organization? In what ways can FFI use technology to assist clubs in member recruitment and retention?
In June, the International Board of Directors started discussing these questions and how FFI can thrive in the months ahead, starting with financial resilience. The Board agreed that for every question we seek answers to, we must start with a firm foundation of guiding principles. In beginning a conversation on the framework for a revised revenue model (a fee schedule) at their most recent virtual board meeting on June 13, 2020, the Board agreed that the new model should:
- Ensure the financial sustainability of FFI as a non-profit organization, through diverse sources of revenues and flexible programs
- Reflect our values of fairness and equity to all our different types of members, whatever country they live in
- Show that membership to FFI is valuable and brings benefits to its members, and attracts members in quantity and quality to reach our mission
- Be easy to manage, easy to implement, easy to understand
- Be clear that individual membership is key, but also support club memberships and maintain our club investments
In the weeks ahead, the International Board of Directors and I would like to invite you to follow along with us in our journey toward answering these questions, and many more like them. By sharing openly and honestly about how FFI can be stronger moving forward, we acknowledge our responsibility to learn from this moment and to ensure that we evolve together.