College Knights Go to Class
Attendees of the 2015 College Councils Conference learned how to improve their councils and reach out to potential members during a series of workshops and presentations that marked the 50th anniversary of the conference.
Basing his remarks on the conference’s theme “You Shall Be My Witnesses,” College Advisory Board Chairman Henry Dickman pointed out that while gathered together for this weekend in faith and fraternity, college Knights will learn how to face the challenges of campus life, where obstacles to living a good Catholic life have become the status quo. Despite these obstacles, he reminded the attendees that they each have a “call to be a witness to Christ, which is not easy.”
He also reminded them that they don’t need to face these challenges alone, but can face them with their brother Knights who are also called to be witnesses and to celebrate the faith in fraternity.
“We all take this journey of faith together,” he said.
His opening remarks followed Friday’s events which included a tour of the Knights of Columbus Museum and a presentation by Thomas J. Perretta Jr., manager of College Councils and Young Adult Outreach, on the 50-year history of the College Councils Conference.
College Council Coordinator Robert Rauch also gave a presentation on Saturday on “Growing Our Councils: Inviting Every Eligible Man.” This title, Rauch said, is taken from the constant reminder of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson that Knights have no more compelling obligation than to give every Catholic man the opportunity to join the Knights of Columbus.
Rauch pointed out that the college program last fraternal year grew by over 1,400 members in North America. Many councils also participated in the Spring Recruiting Challenge, and he recognized those councils that recruited the most brother Knights between Jan. 1 and April 30 in their respective divisions based on council size. Each of the following councils received a customized council banner in recognition of its recruitment efforts: Division 1: US Naval Academy, with 23 members; Division 2: George Mason University, with 20 members; Division 3: University of Houston, with 15 members; and Division 4: Fordham University, with 15 members.
Rauch also announced a Race to 1,000 Contest to encourage college Knights to collectively grow by 1,000 members this fall. The new incentives are: Divisions 1 (201+ members) and Division 2 (101-200) — $50.00 for first 10 members and 10,000 VIP points, with 2,000 VIP points for every member over 10. For Divisions 3 (51-100) and Division 4 (under 50 members) — $50.00 for first five members and 5,000 VIP points, with 1,000 VIP points for every member over five new members.
“Yes, our acts of charity, witness to the Gospel, and bonds of brotherhood create an attractive fraternal communion and many men readily sign up to join us,” Rauch said. “But our witness must also be one of welcome and invitation. Everything we do as Knights, as Catholic gentlemen on campus, can be an opportunity to grow our ranks and we must take the initiative and invite these men into our councils. And once they join us, we must continue to invite them to become the best versions of themselves.”
Following the opening session, the college Knights attended a variety of workshops on topics such as membership motivation, effective event planning, best practices for council engagement, the New Evangelization in college councils, and council marketing and public relations.
After the morning and early afternoon workshops, the college Knights gathered for a pair of presentations by former college council members.
The first was “Programming Opportunities” by Robert Ennis, director of Fraternal Operations and Programs. Ennis reminded the attendees that while they would get valuable information from the breakout sessions and presentations “most of the real learning takes place when you guys are talking to one another.”
He went on to explain that successful Knights of Columbus programs have four common features: they help someone or some group, they engage council members, they are a visible opportunity to attract men to the council, and they generate positive publicity.
“Look at what is happening on your campus and the surrounding community and then devise a program to meet one of the needs you see,” Ennis said.
Director of Insurance Marketing Matthew St. John followed with a presentation on “Father McGivney’s Founding Vision” and the Knights of Columbus Insurance Program. He noted that Father McGivney built an insurance program into the founding of the Order to protect families after the loss of the breadwinner.
“We’re here to talk about the Knights of Columbus insurance program,” St. John said. “Because really, just as this is his organization, this is his insurance program. Here’s a man who approached the founding of the Order and its insurance program with ‘an entrepreneurial zeal.’ Here’s a man who’s had to delve into the subject of insurance and read all of the fine print, of which there was plenty.”
St. John added, “We are here to protect you, just as Father McGivney intended us to be. That is a claim that no other company can ever make. We are the premier Catholic insurance company, and we are yours.”