Virginia O’Reilly - Rotary Membership Issues

Virginia O'Reilly is the Membership Chair for District 7070. She is a partner at Burak Jacobson Research Partners, a consulting firm in Toronto specializing in consumer insights through market research.
Virginia holds a Bachelor's Degree in Science with a Mathematics Major from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Business Administration from Queen's University. She has been a member of the Toronto East Rotary Club since 1998. She served as her club's first female President between 2001 and 2002.
Virginia spoke on issues related to attracting and retaining new members. This is an important issue for Rotary as membership is in decline. Part of her presentation included asking each table to answer a written question. The goal was to start a membership discussion and help people think of the issue in different ways. Each table was given 10 mins to discuss the question and then provide a brief presentation on their answer.
Table #1 was asked how we are making a difference in the community and how we are letting members and the public know. The response was that our club is using social media like Facebook and our website. We also do a weekly bulletin. We communicate with local civic leaders, charities and politicians. A recent example of how we communicated with the pubic on Rotary International efforts was our Polio street campaign.
Virginia suggested that not all members have a good understanding of what our club does. A suggested strategy is to take more time at meetings to update members on committee work. It would also help to build a “friend” list and communicate more often with this group.
Table #2 was asked how we involve new members. The table responded with mentoring program and our encouragement to join committees. Virginia suggested that we maintain and monitor a list of items new members have been exposed to. We should also understand every new member’s personal interests and skills that fall outside their occupation.
Table #3 was asked what they love about Rotary. They responded with fun and friendship, a convenient meeting time and location, and great speakers and food. Virginia suggested we focus on letting people know about what makes our club great.
Table #4 was asked why did you join Rotary and why would others join. The response was that people join RTE because we are a welcoming club and do great work locally. We are also good for business networking.  In response, Virginia provided details of a Rotary survey that said 1/3 of people joined and stayed for the friendships, while another 1/3 joined to help their local community.
After each table had made their presentation, Virginia spoke about different strategies that RTE may want to consider. This includes more flexible meeting times and attendance requirements. We may also want to try events that include friends of Rotary.