Bob Sloane of the Rotary Club of Barossa Valley has sent a report regarding their 'Friends of Rotary' program.
The comprehensive report can be read in read more.
Friends of Rotary
Our Friends of Rotary programme has been successfully running for 2 ½ yrs.
18 months prior to that our Club found that while we weren’t having trouble retaining members, we were having trouble gaining new members. Our average age was around 70, and inductions were down to about one per year.
We identified that one of the reasons people were reluctant to become Rotarians was that they believed it was essential/compulsory to attend meetings.
We therefore looked at a more casual form of Rotary membership.
Orange Daybreak RC had a successful Associate membership programme running, so myself and our Fellowship Director visited their club to hear more about it .
Following the visit we strongly believed that not only  could it work for us, but that we had to try something to stop our Club slowly disappearing.
We chose to call our programme “ Friends of Rotary” instead of Associate membership because Rotary International did not recognise this new type of membership.
Programme Launch.
To launch our F.O.R programme we held an information night.
Rotarians submitted names of people who received a formal invitation in the mail. We gave guidelines on what type of people should be invited. We needed to attract people other than 70+ yr old males, which our club was mainly made up of. We needed younger people, females, couples.
We encouraged Rotarians and partners to attend the info night, and provided finger food and drinks for the invited guests.
Of the 50-60 people who were invited, approx. 30 accepted.
We had 3-4 Rotarians talk for 10 mins maximum about different aspects of Rotary such as R.I., our Club structure , our Community Service projects, how we raise money, how we use that money, and our Social/Fellowship activities.
We also explained why we needed new people in our Club , i.e. we needed to increase our resources and networking opportunities, we needed new ideas, new projects and hopefully younger people.
We explained that we needed people to attend meetings as often as they could, not just sign up and then never turn up.
We told prospective Friends that we would like to see them attend a meeting at least once a month, a Service project once every two months and a Social function once every three months.
The two information nights that we have held so far ( the third one is in late Sept ) have been successful because
1). We concentrate our supply of information into one annual night each year.
2). Rotarians and our current Friends seem more willing to invite people to an information night than to one of our normal meetings and
3). The info nights are well attended by Rotarians and partners who mix well and make the invited guests feel welcome.
Some Friends Specifics.
  1. They pay ¼ of the subs Rotarians pay.
  2. Friends must advise attendance at meetings, whereas Rotarians apologise for non attendance.
  3. We encourage Friends to be on a Committee.
  4. We provide a free meal for the first meeting they attend.
  5. As soon as we receive their application /personal information form we order a name badge for them and their partner.
  6. Friends are not inducted, just officially welcomed as soon as their name badge is available.
  7. Friends cannot claim to be a Rotarian, but we do allow them to wear Rotary clothing , especially if they are working in public for our Club.
  8. They cannot be office bearers or vote.
  9. Try to encourage Friends to take on a project of their own.
  10. We don’t record attendance.
We gained approx. 20 Friends from our first info night, and a further 15 from the second one, with another 5-6 in between.
We have always emphasised that our F.O.R. programme is not a sneaky way of gaining new Rotarians, and that we are happy if they stay as Friends as long as they wish.
However 7 Friends have become Rotarians, we inducted 4 ( all women ) on one night a few month ago.
Based on the fact that some Friends could become Rotarians, the following types of people should be considered to be invited;
Young people, couples, women, partners and children of Rotarians, recently retired, people without partners, employees of businesses etc.