Hello members and visitors – this was sent to us by a staunch and seasoned Rotarian from the US – and as it has so many replies already and addresses to a modern day problem within Rotary I thought it a good idea to put it where we can see it and get input from others on this.
Jo Ann Ross     May 2014
by: Tom Carroll on RI Discussion Forum:      Membership Best Practices

For some time I've been thinking about the Rotary membership challenge in the United States and Canada, and what lies at the issue's core. 
I've come to the conclusion that it isn't that we don't ask guests to come to meetings, or even that members leave because they are not engaged. If this were true, then simply inviting people to meetings and engaging the membership would have solved our problems years ago. As Gateway Rotary (D5020) experiences dramatic growth (50% so far this year) and Gig Harbor Rotary (D5020) even has a waiting list,
I'm constantly being asked, "What are you doing differently"?
The answer? We're selling a car people want to buy, not the car we have always sold.
In the '70s and '80s, American car manufacturers were slow to recognize that customers wanted smaller, fuel-efficient cars. As a result, Japan was able to surpass the Big Three and redefine the industry. The Rotary "Car" most are offering today has several attributes and traditions. We meet weekly during the business day, usually requiring a 1.5 to 2 hour time commitment. We sing songs, typically written decades ago. We pledge our patriotism and we recite in unison our Four-Way test. We refer to our Rotary Foundations donations as to "My Paul Harris" making no mention of the Rotary Foundation, and we tend to sit with our close friends at the same table each week. I'm not saying these things are wrong or bad; I personally enjoy many of them. But I 'd argue we're in the business of attracting and retaining members. 
If the Car we're selling isn't what the customer are buying, then it's time to take a hard look in the mirror and make some changes. All of the rebranding and public image efforts underway will not solve this problem. We must lower the barrier to membership and increase the membership value.
So what are the attributes of this new Car, something I am calling "Rotary 2.0"?

   • Fun and Fellowship A wise and learned Rotarian said to me, "Make your meetings fun! If it were not fun, why would you go? And why would you bring a friend?" Rotary is an opportunity to relax, have fun, meet with your friends and if you're not watching too closely, you just might help your community . . . and the world. Club business should be conducted at board meetings, and general announcements should be made via other media. The Club meeting is the center of what Rotary is. "Where everyone knows your name . . ."
    •  Affordable -"What's it cost?" If the answer is $3,000, then many will take a hike. Gateway charges annual dues of $200, and requests an additional $100 optional donation to the Rotary Foundation. No meeting fees. If you want coffee or breakfast, that's on you.
• How do I join? -  If it's a courtship with a long dating period, potential members will balk and find an easier path. Unless your club has a waiting list, perhaps it's time to take a look at the membership process. One week is a good goal.
 •  Networking -  I realize many strongly disagree with me on this point, but I firmly believe most young professionals are seeking networking organizations; if that's not Rotary, then they will find another opportunity. The reality is that young people value talking with experienced business professionals, not as marketing prospects but as mentors. Sounds like Vocational Service to me.
I believe Paul Harris formed the world's first business networking organization, and I think we should embrace rather than shun the concept.
•   Short Meetings Many people are unwilling or unable to take nearly two hours out of their business day to attend a service club meeting. Gateway starts at 7:05 am and ends before 8:00 am. If members are in town, they attend. Rarely is there a business conflict at 7:00 am.
•   Singing? Some like it, but most do not. My parents we born in the early 20's, and they enjoyed gathering around the piano and singing songs. I was in a fraternity in the late '70s and our alumni sang; we did not. This is not a typical activity of Baby Boomers, Gen X, or Millennials.
It's not the Car they want to buy.
•   The Rotary Foundation. It's one of the best things about Rotary, and it is why people want to associate with us. Many clubs don't fully participate and instead, focus on their own foundation's fund raising. Without The Rotary Foundation, I think we're just another service club. That's not bad, it's just not optimal.
I don't think it's reasonable to expect most Rotary Clubs to move to this new model; the resulting change would cause many valuable members to leave. I think the best approach is to identify opportunities for Rotary 2.0 Clubs to be chartered in communities throughout the District, allowing the concept to grow membership while retaining our core.
Jo Ann Ross replied…………… 

On Fun and Fellowship– she agreed but asked members for their comments – as ‘being together’  was not always easy with members scattered around Europe and all over Surrey! 
Affordable.  On this our club members eat and drink at home and do not incur travel costs either being able to attend from anywhere there is a wireless connection - so we are very definitely affordable to our target market
How do I join?I personally feel one week is too short – a potential member must feel they like the people in the club and members should be able to see potential in the applicant too.  I believe it should be less than the current 6 weeks - and we should be able to accept people after they have attended two meetings and expressed the desire to join.
 Networking - I am totally in agreement with the comment made in the original above – “I believe Paul Harris formed the world's first business networking organization, and I think we should embrace rather than shun the concept”.  
On Short Meetings.  We are already keeping meetings to an hour for exactly that reason.
Singing?  I am in agreement but recognize not everyone would agree, so as an out-of-tune-singer - I am happy for others to go with that idea!
On The Rotary Foundation.  Again I am in total agreement and realize that our club has been lagging behind on this aspect for the past four years - we do not come up to the mark with this and need to give it more attention from now on.
Future ? I agree with the author’s comment– “I think the best approach is to identify opportunities for Rotary 2.0 Clubs to be chartered in communities throughout the District, allowing the concept to grow membership while retaining our core” - as we are so nearly there – we are already practically Rotary2!
Jo Ann asked the rest of the club members to add their comments.
JOAO answered
I could not agree more.
In fact this is something I have always missed in Rotary Clubs. To know exactly what are the professional competencies of each member and where there is space for professional partnership among members or lead by members.
Chris replies....
I agree with what you say about networking.   
As well as networking with other Rotarians, it is also fun to work in a team with Rotarians with differents skills, experience and iterests to yourself. Sadly, in my view, in London Centenary we have not developed team working as much as we should.  Working well with a few other people to make things happen can be so satisfying.  Given all we have managed to achieved this Rotary year under Jo Ann's enthusiastic leadership with so few active members, I wonder what we could have achieved working together in small teams.   
If there is a disappointment for me within Rotary generally, it is that relatively few Rotarians appear to apply the same standards of efficiency, thoroughness and energy that I assume they apply to their work, when they contribution to their Rotary Club. Those who do, such as Stella, shine forth for all to see and admire.  Stella is well named!  
To which Joao added….
Dear Chris,
Oh God....do I agree with you. But people, not Rotary are to blame. Rotary is a magnificent organization that deserves all our effort....even if it is just a coupe of us.
Stella is a star reference....we walk that way knowing we will never get there....but we will make the effort :-)
I have been publishing in the closed area of the forum....let's continue Jo Ann's work and keep swimming !
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