Posted by ARCs Cindie Kish and Cecily Smith, Zone 32
How do we keep our club members energized and excited to be in Rotary?  Three successful ideas started with the same idea - SERVICE. Here are flexible, creative ways members can get excited about service in their community AND increase membership and community connection and visibility.
Grant Giving Serving The Community
 
Rotary Club of Yonkers-East Yonkers in District 7230 wanted to increase its impact and visibility in the community, achieving greater interaction with community members and Rotary, plus hoping to get their existing members more excited about club activities.  They created their Community Grants:  multiple annual grants of $500 given to local organizations. Sometimes, just a few hundred dollars can have a HUGE impact to a small group.  They found that giving small grants allowed all members to feel they had a voice to suggest causes to support, and that the grants could lead to service projects and other connections and ways to help. Groups in Yonkers area became more aware of Rotary as an organization helping the community.  Continuing grants and hands-on service with local groups has led to greater community connection, members excited about the good they are doing in the world, and local people wanting to join Rotary as a way to serve their community.
 
District Service Days
 
District 7210 comes together three times a year for their District Service Days:  a coat drive in November, a food drive in February, and Earth Day environmental projects in April. Among the many benefits found:
  • Clubs are also given a project outline for each - ideas and examples to make it easy to join in.  It’s increased club and district connection as all clubs are given the challenge and encouraged to join in.
  • The district purchased reusable yard signs, building brand awareness and consistency.
  • More visibility on social media with more clubs focused on specific tasks at a targeted time and sharing hashtags and key phrases.
  • Partnerships are encouraged: clubs working together or with other community non-profits.
  • --The increased visibility showing Rotarians making an impact has encouraged community members to join Rotary.
  • --Existing members are energized by community service, improving retention.
Says District 7210 DG Michael Polasek, “though we may be spread out geographically, many of our communities have similar needs. With all clubs taking on a unified project it demonstrates the incredible reach of our organization which is also beneficial to our public image. The more our message of service is promulgated, connections happen. And when we connect, we grow so that we can continue to DO GOOD in the world.”

Creative Ideas To Grow (And Fund) A Project

Rotary Club of the Pelhams had a club Foundation with rigid rules on spending, keeping the same traditional projects that did not excite a number of the existing members, or encourage them to bring in new members.  Getting creative, the club asked members to use the $20 they would normally spend at a lunch meeting (while they are still meeting virtually) and instead put it towards a community project and created a perennial healing garden in a town part across from the club’s (pre-pandemic) meeting spot.  Club members met with the town and preservation society to develop the idea.  The Interact club got involved to help with hands-on service in digging and planting - and their parents got involved too!  Increasing this connection with Interact through the garden project even led to the high school principal joining Rotary.  Club members chat with community members about Rotary while they tend the garden, and the community has been so appreciative of the beautiful garden planted just for them. The passion of some members and the success of the project also got buy-in (without confrontation) from “traditional” members.
 
Says Pelham Club Past President Hugh Maynard-Reid, “Talk about Rotary when engaging with the community!  Your passion is what is important and what will make a difference.  Like the flowers that hibernate during the winter, every club may go through hibernation.  Stay positive and encouraging, and in the spring the flowers will bloom.”