Posted by PDG Paul Sincock, PDG Rick Caron, D6400
Declining membership is perhaps one of the biggest topics of Rotary discussions in North America.  This ongoing loss of members is hurting the good work that we do.  We must take the time and ask ourselves whether our clubs have participants or members.  Clubs with active and engaged members are a key to Rotary’s success.   
When reviewing clubs that are growing in membership as well as retaining their members, we find these clubs tend to have the same traits, regardless of the type of club they are. Those traits include having a strong leadership chain, stating clear goals that include a growth plan, being active in their community, strongly promote the Rotary brand, and intentionally engaging their members in service. 
Rotary has changed to become more flexible and less about the “rules” and more about engagement and service.  Rotary has expanded its toolbox, in an effort to move to membership gains from membership declines.  Flexibility is not just a “buzz word” in Rotary. It is now a practice, especially with the addition of Rotaract members becoming paying members of Rotary International starting in July of this year.
While Rotary is more flexible than it has been in the past, some clubs have not adopted this flexibility and that hurts growth.  As Past Rotary International President Barry Rassin said, “Rotary and its clubs have to change to be relevant, the membership experience must be relevant to the marketplace.”
The Rotary of 1905 met 1905 needs. Does your 2022 Rotary club meet 2022 needs? Rotary offers many diverse types of opportunities for service through various memberships and meeting types.    
Rotary’s flexibility has allowed for growth in communities where sometimes it may have seemed that no growth was possible.  With the flexibility of satellite clubs, passport clubs, e-clubs, cause-based clubs and Rotaract clubs, the family of Rotary is now open to a larger community.  It is not about where your club is located; whether it is a new club or an established club, or even what you call your club. It is about member engagement.  When members are engaged, they are inspired, and become members who find their Rotary experience relevant, and move from participant status to becoming members of the Rotary family. 
We are aware of one club that became actively involved in a weekly summer concert season in their community’s central park.  While the decision to be one of the sponsors of the concerts was controversial within the club, the visibility of the Rotary banners, the Rotary information booth, and announcements about Rotary from the stage resulted in new members to the club.  The service aspect of Rotary, along with the opportunity to engage in conversations with other leaders led to this club initiating new events and projects as a net result of their concert sponsorship.
Rotary has developed significant resources regarding membership, with topics such as the health of your club, best practices, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and yes, even how to start a community based Rotaract Club.  These resources are available at