Posted by Corey Lopardi
When it comes to Rotary Membership there is one action that is key to success; the act of asking. No one joins a Rotary Club without first being asked. It might seem like the simplest of things to do, but only 20% of Rotary members ever sponsor a new member. Asking someone to join a Rotary Club is one of the most important things you can do as a member of Rotary. When you ask someone to join you not only validate Rotary to that person, but you also open Rotary and your club up to all that person has to offer. You may have just found the next project leader, Rotary Foundation advocate, Club President, District Governor or Rotary International President. We never know the full potential of a new member, and we never will if no one asks.
However, if you fall into the 80% of Rotarians who have never sponsored a new member, you probably have some difficulty in asking someone to join your club. Perhaps you don’t feel like you would know what to say, or that you don’t know the person well enough. The number one reason people don’t make the ask is a fear of rejection. We often make the social cost of rejection seem way bigger than the actual risk involved.
Now when you do get up the courage to invite someone to join your Rotary Club it’s important that you make sure you are asking the right questions at the right time. It’s never a good idea to ask someone to join a club right away. Your first ask should always be to meet with them in a neutral setting to get to know each other better. Then you should ask them to attend a club meeting with you as a guest. If you introduce them to Rotary slowly and positively they might just save you the trouble and ask you if they can join your Club.
If you do muster up the courage to ask a potential member to meet, it’s important to be prepared for the many questions that they will likely have. You’ll go a long way to easing their uncertainty about Rotary if you plan ahead and answer their questions with them instead of waiting for them to ask. Inevitably they are going to want to know - “What is Rotary?”, “Why should I join your club?”, “What’s the cost?”, “Why are you a member?”, “Do you get any business out of it?”, “Why Rotary and not some other networking group?”. Every one of us has slightly different answers to these questions, but if you think about the answers ahead of time you’ll be much more comfortable having the conversation with a potential member.
When you do get to the point where it’s the right time to ask a person to join your Rotary Club it’s important to not run away after the first “No”. Try asking the person why they are not interested in joining. Perhaps there is a club that fits their schedule better you could refer them to. Maybe they need to be assured that your club is affordable or that you will work with them on a payment plan. Asking “Why” and continuing the conversation is a great way of getting to know the person better, and you may just find that original “No” will turn into a “Yes”.
Make sure to listen to the responses you get when meeting with a potential member, and make sure that your club has to offer what they are looking for in a Rotary Club. If your club doesn’t seem like a great fit for them, or they aren’t in a place to be able to join Rotary right now, ask the person if there is anyone else they might now that they would recommend as a member. If the person you are meeting with has the characters that would make a good Rotarian, they probably have other people they know that would make good Rotarians too.
It’s important not to let the potential of rejection define you, but to respond to rejection in a way that moves your club forward. Embrace rejection and you’ll be surprised how rarely it happens.