At the start of this Rotary year, Rotary International encouraged districts and clubs to reverse the negative membership trends of the past. Clubs were charged with finding innovative ways to retain and recruit new prospects. The District’s Membership plan called for a multi-pronged approach to grow membership. For the first time in the past several years, the District has had positive growth.
The first such program developed by District 7770 and launched to all clubs as a volunteer program was e-Member Classification program:
We stood the program up under the umbrella of Club Innovation. The program offers an effective way to retain good members, whose business/work obligations prevented regular attendance of weekly meetings, and to attract new prospects from a large segment of our communities and the people who live and work in them… community servants. Folks, such as teachers, police officers, firefighters and military, who might not have had the ability to physically attend weekly meetings (a requirement of active membership) under current rules.
For the most part, the process for awarding this classification of membership and tracking them were the same as currently being used. E-Members are still “asked” into Rotary by individual club Rotarians and are accepted into membership after current “vetting” requirements are completed by Clubs and their Boards. To complete the Rotary experience, training seminars and conferences, socials, and service project participation are accomplished within the Club structure. Once accepted into membership, e-Members are held to the same attendance requirements as other Rotarians… they can just participate on-line rather than in person. They can attend through existing RI established e-Clubs.
We developed and launched the first-ever on line District-wide survey at the start of the year. Over 90% of our clubs participated and we had over 2,000 District members (about a 50% participation rate compared to only 5%-10% from mail out surveys) to provide feedback on “why they joined Rotary; why they stay in Rotary, and the demographics of our Current membership. This data was provided to all Club leaders to highlight pockets of potential new prospects and areas for improvement, to grow our great Institution. The specific club inputs were shared with Club leaders with specific suggestions on tweaks to existing programs at the individual club level not as a mandated “one size fits all” basis. A standard on-line “exit survey” was developed and is being used to determine “why members leave our Rotary Clubs.
The data from these surveys have provided Club Board of Directors with real-time information to make adjustments and improvements in their membership programs…. Adding fun, variety and interest into how Clubs develop and execute programs to approach members to get them involved and engaged.
Family of Rotary and New Generation Prospects:
Under “best practices” developed from AGs’ meetings, club visits, and Rotary International magazine articles, we suggested that Clubs consider recruiting family of Rotarians and new generation prospects to grow the younger candidates of Rotary. Individual community and family members who had been raised within the values of Rotary and who now need to be mentored and grown into the positions of leadership within our institution and communities, armed with a code of ethics and The Four way test criteria, which should serve them well and serve Rotary, an aging member Institution, equally as well. Younger members were added through “unique” recruiting efforts, scholarships, and affordable programs to allow them to get involved and engaged in Rotary.
Halftime is here:
The first half’s membership numbers are in for this Rotary year. For the first time in the past several years, our District has had positive “net growth”. In Rotary’s life cycle, there appeared a need for “real change” in membership. Our District stepped up to a multi-pronged approach to grow good /active members at a time of declining performance over the past five years.
As a result of the above actions, together District members and leaders have achieved overall District growth from the previous year’s June 30th ending numbers, and have sprung forward with a “net plus 66” member increase since the current leadership team took the reins on July 1, 2013.
Additionally, you added 36 new e-Members to your Clubs’ rolls. To put this into perspective, thirty-six members are about the same size of one of our medium sized District’s clubs.
The overall approach was built on a belief that Clubs should be allowed to try different ways to attract, retain, and recruit good members. Leaders saw value in allowing members to grow through the avenue of “service above self “, arming them with the tools of Rotary … The Four Way test and Code of Ethics… as good things for both the prospects and the Institution. Emphasis needed to be placed on increasing the opportunities to “engage” in Rotary, and allowing younger folks to grow from within the Institution rather than finding ways to discourage their participation.
District Governor Lou and I wish to thank all who stepped up to achieve these Halftime numbers. We can’t sit back for the second half; but, instead we need to double our efforts, get ever Club involved, and work hard to continue to add good candidates for membership. The fourth quarter will require our existing members to “stay the course” through hands-on participation to strengthening the Value of Rotary as an effective Institution, while growing our District’s membership rolls. If you have questions, please contact Gary Bradham at email@example.com or 843-215-5093.