3. Recent Membership Trends
• Globally 1.2 Million
(static for over 20 years)
• We recruit and lose 100,000
members every year
• 2003 – 2011
2,552 new clubs chartered
with a net gain of only 226
• Global membership shifting
from West to East
Largest Nett Membership Gains & Losses 2003-2013
10. Where basic human needs are not
being met, might Rotary and its
work appear more relevant?
Might there be a greater incentive
11. But where we live a comparatively
privileged life, might Rotary and its
work appear less relevant?
Might there be less incentive to join
12. Q. How do we motivate interest in
Rotary in a developed country?
13. THESE ARE
WHAT’S IN IT
I WANT TO
14. Our messages can no longer be solely
about what we do…
They need to include what WE get out of
In our: • Conversations
• Meetings & Bulletins
• Fliers & Promotional Material
• Newspaper articles
• Websites & Social Media Posts
17. So, why are people leaving us?
• Poor health
• Change in work responsibility
• Competing priorities
18. So, why are people leaving us?
• Lack of involvement/engagement/inclusion
• Lack of direction & leadership
• Conflict with other members
• Inflexible attendance requirements
• Input not sought or valued
• Membership did not meet expectations
• Unwillingness to modernise/change
• Boring meetings
• Poor venue/meal quality
19. What has our
been to retention
20. What do you need from your Rotary membership?
• Leadership pathways
• Sense of belonging
• Networking opportunities
• Fellowship / social interaction
• Skill Development
• Interpersonal Relationships
• Fulfilment / achievement
• Personal growth / Broadening of Horizons
• Assimilation into a new community
• Project ownership / Empowerment
• Sense of purpose / direction
• Support for your cause
• Fun / entertainment
• Keeping active
• International Understanding
• Humanitarian Service
• Community Involvement
23. Consider all those who have been touched
by your club in the last 10 years…
• Exchange Students
• The Science Experience (TSE)
• National Youth Science Forum (NYSF)
• Roadsafe Youth Driver Awareness (RYDA)
• Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA)
• Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment (RYPEN)
• Rotary Youth Wellbeing (RYWELL)
• Health of the River Forum
24. Consider all those who have been touched
by your club in the last 10 years…
Those students all have Friends, Parents, Siblings,
Teachers & Support Staff at School
Who else have we touched?
• Ambassadorial Scholars
• Peace Scholars
• Group Study Exchange Team Members
• Indigenous Medical Scholars
… and so many more local programs
25. Consider all those who have been touched
by your club in the last 10 years…
• Local Charities, Schools, Community &
Church Groups, Sporting Clubs, etc
• Members of the public who use the
playgrounds, parks and public facilities that
we support. They buy from our thrift shops
and book shops. They turn up to our public
• Guest Speakers & Venue Staff
Think of the ripple effect…
26. The ripples of our work spread far and wide…
So many people feeling positive about Rotary
27. So many people who we just
need to find and say…
Join us to help at that fundraiser
Join us to help at that sausage sizzle
Join us to help at that gardening project
Join us for a coffee
28. Q. How do we
A. Don’t lose them
in the first place!
30. Worldwide research conducted from 2007-2010
with independent research companies
Additional focus groups conducted as part of the
Young Professionals Campaign in 2013
31. Clubs must change their culture
Social media, marketing and advertising efforts are important, but clubs must
be open and willing to make changes necessary to attract younger members
Focus on engagement, not just recruitment
Engaging prospective members and current members in a club is an ongoing
Clubs should build the relationship before asking prospective members to
Open service projects
Invite non-Rotarians (including Rotaractors, Interactors, and Rotary
alumni), family, and friends to participate in club events to maximize
impact and expand community awareness
41. So let’s talk about the
messages we send, and how
and where we send them.
42. Up to 80% of communication is
Is it possible that up to 80% of our
messages that contribute to our
Public Image are involuntary?
43. Deliberate Meeting Messages
Club Projects & Events:
• We raised $800 at Bunnings last weekend
• Volunteers for our working bee needed
• Letter received from our sponsor child
• Our Matching Grant has been approved
• We are visiting Calperum in October
• Fundraising film night – next Saturday
44. Involuntary Meeting Messages
Rituals: • National Anthem
• Prayers / Invocations
• Sergeant Session
Order / Formality / Punctuality
Guest Speaker Quality
Venue / Meal Quality
45. Mixed Meeting Messages
Reporting on ill members:
These people really care about their
This club is old and dying.
Can we ban this word? WIVES
46. Control our
• eradicating Polio
• providing clean water
• youth programs
• peace & conflict resolution
• promote literacy
• great training opportunities
• meet wonderful people
(Rotary’s body language)
• attendance requirements
• meeting rituals
• male dominated
• ageing membership
• sausage sizzle central
47. Rotary has its own
unique language, that
even some Rotarians
48. Communicating with non-Rotarians
They don’t understand our jargon or acronyms
They don’t care about our Club Bylaws or
They have no concept of where D9520 is
(or where D9500 starts)
Write like a non-Rotarian, because:
They don’t care about our annual theme or
international president and can’t understand
why we would keep changing them.
Get a non-Rotarian friend to proof read
The membership conversations we often hear are all about numbers in and numbers out. “This year we need a 2 member nett increase in every club”, or “This year we have to increase our membership by 5%”. We’ll those statistics and numbers we talk about are the tip of the iceberg. They are the visible outcomes from our membership initiatives, but I’m far more interested in what’s going on beneath the surface. The factors that drive people into and out of Rotary Clubs are much bigger than what’s visible above the waterline.
We need to concentrate far less on numbers, and concentrate far more on how clubs are functioning. How attractive are they and how well are they performing? Get that right, and the numbers will look after themselves.
This image perfectly represents Rotary’s current global membership predicament. We are very good at filling the bucket, but make very little effort to plug the holes. As a result, the level of water in the bucket remains relatively constant. But if we only spent some time patching the holes, the bucket would start filling.
We really don’t have a recruitment problem; we have a retention problem. Rotary has expended a lot of resources in bringing people into our organisation, and we’ve done a good job. I’m not arguing that recruitment isn’t important, just that we don’t put all of our membership eggs in the recruitment basket.
These are the countries where the greatest nett membership losses and the greatest nett membership gains have occurred over the last 10 years. With a few notable exceptions, Rotary’s global membership base is shifting from west to east, from the developed world to the developing world. There are also considerable gains in Africa.
In D9520, we have had some encouraging news thus far, with a nett gain of 28, but we’ve inducted around 50 members, and lost 28. Whilst it’s still great to be up in numbers, history tells us that membership gains are always strong in the first quarter of the Rotary year. With new presidents, new boards, new committee structures and often new ideas, it’s an exciting and enthusiastic time of the year. It is right now (Oct/Nov) that our district governors start beating their chest with excitement, and rightly so. But we then historically find that membership across our district plateaus from November to March, then we start seeing losses in the last quarter, and have in the past 5 years ended the year with a nett membership loss. I sincerely hope that this year things will be different, and we will continue to increase our membership base across the district, but I won’t be satisfied until I see a nett gain at the end of the year.
Back to the global picture. Let’s open this up to a brief discussion. What we’re finding is that the traditional Rotary strongholds of North America, the UK, Europe, and even Australia are experiencing a fairly steady departure rate year on year. What is happening though, is the once reliable recruiting to replace those departures has fallen away IN THOSE AREAS. There is, however, astonishing growth in newer Rotary markets, which has been keeping our GLOBAL membership rate artificially steady, but this apparent “steadiness” in our membership rate is somewhat of an illusion. Rotary is slowly dying in some markets and rapidly growing in others. But are these linked? Can anyone suggest why this is happening?
Does anyone know who this is?
It’s Abraham Maslow. If you’ve studies psychology or marketing you will most likely have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s something I studied closely in marketing studies many years ago.
If you haven’t heard of Maslow, you may well recognise this.
The theory suggests that humans need to satisfy one band of needs, starting from the bottom, before anything in the next band up is of any relevance. Whilst this may appear an interesting commentary on human development, it is when it is used as a marketing tool that it becomes most interesting. Clever marketers can target a demographic by their current position within the hierarchy, and use the items within that band as strong motivators to buy their product.
So what does this have to do with Rotary’s global membership shift? Well I believe it explains a lot.
In an environment where basic physiological human needs are not being met, Rotary has a greater role to play. These are the societies which stand to benefit most from Rotary’s many humanitarian projects. Rotary must appear very relevant in this instance.
In the developed world however, where we live a comparatively privileged life, and our basic physiological needs are met, does Rotary have the same relevance? Sure, there are instances in our country of homelessness, poverty, indigenous health concerns, etc, and Rotary has a role in addressing these local issues, but we essentially have the capacity to address these problems.
So here is my question: If we in Rotary are delivering messages solely about feeding the hungry, providing clean water, educating the illiterate, and eradicating Polio to an audience who are fed, have clean water on tap, are educated and healthy… will that audience recognise the value of Rotary?
How do we motivate interest in Rotary in a developed country?
People in a developed country still have needs, but they are more likely found in the upper half of the triangle. Membership in Rotary can meet those needs, whilst helping to address the more basic needs of those in less fortunate countries.
Rotary can address every level of the triangle. The bottom 2 levels are routinely addressed by the work Rotary does, but the upper 3 levels are benefits of belonging to Rotary. We need to identify the needs of our potential members. Some are looking for a way to give back, and we can help them serve their cause, but some people are asking, “What’s in it for me?” Rotary can address that need in our members.
But we need to change our communication strategies.
Time to concentrate on retention
It doesn’t matter how well a club is run, or how happy members are, these are uncontrollables that we really can’t do anything about.
Whilst relocation means a loss for a club, it doesn’t necessarily mean it should be a loss for Rotary. Do we just wave that member goodbye when he or she has to move interstate for family or career reasons? Perhaps we could be a little pro-active and contact the District Governor in the area that member is moving, so a new club has a chance to follow up?
These are what I call the controllables, and they are the main reasons people leave Rotary. The top line is the most common reason, lack of involvement/engagement/inclusion.
Let us be under no illusion however… Unlike the first page, we have control over all of these things.
What is our typical response to resignations from our clubs? Nothing – we usually just stick our heads in the sand an pretend it never happened.
We talk a lot about “Service Above Self”, with good reason. It’s a great motto which has served us well. But members need to get something out of their membership.
In the workforce, we can use money to attract, retain, motivate and reward employees. But in a volunteer organisation, we cannot do this with money. But Rotary has it’s own “Currency”, and it is these things. This is how we “pay” our members. Different members will have different needs, and will place higher or lower importance on these things, but one thing is for sure; a Rotarian whose needs are not being met will not remain in Rotary for long.
Clubs that offer many of these things will have higher morale, higher retention and more people putting their hands up to take on higher responsibility. Clubs that offer few of these things will struggle to retain their members. We don’t spend anywhere near enough time talking about these things, but we really need to.
So, what has happened to all of those people we have touched in the last 10 years? Have we kept in touch, or have we lost them. Most clubs are really bad at this. We cannot control what has happened in the past, but we can all make a commitment from now on to keep an up-to-date database of the people who Rotary has helped or touched. We’ve scratched a lot of backs over the years.
I want to talk about attracting young professionals into our organisation, but first, I want to clarify my position. There are some who suggest we should be focussing our efforts more on younger members. My position is that our clubs need to reflect our communities. We need diversity in our clubs. Diversity in age, diversity in gender and cultural diversity.
I don’t want to talk about attracting young professionals because I want you to focus on attracting young professionals.
I want to talk about attracting young professionals because we’re not that good at it.
If there’s a part of your golf game that needs some work, you work on that part of your game. But you need a good all round game to be a good golfer.
Our organisation is a comfortable fit for most over 50s. But it’s not a comfortable fit for most under 50s.
The following was presented at the International Convention in Sydney earlier this year – it’s not my work, but I got a lot out of it, so I’d like to share some of it with you.
Rotary International regularly conducts research with non-members and members including women, younger professionals, retirees, and alumni.
From 2007 through 2012, in person focus groups were conducted in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States. Research was also conducted worldwide through web-based group discussions.
Non-member focus groups were conducted by external vendors such as Ipsos, Japan Market Intelligence, and Focuscope.
Most recently, thanks to a generous gift by two Past District Governors, the Young Professionals Campaign was created to find out how Rotary can better engage and attract younger professionals. As part of their work, the team conducted several focus groups in small, medium, and large markets.
Additional support for the following conclusions and recommendations come from tightly-managed surveys of new, veteran and resigned members as well as other members of the Family of Rotary such as program alumni.
Further support for the best practices presented in this session have been and are currently being tested and proven by more than 1500 clubs through 7 membership pilot programs.
First, we learned that it’s important for clubs to change their culture because a more inviting and inclusive club culture translates into more members. Clubs need to look at themselves and determine how welcoming they are to younger professionals.
As one focus group participant in Appleton, Wisconsin aptly put it, “Don’t tell me what you’re not.” It is an ineffective use of social media and other public outreach to tell the community that your club is a vibrant group of hands-on service providers, if guests experience something different in reality.
Also, it’s critical that clubs focus on retaining members by mentoring new members. It takes five times the amount of effort to replace a member than to retain one. It is necessary to build a solid relationship with the prospective member before they join so the club meets their expectations.
One thing a club can do now is to open up your service projects to non-members and prospects. We’ve had a very positive experience with that approach and it’s easy to do as we’ve shown by using social media—no hard costs involved!
The next generation of Rotarians are a lot like the current generation. They don’t have a great deal of free time, so the time they DO have needs to make an impact. They want to be effective. This is a driving motivation – to make a difference.
Many of the participants had already reached a point in their careers where they were used to carrying large responsibilities, and are ready to contribute at a higher volunteer level than stuffing envelopes or handing out cups.
Some attitudes were the same, but there was also a difference: At this stage of their lives, many had young families. This
was a huge factor that affected their ability (and willingness) to attend meetings and spend time away from family. In fact some were very
involved in service through their places of worship and local community organization because it gave them an opportunity to serve with their families.
In every market worldwide serving together was a value we heard over and over again. One of the most compelling arguments for this came from a woman in South Africa who said that serving with and in front of her children was the best lesson and legacy she felt she could leave them with as they grow into adulthood.
We found out Rotary has an image problem, and it’s hurting our ability to attract the next generation of Rotarians.
The most common and widely held perceptions of Rotary among these younger professionals were OLD and OUTDATED. For example:
We had wonderful professionals in our groups who had MET Rotarians, or whose fathers or grandfathers were Rotarians. You would expect them to have a more multi-dimensional image of Rotary. Worldwide, we heard Rotary described as OLD. WHITE. MEN ONLY. A SECRET CLUB. LUNCH MEETINGS. CLOSED TO OUTSIDERS. This was even expressed in Asian or Latin countries where there are no old white men. Some assumed there was philanthropy involved but their perception was: GIVING, BUT NOT WELCOMING.
Younger professionals were not interested in traditional ways of organizing as a group… they were turned off by weekly meetings, plated meals, and ceremonial songs. They did not identify themselves with the Rotary members that they know.
Many younger professionals had misperceptions of Rotary, and many had no awareness of who we are, what we do,
and how we are different from other organizations.
In fact, these professionals did not know Rotary even wanted them as members.
Rotary needs to better answer the question “What’s in it for me?” for younger professionals.
Let’s talk about benefits. When the participants were asked what would be the benefit of joining Rotary, these young and successful business people had no idea.
Many younger professionals did not understand that Rotary combines service with opportunities to make professional connections and friends. The benefits are not obvious to today’s younger professionals.
When we talked with them about joining leaders, they thought we were talking about their boss, or someone more senior.
Younger professionals do not, or do not yet, identify themselves as “leaders.”
Even after learning about Rotary, interest in joining was still low.
Rotary was still not appealing due to the heavy time commitment, lack of family involvement, and perceptions that it is for older white men.
It’s not that the next generation of prospective members “don’t get it,” it’s that they don’t want it. At least not the way it’s being presented.
What do they want??
They want to make a difference, and be given challenging volunteer opportunities that put their education and experience to work.
They want flexibility. Younger professionals with families must be able to integrate their families with their service lives, and have occasions when their partners and children can be part of a project.
They also want flexibility in meetings and organizing. They live in, grew up in, and some were even born in, an “on-demand” world, where you can do almost anything from almost anywhere.
But perhaps the most important thing I can tell you today is that changing the message won’t change this situation. Change has to happen in the clubs, FIRST. And change has to be real and visible, in order for the next generations of Rotarians to be willing to believe our message.
So how is our public image formed?
We send out deliberate messages, and involuntary messages, and together, they contribute to our public image.
The process of controlling our deliberate messages and minimising our involuntary messages is called Public Relations
A few minutes ago I tried to draw parallels between deliberate vs. involuntary messages, and verbal vs. non-verbal communication.
These are the sort of deliberate messages we send out as clubs
These are the sort of involuntary messages we send out as clubs. I like to call these “Rotary’s Body Language”
There are also mixed messages…
Are we still referring to wives (of Rotarians)?
I shake my head in disbelief every time I hear a Rotarian get up at a club, and make an announcement about some social event… “Make sure you tell your wives”. Or “Next week is a ladies’ night”.
What do the women amongst us think? They cannot bring their wives? What do the visitors to our meetings think? We’re trying our hardest to dispel the myth that Rotary is an all male organisation, they’ve finally come to our meeting, and we’re talking about “bringing our wives”.
Surely we can all agree by now, that the word is “partners”. It’s not about political correctness, it’s about respecting our women.
So in summary, we need to control our deliberate messages, and minimise our involuntary messages.
Because it doesn’t matter how positive those deliberate messages are, guests will remember bad food and antiquated rituals more.
Does anyone recognise this language?
Rotary has its own language. Whilst most seasoned Rotarians understand it, new Rotarians or non-Rotarians must surely see it as jubberish
Be careful when you’re preparing media releases, posters, fliers, or any communication to go to non-Rotarians.
Once you’ve prepared a document for public release, don’t ask another Rotarian to proof read it, ask a friend, work colleague or neighbour who knows nothing about Rotary to proof read it – and ask them if any of it doesn’t make sense.
Just a few ideas and examples of great advertising and public relations initiatives.
We holidayed in Lakes Entrance over New Year a few years ago. These huge signs were in prominent positions on the roads leading into the town.
It was a fabulous and well organised event, and EVERYONE knew it was run by the local Rotary club.
Does YOUR club have something it can hang its hat on?
This is one of the best promotional initiatives I’ve seen in our district. This is a double sided banner approx. 2.5 metres long and hangs in the shopping centre at Goolwa. The man in the picture is their president elect Greg Casson.
This is an artificial reef designed to bring back fish life to a region in the Philippines devastated by the tsunami, resulting in a huge loss for the local fishing industry, the major income for struggling local families.
A few examples of what my own club, Edwardstown are doing. These signs in our second hand book shop are not stock images, but real photos of real members doing real work in the community. The images are identical to those on our club website, which form a slide show on the home page (www.edwardstownrotary.org)
The signs can be removed from the wall, and used at outside membership displays, information nights, etc
We have a consistent theme of “community”, across our facebook page, a club flier, and a pull-up banner
We are shortly participating in a “Welcome to Australia” event, at which new Australians will be invited to have a go with various local sporting groups. We are providing a BBQ and handing out these bags for the visitors, who can use them for the handouts from the various groups involved. We are also holding a Rotary information stall.
Who has seen these images before? They were introduced by the Rotary Foundation to indicate the various category of project which could be funded by their Humanitarian Grants program.
But I think these are perfect for conveying to the public what it is that we do. I would encourage you to use these symbols in fliers or information for the general public. The membership committee has these on the back of our business cards. They are a great conversation starter.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many useful Rotary resources we can use.
Please speak to the membership committee if you need any help. That’s what we’re here for!