Hero photograph
Rotary Elizabeth Quay raising money for End Polio Now on World Polio Day


James McLeod, District 9455 Membership Chair —

Rotary in Western Australia – 10 years behind, or light years ahead?

Article by James McLeod, District 9455 Membership Chair

With its white sandy beaches, clear blue skies and congestion free roads, Western Australia has been known for its relaxed pace of life, and perhaps even accused of being a decade behind the rest of the country. However, there is one area in Rotary where they have kept up with the rest of the nation. Membership growth! 

When you analyse the data however, it’s clear a few bright sparks account for much of the positive growth District 9455 reports. Three clubs grew their collective membership by 34%, or 49 new members over the last 12 to 18 months. What’s their secret?

Rotary Club of Perth is Western Australia’s oldest club. Since the 1st of July 2020, Perth has taken on 18 new members, representing growth of 26%. With a club membership that hovers around 80 members, those numbers are impressive. So, what happened? Like all good Rotary turnaround stories, immediate Past President Jill Dawson explains that after years of declining membership, a core group recognised that changes were needed. All aspects of the club were reviewed and new goals were set for each area of focus – with none more critical than strengthening links with local community organisations. Once several small (but important) changes were enacted, members reviewed their networks and went looking for members. 

A founding role in the local Rotary business networking group, Rotary Means Business, supported this campaign, as well as having a very active and engaging social media profile and website. As members brought guests along, everyone went out of their way to make them feel welcome. A database of guests was maintained and the ongoing connection to the club was nurtured over time. 

The new kids on the block, Rotary Club of Perth City East (City Rotary) chartered in November 2018 with 34 members and are now 56 strong. City Rotary’s overarching aim was adopt a contemporary style that was flexible and adaptable to busy professionals who have career and family obligations. Founding member Greg Thurston explains that an attractive meeting format and a focus on project work keeps members, and prospective members, engaged. What attracts new people to the club in the first instance? A user-friendly website that includes all project information and member profiles, and introductions from their current members. 

Greg Thurston and James Sullivan from Rotary Perth City East

Rotary of Elizabeth Quay (REQ) is the final piece to the D9455 membership growth puzzle, moving from 26 members on the 1st of July 2020 to 49 as at 30th of September this year, an eye watering 88% growth. This kind of growth doesn’t happen by accident. 

2019 Train Ride End Polio, Rotary Elizabeth Quay 

Still a young club at 5 years old, a new president, Nick Lim recognised that changes were needed to scale for growth and introduced REQ to a different operating system. Whilst the community impact the club focuses on stayed constant, the organisational structure changed radically. Amongst many changes, independent portfolios on the board were removed and replaced with seven director roles that had shared accountability for membership and projects and who oversee self-governing teams (called squads). 

The meeting schedule was upended when they realised that meetings and fellowship are not mutually exclusive. Squads meet monthly at a time that works for them for fellowship and mentoring. The whole club meets virtually every second month for one hour, and every meeting is hosted by a different squad, sacrificing consistency and 'perfection' with ownership, creativity and 'unique-ness'. What brings new members to the club? An active digital media strategy and website. What engages them? Early access to opportunities to give back.

These three clubs have different value propositions and all unique from one another. However, when you dig a little deeper, their growth can be attributed to the following simple steps:

  1. Understand what an exciting and engaging atmosphere for members look like, then implement it.
  2. Remember the main game is to focus on giving back to the community.
  3. Develop an active digital media strategy to attract new members.
  4. Make guests feel welcome, give them early access to club projects and maintain an ongoing connection.

The key to membership growth isn’t such a secret after all!