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PDG Stephen Lamont, Rotary Coordinator —

The three key components of growing Rotary are attraction, retention and perception

Article by PDG Stephen Lamont, Rotary Coordinator

Rotary is a people organisation and it is up to people to grow Rotary. Sometimes I hear that we should use the term Grow Rotary and not use the “M“ word. Whatever term you wish to use to define membership and its growth, the answer is the same – we shall only grow Rotary and grow membership if our members are committed to take up the challenge to do so. What legacy and perception do we want to leave every time we demonstrate our brand?

In almost all cases, people only join Rotary because they are asked. This still remains the most basic element of getting people through the door. If we do not ask – then we cannot share our product. When we do ask, sometimes we can be too intense and expect people to join after one meeting. People need to be able to spend time in all aspects of club life to get a better perception of what Rotary and what each club does in the community.

This means experiencing not just a regular club meeting but they also need to be involved in a club project – let’s not forget that we are a service organisation and this is often a key attraction for people to become involved. People want to volunteer and want to follow a cause that they are passionate about. Fellowship activities are also important for prospective members to attend even before we push the “when are you going to join” question. We only get one opportunity for make a good first impression – so what perception do we project?

Often the perception to a visitor can be different to what we see. Recently I heard of a person who was invited to a club meeting and felt ridiculed because they were fined for wearing a red tie. They simply did not understand or appreciate the fines session. They also felt they were being pressured to join the club immediately – rather than feeling relaxed and welcomed they felt they were under an intense spotlight. The question on membership fees was approached, however no one explained the various components of club, district and international dues. They were simply told that “the money goes overseas”. 

Here was an opportunity to explain how Rotary supports local, district and international projects and communities, as part of our membership fees, as well as covering administration costs. Chatting about examples of projects covering all the areas of focus and the investments made in the various projects funded by our Foundation was lost. The experience was not positive – rather the perception was of an organisation that was needy and with odd traditions that where not explained, and this made this person feel uncomfortable. The person declined to attend another meeting.

The three key components of growing Rotary are attraction, retention and perception. It is a combination of all three that we must consider when we look at the issue of growing Rotary. If the perception is negative, then we shall not attract people to our organisation. If we do not ask members what they want from our clubs, districts and zones then retention of members becomes harder. When we ask a visitor to attend a club meeting it is worth considering the perception that we are delivering not just from our point of view but also from theirs. Rotary has so much to offer – we just need to demonstrate and deliver a positive perception in order to grow.