Why Organization's Fail

Rotary didn't stop developing membership because people were not interested in joining local Rotary clubs. Recent membership metrics have proven that. It stopped growing because Rotary and its member clubs became product oriented instead of member oriented. They marketed the results of the Object of Rotary instead of its value to its member clubs and Rotarians - its customers - those who fund its operations.

Red Text Note

==============Red text has a link to a previous Rotatorial or referenced document.==============

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Is Rotary International's Influence Respected & Mutually Beneficial to Clubs and Rotarians?

In 2008 I became Zone 34’s Membership Coordinator.  It wasn’t long before I visioned Rotary International (RI) as Sisyphus struggling up the membership development slope pushing a network of 34,000 clubs weighted down by decades of outmoded, and sometimes misguided, practices and attitudes, especially in legacy regions.
But now, thanks to a few People of Action leading the way, RI’s business model is changing. RI appears to realize that greater value will be created if its worldwide, community-centered autonomous Rotary clubs are released from recent customs to pursue Rotary’s common purpose and objective – the Object of Rotary – centered locally and spreading globally.  Successful organizations, businesses, consultants, and Wall Street experts say such a move is wise because RI is transitioning its visions and strategies from the outmoded hierarchies and practices of the Industrial and Information eras into the “modern” Social Era.
Throughout the Rotary network, influential Rotarians are skeptical, which may be one reason changes in attitudes and practices on membership-related support, public relations, and other business practices for our member-driven organization is slow coming to districts and clubs.   Rotary history indicates that they should not be skeptical because Rotary pioneered the Social Era in 1905.  Back then, Rotarians talked to people face to face i.e. developed acquaintances.  Traveling first by horseback, wagons, trains and ships, they grew the network from one Rotary club in Chicago into a worldwide organization simply because they were spreading a common value .
Near the end of the twentieth century, RI left its differentiating Social Era brand behind and began trying to brand itself as a worldwide service/charity organization.  It didn’t work.  But that’s history.  RI’s present and future leaders cannot be weighed down by past hierarchies, customs, and practices, but the lessons learned should never again be forgotten.  RI leaders at all levels should clearly understand:
  1. What business Rotary is in,
  2. Who its supporters are,
  3. What its supporters value, and
  4. How to set and measure results.

 Most of those now leading Rotary understand these business fundamentals.  They should plan for RI to gain club and Rotarian insights by staying interconnected, and to expeditiously act with relevance.  Present Rotary leaders should free the association’s over 35,000 autonomous Rotary clubs from past and present impositions set or implied by RI, its zones, districts, and/or The Rotary Foundation.  RI should center all activities on chartering and supporting clubs as they strive to retain and attract People of Action to advance the Object of Rotary.

RI is, and always will be, Rotary’s center of influence, but its influence must be respected and mutually beneficial to clubs and Rotarians if it wants to spread and receive value through interconnected relationships.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What Happened to 2,200,000 Rotarians?

Year-End Membership
# of Clubs
Rotary International’s membership has hovered around 1,200,000 for the last fifteen years.  During this time, according to RI’s own records, Rotary clubs have inducted - and lost - approximately 2,200,000 members.  Why?  Nobody seems to have reasonably definitive answers, only conjectures.
Rotary International (RI) has acknowledged that it is a business, and that it should be led and managed accordingly.  Because of a 2011 international study, RI has rebranded itself as an organization created by and for People of Action.  To assure that the rebranding initiative is, or will be, effective, RI must maintain and continually study membership information.  By doing so, it can have an educated answer to why it lost over 2 million members and a more dependable base to launch its future.

Senior Rotary and staff leaders must accept that the rebranding initiative will only be effective when all interconnecting relationships are mutually beneficial. In doing so, RI can begin to critically examine, study, and address important issues such as:
  • Are clubs pinpointing the appropriate target audiences to attract? 
  • Are clubs informing target audiences what to expect when they join? 
  • What percentage of the target audiences inducted left their club for reasons beyond club control (health (personal or family), relocation, financial setback, etc.)? 
  • What is a reasonable Retention Rate expectation for one-year, two-year, three-year, five-year, & ten-year Rotarians? 
  • What is a reasonable Attraction Rate expectation for the clubs, districts, and zones?
When RI begins to zero in on these types of critical issues it will be able to:
  • Judge the degree of success of its rebranding initiative, and 
  • Strategically plan for a successful future.
It is vital that RI establish a priority on recording and analyzing important membership related information.  Accurate information is necessary for RI to establish a mutually beneficial interconnecting relationship with its primary target audience – Rotary clubs.  The most cost-effective place to start is to utilize data RI presently collects and semi-annually publish Retention Rates, Attraction Rates, and RG Indexes for each club, district, zone, and RI.

Retention Rates and Attraction Rates are both important.  Retention Rates are particularly helpful in determining if clubs are delivering the People of Action brand’s promise.  Attraction Rates, in combination with first, second, and third year Retention Rates, indicate the quality of the target audience clubs are attracting, the clubs’ effectiveness at delivering the brand’s promise early, and the club’s ability to inform target audiences of the relationships the clubs offer.  RG Indexes help identify clubs, districts, and zones that are most successful at delivering Rotary’s brand promise and quickly highlights clubs, districts, and zones most in need of assistance.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rotarians Should Focus For Success!

2018 International Assembly - Click here to view the Who Rotarians Are - People of Action Rebranding address by Brad Howard, Past RI Director and Chairman of the RI Communications Committee.

Rotary International (RI) is rebranding itself to be an association of Rotary Clubs organized and operated by and for People of Action.  For this rebranding initiative to be successful, RI and its member clubs should focus on:
  • segmenting membership markets in accordance with RI’s Constitution and
  • maintaining accurate measures of success. 

Market segmentation in its simplest form is identifying the behavior and characteristics of the people who comprise Rotary’s niche market. Those in this niche are, or wish to be, People of Action who want to make life better for themselves, their families, their professions, their communities, and the world – in that order.  Segmenting these groups will make it much easier for RI and clubs to identify, communicate with, and serve existing and potential Rotarians, pinpointing those who might find buying Rotary’s People of Action brand beneficial.
Segmenting cannot be accomplished with focus groups or surveys.  Proper segmentation can only be successful by spending time experiencing clubs’ and Rotarians’ realities.  The methods and importance of market segmentation must be discussed at assemblies, seminars, conferences, and institutes. RI should also consider inviting Rotary Leadership Institute to assist in educating grass roots Rotarians about the rebranding initiative and where market segmentation fits in.


RI’s rebranding initiative must have an accurate and dependable method to measure its success.  That can only happen if RI serves its member clubs by creating and maintaining an easy-to-understand Index of gauging how many people are renewing their memberships and how many are being attracted into local clubs – their Retention Rates and Attraction Rates. These rates should be combined into a single (RG or RA) Index because it is possible for clubs or districts to sustain or improve their retention rate while losing members, i.e. retain themselves out of existence. (It would not be a surprise to find that some "blended" districts have already done this?) It is also possible for clubs to achieve higher Retention Rates while other clubs offset lower Retention Rates with higher Attraction Rates, resulting in both having identical RG Indexes. It is also possible that should priority be on Attraction Rates that clubs, districts, and zones could again be seduced by Rotary's Recruiting Death Dance of yesteryear. All three data points should be readily available so Rotarians could detect where more effort should be directed.   

The rebranding initiative stands a much better chance of succeeding if RG Indexes would become second nature for RI’s senior Rotary and staff leaders.  This would deliver the perception throughout the Rotary network that Retaining AND Attracting members is more important than achieving Every Rotarian Every Year or Paul Harris Fellow expectations.  This can only happen when leaders focus on how effective clubs, districts, and zones are at delivering the brand promise that RI is an association operated by and for People of Action.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Are Rotary's "Leaders" Leading?

In July 2015, Retention Central asked if Rotary’s leaders were leading or managing?  In the history of organizations, the difference is subtle but significant.  Rotary International’s only purpose is to sustain itself.  It does not exist to reach a specific goal.  Leaders reach for growth – individual and organizational - because growth stimulates and helps achieve goals.  Managers reach for goals.

     We are entering 2018, a new calendar year, halfway through RI’s fiscal year.  It appears that RI’s senior and staff leaders, who I affectionately refer to as young lions and lionesses, have breached the managing mentality, a breach initiated by Past RI Presidents Ravindran and Germ.  They discarded the ‘membership goal by an interim cutoff date’ which fostered the ‘my year’ management mentality.  Rotary leaders up and down the Rotary network prioritized ‘my year’ performances, which severely limited any visions of what the future may hold.  Because of the ‘my year’ mentality, minimum resources were dedicated to what kept RI operating – income from dues paying Rotarians and related metrics. 
     Most of RI's present senior and staff leaders now understand that RI is not in the service business, but is in the member business.  They realize that what is accomplished in the name of Rotary – past, present, and future – is the result of Who Rotarians Were, Are, and Will Be.  This is a major revelation that will have a substantial effect on its future, which is shining brighter.  To stay on course, RI must continually develop and analyze critical metrics because they will reflect the results of attitudes and initiatives that affect its most important income source – Rotary clubs and Rotarians.
   The most important metric, of course, is how many Rotarians are renewing their membership – RI’s Retention Rate.  To improve this critical metric, RI must encourage its administrative districts and their clubs to segment their populations and concentrate on the psychometrics of Who They Attract. To help clubs and districts, RI must continually refine and publish its membership metrics.  While metrics can help identify problem areas, only people can analyze, dissect, and solve problems.  For example, lower than normal Retention Rates dilutes the value of being a Rotarian, degrades Rotary’s public image, and destroys it brand.  At RI, naturally defining what is ‘normal’ means, among other things, the necessity to study regional Retention and Attraction Rates to determine what is ‘normal.’  When clubs and districts drop below 'normal' then people at district and club levels can be alerted, investigate, and hopefully solve the problems they identify.
     With eyes on RI’s future, it is rebranding itself as an organization organized by and for People of Action.  This initiative will be successful only when RI and its leaders demonstrate that they are People of Action who prioritize, recognize, and celebrate results.  All Rotary leaders should be encouraged to adopt this basic leadership philosophy from WALKTHETALK.com:

What gets celebrated,
Gets repeated.
What gets recognized,
Gets reinforced.
What gets reinforced,
Gets Repeated.
Considering recent happenings, it appears that RI’s senior Rotary and staff leaders are leading instead of managing; are thinking long-term instead of ‘my year’ or ‘my term.’ To solidify this opinion, improvements in membership development results must be recognized and celebrated as the most important accomplishment of any zone, district, or club.  To accomplish this, RI must serve each entity with simple and understandable meaningful metrics, which should be their Retention and Attraction Rates – their RG Indexes.