General Information

Red Text bears a link to reference Rotatorials.

Retention Central is monitored occasionally by its creator, Jim Henry, who may be contacted by email at

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rotary - What Value North America's 2014 New Members? Try $24,542,750.

Short or long range planning is not about the future.  It is about the future impact of today's actions and decisions.  Every connection any person has with anything Rotary will influence their perception of Rotary, which will influence future interconnections.  How will today's interconnections affect Rotary's future? What are today's interconnections cumulative worth five years from now?  Ten years?
   Next year, in North America alone, well over 10,000,000 people, including over 300,000 potential Rotarians, will interconnect with something or someone Rotary.  Approximately 35,000 will join local clubs.  The potential cumulative five-year value to Rotary International (R.I.) of these 35,000 new members, using existing estimated retention rates, is $24,542,750!  Ten years - $64,793,750!  In marketing and organization language this is called Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) which successful businesses use in short and long range planning.  (For Rotary, the term would be Rotarian Lifetime Value (RLV).)
   If the retention rates for the first three years were improved by a mere 10%, the estimated RLVs would be $26,009,375 and $66,259,375 respectively and membership would be increasing.  Why?  Retained Rotarians are potential Rotary advocates.  Advocates attract new members, many of whom will also become advocates.  All will pay dues.  Most will contribute to The Rotary Foundation (TRF).  And these numbers represent only the monetary and business related potential.  They do not address the intrinsic value each Rotarian contributes to their local social fabric while influencing future interconnections advancing the Object of Rotary.
   The Angry Rotarian used his business and Rotary experiences to arrive at these RLV estimates because accurate data was not readily available.  (To examine his methodology, click here.)  R.I. should have accurate data scattered in its cyberspace and could use common marketing algorithms to more closely estimate RLVs.
   So how much can R.I. justify influencing future interconnections? To Market Membership Internally and Externally?  To help its member clubs improve retention rates and create advocates?  Successful businesses use CLVs.  Shouldn't Rotary, a $350,000,000 multi-national, be using RLVs?  The Angry Rotarian thinks so.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rotary Membership will Multiply if District Membership Chair Ideas are Stimulated to have Sex!

 Rotarians from Florida, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, and from the Caribbean, Australia and India have recently communicated ideas to the Angry Rotarian.  Not all supported his opinions, but all did center on the importance of retaining members. As Matt Ridley states in his book, The Rational Optimist, and in his TED TALK, ideas getting together, having sex, and giving birth to other ideas have substantially improved our world.   Perhaps similar orgies would improve membership.

A few typical comments: 
  • "To me the most bothering issue that Rotary is facing today is membership and its retention."
  • "Rotary International has many tools, but they seem to be at such a high level that they just are not all that useful on the ground." 
  • "One hat does not fit all clubs."
  • "Service projects can destroy clubs."
  • ". .members left because of too much fundraising."
     District 7910 Membership Chair, Tom Sturiale, created his own Membership Minutes, his means of addressing membership. It can be viewed or downloaded from this link.
     So why not get district membership chairs together in two-day Zone Membership Seminars and stimulate them so their ideas can have sex and give birth to applicable ideas? Seminar expenses, including travel and lodging for qualified attendees, could come from the Zone Director's Membership Development budget.  
Typical Day One
Plenary Session            7:30 - 8:30   Keynote Speaker
Breakout Sessions        9:00 - 11:45 Min - 10 Max -15 Attendees
Lunch                            12:00 - 12:45 (no speaker)
Breakout Sessions        1:00 - 3:30
Break to edit/revise/prepare individual responses to the question:  What is Rotary?
Breakout Sessions        4:00 - 5:30 Each attendee present and defend response.
Social                            6:00 - 6:45
Dinner                           7:00 - 9:00 (Director or Coordinator comments optional)
Typical Day Two
Breakouts center on ways and means to communicate fundamentals to clubs, how the district could analyze potential locations for new clubs, AND what support is needed from Rotary International and why.
Plenary Session          7:30 - 8:30   Keynote Speaker
Breakout Sessions      9:00 - 11:45
Lunch                          12:00 - 2:00 Director or Coordinator comments and Panel with Q/A.  Main topic to be on quality R.I. support.

Keynote speakers are required to present one or more ideas that stimulate critical thinking such as "Service above Self is a motto for Rotarians.  If clubs or R.I. use it as their motto, it will destroy them." 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rotary International: Business or Cause?

In this Rotatorial a cause is defined as a social principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, the organization is prepared to advocate.

Is it possible that R.I. has recognized that it is not a cause; that it is, in fact, a business?  These graphics seem to indicate a change in that direction.  If so, a vitally important, perhaps organization saving, regeneration may be taking place.

      Causes, over the last several centuries, have helped, and continue to help, the world to become a better, safer place. Polio Eradication, Rotary's worldwide service project, could be considered a cause.  Businesses support causes in many ways, but successful ones recognize the importance of keeping their business healthy.  Otherwise, neither the business nor its associates will be able to indefinitely support desired causes.
    Successful businesses know their customers' value; the direct value that each brings to the business and the indirect value that retained customers whose staying power authenticates the value delivered and attracts new customers. If R.I. has recognized that it is a business, it must understand the business it is in, who its customers are and what they value so it can prioritize and deliver value through everything it does.
     The Angry Rotarian is trying to smile because it does seem that R.I. is trying to acknowledge that its customers are present and future Rotarians.  But then up pops this statement on R.I.'s About Rotary web page: "We are 1.2 million neighbors, friends, and community leaders who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world."  Well meaning definition but does it differentiate Rotarians from millions of other people who are striving to do the same thing? Does it encourage Rotary's constitutionally identified potential customers, most of whom who are active or retired leaders that are already making lasting changes in their communities, to consider investigating membership in a local Rotary club?

 And some Rotary leaders still wonder why Marketing, particularly Internal, should be an urgent membership priority with a commensurate budget?  Successful businesses Market and deliver the value their customers' seek.

As always, red text indicates a link to other sites and Rotatorials.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank You - Rotary

for the many good things that have happened to me and my family because of Who Rotarians Are and the meaningful opportunities made available through your attributes.  Since 1966 my family and I have had so many wonderful experiences we could write an anthology.
     A special thanks goes to those who have followed this BLOG and given serious thought to the opinions and publications presented. Retention Central has centered on membership retention because clubs have very little difficulty attracting members, and Rotary's membership situation, particularly in North America, is serious.  Rotary's strength lies in its worldwide network of local clubs; each an autonomous alliance populated by local business, professional, and community leaders; people who do not have to be told what to do.  Excite them about the available opportunities that can help them make their lives, community, and the world better.  They will do the rest.  And there is absolutely no question that the only universally accurate measure of a club's effectiveness is its ability to retain and attract members.
     While my tag line recently has been the Angry Rotarian, I am not, and cannot be, angry at Rotary or Rotarians in general.  My anger is attributed to those leaders who have given, and continue to give, higher priority to Rotary's attributes, including the Rotary Foundation, than to the business Rotary is in and recognizing who it is that keeps Rotary in business - its customers - the average dues paying Rotarians; local leaders with enterprising minds who are making their community and the world a better place.
I will be forever grateful to the Rotarians who, through Rotary, have influenced my life and helped make it better. For me, life is approaching the horizon. The body has slowed, but the mind, mouth, fingers, and keyboard are still quite active.

Red text contains links to previous posts

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marketing Rotary! What Differentiating Value? What Business? What Audience?

Which exhibit accurately communicates Rotary's differentiating value to its customers - present and future Rotarians and TRF donors?

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Lee-En Chung, president of Ivy Ventures, Inc., speaks several languages, is a certified general contractor and professional engineer.  In 1994, Lee-En joined the Rotary Club of Sarasota, Florida, USA.  Lee-En has received many honors for her support of Sarasota non-profits.  One is Girls, Inc. ( where she leads by example while encouraging girls to excel. She is active in the local Columbia Alumni Club and has mentored several Columbia University students.   As she travels the world in pursuit of professional excellence, she makes contacts visiting Rotary clubs and has seventeen years perfect Rotary attendance.

Abbreviated from RI's web site (
Mario Costanini and his wife own a business and support a variety of nonprofit organizations near their home in MilwaukeeWisconsin, USA.  One is Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap, an educational dance program for children that, because of Mario and a fellow Rotarian, is now offered in 50 public and private schools throughout the Milwaukee area.


If you cannot instantaneously and confidently pick which exhibit accurately communicates Rotary's differentiating value to its target audiences, you are not alone.  Pages 23 - 29 of Siegel+Gale's Research Findings clearly points out that Rotary's internal audience, Rotary International and club associates, are also confused and cannot define Rotary.  If this group is perplexed and baffled, how can they communicate or deliver Rotary's differentiating value to external target audiences? 

Rotary International does not have an issue to resolve more important than this one.  Will present leaders grapple with and come to agreement on this conundrum or continue to kick it down the road?  Until this issue is clarified and internally marketed, it will be extremely difficult to achieve steady growth.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Internal Marketing Should be a Rotary Priority!

In this Rotatorial, Rotary means Rotary International (R.I.) and The Rotary Foundation (TRF).

Marketing is not advertising for members or bragging about what Rotary has done.  Simply put, Marketing Multiplies Membership by communicating and delivering an organization's differentiating value (its brand promise) to external and internal audiences.  But which target audience takes priority? 
   Internal Marketing (IM) should take priority because its major asset is that it preserves and helps evolve an organization's brand and culture, particularly in cases like Rotary where leadership frequently changes and culture is a source of differentiation. Effective IM encourages transparency about the challenges organizations face and their strategic direction.  Perhaps the Gates Foundation would not be recognized for eradicating polio and Rotary would not be in the membership position it is today if, fifteen or twenty years ago, IM had been communicating Rotary's Why Factor (brand) as countries eliminated the disease and how many of Rotary's customers were actually walking out (transparency.)
   Changes needed to put Rotary on course for steady customer (member and donor) growth must come through Rotary's senior leaders, not by dictate or Top Down Attitudes but through transformational leadership and actions that communicate priority, consistency, support, understanding, confidence, and trust.  Only then will associates believe that a permanent change is taking place and enthusiastically support it.  IM must be an on-going process whereby all interconnections consistently align, motivate, support, exemplify, and deliver Rotary's differentiating brand promise for the purpose of attaining Rotary's desired result.  Otherwise, associates will be lackadaisical while waiting until next year when new leaders with different emphases take office.

   If Rotary is really interested in helping its member clubs develop membership, IM must take priority and be aggressively implemented.  Rotary leaders must be able to communicate what Rotary is without hesitating, agree on what business Rotary is in,  who its customers are, what its customers value; and what result Rotary would like to achieve.  Otherwise it will be impossible to define and consistently deliver brand promises to customers or help Rotary achieve its desired result - sustain steady member and donor growth.

 Red text indicates links to other documents.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marketing Membership

In this Rotatorial, Rotary means Rotary International (RI) and The Rotary Foundation (TRF); customer means those who finance the operations of both - Rotarians and Donors.

      Perhaps the best modern example of why RI should donate more resources to holistic marketing hits at Rotary's heart: its monumental service project - Polio Eradication, a special program of RI originally called PolioPlus.  Ask the average person, or even the news media, to identify the private organization most closely related to polio eradication.  More than likely they will say the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - the result of effective 21st century marketing.
     Many non-profit organizations, probably including Rotary and many member clubs, believe dedicating resources to marketing is wasted money and effort.  Frequently the reason is that non-profit leaders believe the causes they champion and services they offer are ends unto themselves; that members and/or donors will automatically follow; that they do not have to stoop to 'selling'.  That's compassionate hearts taking action without engaging business brains.  For long term success, both are necessary.
     Casting a wide net for dues paying members, i.e. recruiting, kills membership driven organizations because if anyone can join an organization, there is no reason for anyone to join an organization.  What has hurt RI membership, particularly in North America is that, for almost two decades, the qualifications for membership in many clubs has been:
  • Do you have a heartbeat?
  • Can you afford our dues for at least six months? 
The underlying question should be, "Are you interested in being a Rotarian?"           

     The major reason this line of inquiry is not pursued is that, among all levels of Rotary leaders, there is little common agreement on what Rotary is; therefore who Rotarians are.  The Seigel+Gale research clearly identified this dilemma (See pages 23 - 38 of this Research Paper.)  The fundamental reason this condition exists is the lack of having a holistic marketing program within RI.  If Rotary leaders do not agree on what RI is or who Rotarians are, then how can RI market externally?  But let's get one thing clarified quickly. Marketing is not 'selling' or 'advertising'.  Marketing is the process of communicating the value of what an organization offers customers for the purpose of engaging them, and influencing all interactions between customers and the organization, in this case Rotary, to assure the expected value is being delivered.
     Since 1988, because of Who Rotarians Are, Rotary has been leading the charge to eliminate polio.  Had RI been effectively marketing Rotary and Who Rotarians Are, the average person, when asked to identify the private organization most closely related to polio eradication, most likely would say Rotary.  Is there not a major message here?

Developing an holistic Marketing program would Multiply Membership.  The place to start is with Internal Marketing.  Rotary leaders at all levels must agree on what business Rotary is in, who its customers are, and what they value.  This is the only path RI can take to reverse its membership fortunes and achieve a sustained, steady growth.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Is Your Rotary Club a RINOC?

By perfecting the Rotary image, the Rotary brand, retaining and attracting target audiences will become much easier.
Rotary Zone 34 Membership Coordinator 2008-2010 Jim Henry

Once we recognize our unique club services and benefits, we can seek those men and women in our communities who share similar characteristics. 
Rotary International Director John Smarge
2011 International Assembly Speech

     In Rotary Zone 34, and throughout North America, indications are that Rotary still has credibility but many clubs have ceased perfecting the name Rotary and have become a Rotary in name only club (RINOC).  In the five years from 2005 through 2009, Zone 34, with over 34,000 Rotarians, inducted 22,467 new members and lost 23,053.  Between 2003 and 2010, Rotary clubs worldwide inducted and lost 1.1 million members.  This indicates that, after decades of building respect and credibility, the name Rotary still attracts members to local Rotary clubs but many, because they have become RINOCs, cannot retain members.
   Let’s examine why this is important. Successful Organization History 101 tells us that when organizations begin, they offer something different than others competing for their target audience’s time, talent, and treasure.  This difference is the organization's brand; its identity.  If any organization wants long-term success, it is critical that it adheres to, perfects, and jealously guards its identity.
     How about a little self-examination by all present and incoming Rotary leaders, including all senior Rotary and staff leaders?  Consider completing a list similar to the one pictured.  In the first column list the ways your Rotary club offers something different to local business, professional, or community leaders that other 'service' or 'civic' organizations offer.  In the second column list what other local 'service' or 'civic' organizations offer that is similar to what your club offers.

   If the differences outnumber the similarities, your club most likely does not have a membership problem, is not a RINOC, and you are or soon will be a Rotary leader.  If similarities outnumber the differences then your club probably has membership problems, is a RINOC, and you most likely should know more about Rotary.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What is the Code to Unlocking Rotary's Membership Stagnation?

(In this Rotatorial, members means club members and foundation donors.)
Engaged Rotary advocates attract and propose an average of 5.4 more new members than the average club member, and recommend infinitely more than do members who walk out because of having unmet expectations and/or having been misled.

     Effective Rotary clubs know that retaining members starts with the initial contact, continues until the relationship ends, and is directly related to: 
  • The way the organization engages and communicates with its members, and 
  • The reputation the organization creates with its target audience.
     Recognizing the value of members puts them at the center of any organization's engagement strategy.  Engaging members is more than involving them in programs and activities.  Informed members expect this.  Engaging members is about exceeding their expectations to the point where they become advocates.  Creating advocacy is a key differentiator in today's competitive environment and makes retaining and attracting members the strategic focal point of all successful organizations.
     The Rotary network has almost twenty years experience, epitomized by the 2001 - 2002 membership push, that proves, when the goal is to sustain membership growth, recruiting does not work. ENGAGING does work!  Is ENGAGING members and creating advocates the center of:

  • Your club's strategy?  
  • Your District's strategy?  
  • Your Zone's strategy?  
  • Rotary International's strategy?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rotary International, Whole Foods Market, Starbucks - Grow or Shrink?

Rotary International has a charitable foundation - The Rotary Foundation; most financial support comes from its parent organization's customers.

Whole Foods Market has a charitable foundation - Whole Planet Foundation; most financial support comes from its parent organization's customers.

Starbucks has a charitable foundation - Starbucks Foundation; most financial support comes from its parent organization's customers.

Whole Foods and Starbucks are customer-centered organizations that, through their charitable foundations, perform humanitarian services throughout the world.  Whole Foods' and Starbucks' top priority is satisfying the wants and needs of their support base, customers.

Rotary International does not know if it is a service-centered or member-centered organization that, through its charitable foundation, performs humanitarian services throughout the world.  Rotary International's top priority is not satisfying the wants and needs of its support base, customers - present and future Rotarians.   

Wonder why?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rotary International - Provoke or Promote Service to Improve Membership?

Successful organizations today are not defined by past activities.  They are defined by how they connect and engage with their target audiences day in and day out.  This is why properly deserved recognition of Rotary International's (R.I.) role in provoking worldwide engagement to eliminate polio twenty-five years ago will do little to attract or retain members today.  It is history, particularly in countries where polio has, for all practical purposes, been eliminated for over fifty years.
     R.I.'s core objective is to advance the Object of Rotary.  If one critically examines the Object, they will find that it is member-centered and provokes Rotarians into:
· adopting high ethical standards in their businesses and professions and
·  applying service in their personal, business, and community life. 
     But, in North America, this differentiation is rapidly disappearing because R.I. and many of its clubs no longer provoke community or international service, they promote it.  In North America, this change eliminated the differentiation R.I. and its member clubs enjoyed for almost a century. To put it in very simple terms; to promote or perform community or international service, people do not have to volunteer their time, treasure, or talent in service-centered Rotary clubs.
     Rotary in North America still has a chance to reverse its membership fortunes. To do so, R.I. and its member clubs must:
If R.I. and its member clubs do not take this or similar approaches, North American membership will continue to decline.

References:   Zone 30's M&Ms and Membership Thoughts From Around the World. 
 Red text has links to previous Rotatorials.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rotary's ASK Paradox

 Ask a person to join your Rotary club and membership will grow.

This statement might be true, but it is not validated because of this invalid argument:

Ask a person to join your Rotary club.
The person joins your Rotary club.
Therefore, membership increases.

This argument could be true, but it is not valid because the conclusion assumes:
  • Rotary club membership is static (stable).
  • The person remains a member.
Both assumptions depend on clubs retaining more members than they ask to join, an unrealistic assumption.  Rotary membership is dynamic and depends on Rotarians participating in Rotary's Circle of Life.  To grow membership, clubs must identify and address their dynamics. Consider downloading and circulating, from the right sidebar, Zone 30's M&Ms and Membership Thoughts from Around the World.  District 7980's 'Seven Steps to a Sexy Club' is a new addition.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Can Placebo Effect Research help Rotary International with its Membership Stagnation Condition?

     Brain scans during placebo effect research show that placebos alter the biological process of pain response which, in turn, relieves the painful condition.  This indicates that many people do not need pills to alleviate the pain caused by a lingering problem.  All they need is the brain power and discipline to change from focusing on the symptoms associated with their problem and concentrate on positive actions and aspirations.
     Rotary International's lingering problem is membership stagnation.  The major symptom associated with this problem is the large number of Rotarians walking out of local Rotary clubs.  So do Rotary International and its member clubs have the brain power and discipline to cease treating this symptom with Ask and Recruit pills (which have not worked for going on two decades) and focus on positive actions and aspirations? 

This link  tells how one club changed focus, concentrated on retaining members, and is growing.  If this club can do it, so can others.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Ask and Polio Eradication Membership Myths

During the interview process Rotary International (R.I.) presidential candidates, when asked about membership, must assume they have to say that they will -1- press every Rotarian to ask a family member or anybody on the street to join a Rotary club, and -2- repeat the myth that membership problems will go away when R.I. receives the worldwide recognition it deserves for its leadership role in polio eradication.
  Both conceptual phrases have been standard presidential membership fare since I first served as assistant Zone 34 membership coordinator in 2007.  Surely R.I. speech writers can come up with material that tells member clubs what realistic membership result R.I. would like to achieve and what actions R.I. is taking to assist achieving the desired result.
    If none exists, could not R.I. create and make public sustainable retention and growth rates the results it would like to achieve, then follow up by asking clubs what support R.I. could furnish that would help them achieve these results?  If the R.I. staff and Board of Directors cannot create such results, how about using these:
        But follow up and ask District officers and member clubs what assistance they need?  Oh! That would be Opening Leadership to the bottom up concept, and clubs might actually respond with feedback R.I. doesn't want to hear.  It might even encourage clubs to become engaged in district and regional membership plans.  Bottom up instead of top down addressing membership issues!  Wow!  What a concept!
While contemplating and debating its membership stagnation, R.I. leaders should remember that time does not pause in regards to progress, development, or change, and it overwhelms inaction.  Actions cost, but the cost is far less than the long range affects of inaction.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Who needs Who?

            Fact:  Rotary International (R.I.) needs members more than the business, professional, and community leaders in local communities throughout the world need Rotary International! 

            To improve membership retention and attraction, R. I. and its member clubs must get serious about the way they define, implement, and manage the member experience. This will take visionary leaders who lead from the front knowing that R.I. and its member clubs are member-centered businesses, who the customers are and what they value.  The leaders must be results oriented, employ the power of language, disperse leadership, encourage open discussion and innovation, and create accurate measures of performance.

Is this in the strategic plans of R.I. or its member clubs?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Rotary International's Web Site - Product of Open Innovation?

     Peter Markos and his team no doubt used Open Innovation techniques to develop and implement Rotary International's (R.I.) new web site.  The new site evolved over several years through incremental innovative steps involving many people.  Managing Open Innovation, as Peter did, takes special skills because innovation encourages creativity and involves human ideas; the gathering and filtering of applicable information; and leaders with the skills to weave everything together and implement changes that benefit the organization and its customers.  Open Innovation is a continuing process involving many talented people.  It requires leadership and management expertise usually foreign to those accustomed to top-down management.  Way to go, Peter, and your entire team.

R.I. and its member clubs are member-centric.  R.I., to grow membership, must continue Open Innovation in all departments, centering on innovations that inspire and encourage clubs to grow membership and donors.  Rotarians, because of  Why Rotarians Are Rotarians, will take care of impacting their communities and the world as they advance the Object of Rotary.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

President Ron Opening Leadership

It took courage for Rotary International (R.I.) President Ron Burton to utilize Open Leadership to express his thoughts on membership.  Rotarians, leaders within their own social fabrics, will agree or disagree with various parts of the thoughts he expressed.  I suspect President Ron knew that would happen,  I also suspect that he would welcome Rotarians getting excited enough to express their compliments and criticisms to him directly.
My previous Rotatorial commenting on President Ron's video drew compliments and complaints. Some said it was spot on; others were upset because I said one part was boring and that it lacked information.  Three district governors, members of President Ron's Faithful Team, asked that I remove their names from my distribution list.  To me, these actions reflect progress. Rotary leaders are reading, listening, voicing opinions, and taking action on membership.  Action of this nature is to be expected when Leadership is Opened.
    But let's discuss the all-you-Rotarians-out-there-need-to-do-is-ask-and-R.I.'s-membership-problem-will-be-solved silly conundrum. Examine this proposition:  You own, or are employed by, a business that loses over 14% of its customers every year; almost half of its customers in seven years (R.I.'s condition as of 2011.)  Do you put a priority on -1- Reminding existing customers to bring you customers to replace those lost or -2- Determining and addressing why your business is losing customers?
     Through Open Leadership, I am confident that 1.2 million Rotarians, if they are recognized and treated like the professionals they are, know the issues, are given accurate information, and receive professional support, will actively promote and support Rotary's Circle of Life because The Only True Measure of an Effective Rotary Club is its Ability to Retain and Attract members.

President Ron's Membership Talk - Open, Boring, Compelling, Lacking

BORING--The middle section of the talk is the same ineffective message that has been emanating from senior Rotary leaders since membership began leveling off years ago.  Data proves that many Rotarians are already asking.  Most Rotary clubs, data shows, do not have problems attracting members.  Their problem is keeping them because they are not delivering value; engaging them.  Repeating a useless all-you-Rotarians-out-there-need-to-do-is ask dissertation diverted listeners valuable attention and time from critical issues and was a major missed opportunity to exhibit transformational leadership. 

COMPELLING--President Ron's personal experiences vividly demonstrate that clubs and R.I. are not in the community service business; their business is changing Rotarians' lives. That unknown president-elect of the Rotary Club of Norman, Oklahoma, USA, found a way to make Rotary relevant to a member; to keep a future R.I. president from dropping out.  This relevancy delivered what that young attorney valued - engagement; the opportunity to make a greater impact.  Just imagine how that Rotarian utilized R.I.'s attributes to impact the lives of many others in his family, community, and the world, while changing his own life in his journey to Rotary's top position.  His story personifies Who Rotarians Are; the business clubs are in; and what clubs should be doing to retain and attract members. That, President Ron, is sincere, relatable, and compelling and is the prime substance of your presentation. Thank you.

LACKING--Other than talk about increasing membership, setting numerical goals, and hounding Rotarians to ask, what is our Association of Rotary Clubs actually doing to help clubs grow membership?  Someone will say Rotary Club Central, but I have yet to hear anyone address and sell clubs on how it will help clubs retain and attract members.  R.I.'s Strategic Planning process and twenty-two Regional plans are nice on paper, but if they do not address clubs' needs, they're useless.  R.I.'s continued failure to use a member-centered approach to decision making and recommending club actions results in loss of focus.  Rolling out yet another appeal for a simple act , 'the ask', is ineffective (See 2001-2002 membership spike) if the root causes of Rotary's excessive membership losses and R.I. failures in identifying and recognizing Who Rotarians Are, what they value and the relationships and experiences Rotarian's seek are not systemically and consistently addressed.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Will Rotary International Follow Kodak?

For almost twenty years, Rotary in North America has undergone a dramatic drop in membership.  At the 2010 Regional Rotary International Membership Coordinator (RRIMC) Assembly, word came out that some Rotary International (RI) Directors had said that membership was primarily a North American Problem.  Zone 33 and 34 RRIMC's Bevin Wall and Jim Henry posted a Rotatorial on this matter indicating that North America was a projection of RI's future unless it addressed some basic issues.
     Past RI Director John Smarge, in his 2011 presentation before the International Assembly, highlighted one of the basic issues when he announced that between the years 2003 - 2010, Rotary clubs throughout the world inducted 1.1 million members while membership held steady at approximately 1.2 million members.  Many Rotary leaders, unaware that RI had suffered a net loss of 1.1 million members - 157,000 per year - gasped.
     During this time period, records show that North American clubs had a gross loss of approximately 43,000 members.  Accurate records do not exist regarding regional net losses, but, using the numbers from Director Smarge's presentation, let's take a trip down Logic Lane and assume that North American clubs inducted 300,000 members. This would mean that North America's net loss was 343,000.  What regions lost the other 757,000?  Because of poor membership management, the only thing we know is that RI lost 1.1 million members - half of its customers - in a seven-year period.  What would the directors of any thriving company say to management when given this information?  What does the RI Director representing your club say about RI's membership management?
      Let's be honest with ourselves.  Membership, particularly retention, is a worldwide issue.  A reputable worldwide firm hired by RI concluded over a year ago that RI is in the same position now that Kodak, a once mighty worldwide photographic giant that recently filed for bankruptcy, found itself in 1997 and did little to alter its future (Graphics 47-52 of the document available at this link.)
North America is warning RI of its future.  The Rotary world, from bottom to top, must cease addressing symptoms and refocus from being top-down What: service-centric supported by members to being bottom-up Who: member-centric impacting local communities and the world.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rotary International's Organization Chart - Shouldn't it Look Something Like This?

Rotary International - Does it have the Will, Talent, and Fortitude to Transform its Membership Fortunes?

  1. What business is Rotary International (RI) in?
  2. Who is its customer?
  3. What do its customers value?
  4. What results does it want?
            Only when RI (or any other organization) answers these questions will it be in a position to embark on creating an effective plan to achieve its desired results.
            RI's planning group, The Guiding Coalition, must be a powerful force! No one individual has the capabilities to develop the right vision, communicate it to large numbers of people, eliminate all the key obstacles, generate short-term successes, lead and manage dozens of high energy-type people, and anchor new approaches, particularly in an established organization's culture.   The Guiding Coalition must have high credibility, and its first action should be to ban RI's organizational structure from its thought processes.  Leading change takes transformational leadership.  Teamwork is essential.  Unfortunately, most senior level Rotary leaders today, sadly mostly male, developed when teamwork was a metaphor; when 'teamwork' was accomplished by the 'team' - Boss and his direct yes-sir subordinates.
       This type leadership is no longer effective because innovators, the very people who should be attracted to local Rotary clubs and RI staff, do not fit in organization chart squares because it boxes them in and minimizes the use of their brain power.  RI should lead the way by creating an organization where the goals of all staff members and Rotary leaders, while applying specialized talents, overlap so all are striving to attain one single result - grow at a steady rate by delivering to Rotary clubs, Rotarians and TRF donors what they value.
            RI is an association with a worldwide customer base - over 35,000 member clubs, each to whom RI should be delivering what the clubs value.  Each club's customers - Rotarians - have enterprising minds and want to connect with like-minded people to make greater impacts in their communities and the world - each to whom clubs should be delivering what their members value.  RI and its member clubs, to sustain a steady growth rate, must transform themselves from their perceived positions of 'service' organizations to 'member' organizations that deliver value.  Nothing should be off limits to change: what doesn't help attain the desired result must be abandoned; what does help must be strengthened; and the quicker the better.
 Transformational leaders, knowing what business they are in, who their customers are and what they value, lead from the front. They are results oriented, employ the power of language, disperse leadership, and create accurate measures of performance.  Does this type innovative leadership exist in RI's hierarchy?