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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Annual Themes – Is the Value Delivered to the Clubs Worth the Costs?

Are clubs receiving a perceived value from Rotary’s Annual theme? Before going any further, the reader might consider studying Rotary’s Branding Triangle, available for viewing or downloading on the right sidebar.
  In the adjacent diagram, the black arrows indicate R.I.'s interconnections; the green arrows indicate the annual money flow.  In this Rotatorial, the large horizontal green arrow represents the money flow created by the custom of having annual themes.  Please pay careful attention to the R.I. Associates.
   The immediately previous BLOG suggested that everything R.I. does should be viewed, not only by how R.I. interacts with clubs (its only customers) but also from how clubs interact with R.I.  After all, clubs do supply virtually all of the money flow to R.I. and its Associates.
    The annual theme custom, I am told, began in 1952.  According to the Rotary Code of Policy, 27.020.5, the president may select an appropriate motivational theme to be observed throughout R.I. during the president’s year in office. The theme shall be consistent with the R.I. Strategic Plan.  I had the privilege of serving as an R.I. Associate – District Governor and Zone 34 Rotary Coordinator – both wonderful experiences.  There is little question that annual themes can help build esprit de corps and cohesiveness between R.I. and its Associates.  But should this be the custom’s determining value?  R.I.’s customers, the clubs, fund virtually all expenses the custom creates so isn't it only proper that the custom be examined from the clubs’ point of view using basic business fundamentals – are clubs receiving a commensurate value?  Is the custom helping or hindering advancing the Object of Rotary locally and/or internationally?
     It may not be possible for R.I. to make an unbiased decision on this custom because such decisions are made by existing and/or former R.I. Associates, many of whom who are receiving, or have received, value from this custom.  So why couldn't R.I. do what successful businesses normally do: contract with an unbiased outside firm to survey the clubs to determine if annual themes are delivering anything the clubs perceive as a value?  If the survey finds the custom is not delivering what the clubs would perceive as a value, R.I. and its Associates should alter the present business plan so the custom does deliver to clubs a perceived value or the custom should be discontinued.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rotary International's Annual Themes – Beneficial or Not?

A highly respected friend asked my thoughts on Rotary’s annual themes.  My response began by saying that EVERYTHING Rotary International (R.I.) does should be examined from its customer’s point of view.  Rotary clubs are R.I.’s customers, so instead of looking at how R.I.’s annual themes interact with clubs, R.I. should examine how clubs interact with annual themes.  BUT – I did not forget to answer my friend’s question.

            From my experience, other than having the theme logo on their newsletter, website, a banner hanging somewhere, clubs do not interact with the annual theme.  I suspect that a more critical examination from the clubs’ viewpoint would probably confirm that annual themes hinder creating a sustained local or worldwide identity; actively promote the ‘this is my year’ concept hampering multi-year planning and execution; deter effectively responding to the “What is Rotary?” question; do not help strengthen clubs or charter new clubs; do not help clubs retain or attract members; and create unnecessary expense and waste throughout the Rotary world.  Some R.I. associates (see branding triangle in the right sidebar) may not appreciate this opinion, but associates are not R.I.’s customers – clubs are.  And present and future members are clubs’ customers.
            My opinion could be swayed if a critical, objective examination from the clubs’ viewpoint could show that annual themes were instrumental in advancing the Object of Rotary, helped solidify Rotary’s worldwide identity, delivered benefits to R.I.’s member clubs, and helped member clubs retain and attract local business, professional, and community leaders.
            If you have any thoughts on this, comments are welcome, but more important, pass your thoughts on to the R.I. Associates representing your club - your District Governor Chain and your Zone’s Director and Director-Elect.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rotary Action Based on False Positive Errors

   One of the major reasons Rotary has membership problems is that clubs and Rotary International (R.I.) have not paid attention to the number of new members inducted.  For years, R. I. Presidents, Directors, and District Governors have awarded net growth citations based on membership numbers at specific interim cutoff dates like March 31.  Based on the number of citations and awards issued between 2003 and 2009, seven years when Rotary’s worldwide membership was stable at just over 1.2 million, if this practice had been even close to realistic, Rotary’s membership should be approaching 1.5 million today.  But we all know what happens.  In addition, much credence is placed on fictitious June 30 membership numbers.  
   These practices are based on False Positive Error interpretations because the data is not only fictitious, it eliminates the retention/new member effect, preventing both from entering leaders’ collective consciousness.
    R.I. is encouraging clubs to plan for multiple years.  R.I. should set the example and award membership recognition based on July 1 – July 1 and January 1 – January 1 semi-annual reports (SARs), and the number of Rotarians inducted during the same time period.  Extensive planning should be based on July 1 SARs, commonly called start figures.  This is hard, accurate, data because clubs will only report on members who are current with their dues.  This should eliminate membership recognition and planning based on False Positive Errors.  Besides, The Only Accurate Measure of a Successful Rotary Club is its Ability to Retain and Attract Members.

 21.April.2016 UPDATE
Rotary International is now expecting payment based on the number of members on record as of June 30 and December 31, which are now being treated as the official membership numbers.  The practice of using interim cutoff dates, as of July 1, 2016, has finally ceased.  This eliminates a major false positive data point.  However, Rotary International is still not prioritizing membership development  and reporting retention and attraction rates, which, when combined, give a single, critical membership data point, the RG Index for clubs, districts, zones, regions, and RI itself.

 Another Example of a False Positive Error

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Rotary International - Is it Encouraging Districts and Clubs to Take Membership Action Based on False Positive Errors?

     Rotary’s practice of recognizing and awarding net membership gains is a classic result of False Positive Errors.  In business forensics, a False Positive Error results when data is faulty or misinterpreted and leaders make decisions because the information is positive.  Such actions are taken because everything appears to be fine and dandy.  False Positive Errors in data interpretation often lead to organizations not addressing critical underlying issues that could ultimately cause projects, programs, or businesses to fail, and Rotary membership, particularly in North America and select other regions, is failing.
     Rotary’s False Positive Errors have been amplified by analyzing faulty data; soft data compiled at interim cutoff dates instead of the hard, true data based on semi-annual reports and the number of new members clubs attract.  Here are two classic examples:  In a given year, a twenty-member club attracts five new members and loses four.  A seventy-member club attracts twenty new members and loses seventeen.  Both clubs receive recognition because they have net gains – a positive data interpretation.  But these are False Positive Errors if each club does not identify and address correctable issues that caused the losses of twenty and twenty-five percent of their clubs respectively.
     Here is the classic of classics:  According to past RI Director John Smarge, on 30 June 2003, Rotary had 31,551 member clubs who had approximately 1.2 million Rotarians.   On 30 June 2010, Rotary had 34,103 member clubs who had approximately 1.2 million Rotarians.  In that seven-year period, Rotary added 2,552 member clubs and increased total membership by 226.  Both numbers are positive; but both may be False Positive because they are based on faulty information.  Total membership in particular is False Positive because during the same period, Rotary clubs worldwide inducted, and lost, approximately 1.1 million members. 
     False Positive Errors such as this often lead to organizations ignoring correctable infrastructural issues, which is the single most significant problem in most shrinking Rotary clubs.  Is your club overlooking correctable issues?  Is Rotary International not interested in making accurate information available to Directors, District Governors, Coordinators, and member clubs so they can recognize a False Positive Error?

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