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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