I receive communications from all over the world. The bright outlook for our future comes from the many discussions centering on engaging members. PRIVP Monte Audenart said, referencing an article by PDG Subhash Saraf, an RLI Intl Board Member from
India, “This was an excellent article on engaging members, and I and others thank you for it. When we invited others to join Rotary we promised them something of value for their time and money. We promised them that the benefits of belonging would far outweigh the dues.”
Membership is the foundation of success for R.I. and its influential charitable attribute, The Rotary Foundation (TRF) and is becoming the main topic of discussion. Clubs are beginning to understand that to retain members; they must engage and deliver value to them. The engaging process begins by clubs identifying who they should attract. 1999-2000 RI President Carlos Ravizza said, “. . . we must maintain high standards. If we begin to simply look for dues-paying members as a means of increasing our budget, it will severely damage our credibility and signal the end of our organization.” Clubs throughout the world are coming to realize this. That alone makes Rotary’s future brighter.
But let’s get down to business. R.I. is a business; not a private social club. Based on membership estimates mentioned in PRID John Smarge’s presentation before the 2011 International Assembly, during the years 2002-2009, clubs worldwide had recruited and lost 1.1 million members. That’s a potential gain in R.I. dues of $55 million US. But that’s not all. Using the averages in the 2011-12 Annual Report, those lost members represent a potential gain in worldwide TRF contributions of $150 million US; $43 million from North America alone.
Clubs can’t retain everybody, but put whatever reasonable retention percentage on these numbers you like and they still represent pretty high numbers. So here are some questions: Were not R.I. officers and top management supposed to be minding the store as this combined potential of $210 million US was walking out? Were our directors, supposedly business, professional, or community leaders, in la la land massaging each other’s egos when they should have been asking critical business questions and insisting that staff deliver professional responses and recommendations for action?
R.I. is now encouraging clubs’ to deliver value to their members; to engage them. Is R.I. encouraging itself to do the same? Clubs are its members. Is R.I. through its Associates delivering value to them? Engaging them? From past actions, it seems that R.I. is more interested in its member clubs delivering value to it i.e. get me more dues-paying members; get me a net gain of one or two members per club; get me more Foundation contributions, etc. Should not R.I. and its Associates be approaching clubs with questions like, “How can we help you get . . .?”
Play with the above numbers all you like, it’s apparent that R.I. should be able to justify major continuous investment in skilled, professional membership support and accurate, meaningful measures of effectiveness. But previous R.I. management (senior staff, officers, and directors) should be ashamed that it took people like me and PRID Smarge to expose how many members were actually walking out of clubs’ doors and place a potential US$ value on them; proving that improving retention percentages is key and that it would be worthwhile for R.I. to put its highest priority on membership, as it should have been doing since at least 2003.