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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

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rotary's Future is Getting Brighter – But Rotary International’s (R.I.) Management should be Ashamed.

     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.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rotary International’s Net Gain Targets - Why Haven’t They Worked?

            Businesses go on recruiting trips to college campuses; college coaches go on recruiting trips to high schools and community colleges.  Both have one common interest:  target and attract people who will help make their organization become more effective.  Recruiting works for them because they target their audience.
            For the past twenty years, membership in North America has declined; for thirteen years international membership has languished.  During this time, most district governors have received citations for meeting net gain targets set by Rotary International (R.I.) presidents.  Why continue this net gain at an interim cutoff date (including June 30) charade; an obviously ineffective practice that diverts energies from important issues and encourages random recruiting; a Death Dance that has districts and clubs waltzing to R.I.’s desire for numbers instead of the needs local clubs have to attract and retain local business, professional, and community leaders; people who can get things done; people who would help clubs become more effective at advancing the Object of Rotary?
            This recruiting mindset is no more apparent than when it comes to leadership positions, be they in or beyond the club.  Nominating committees find themselves in the ‘recruiting’ mode for leadership positions simply because all too often such positions are not considered attractive.  Presidents-elect have to recruit committee chairs.  This leads to continued recruiting to get them to attend seminars, assemblies, and conferences; time they would otherwise spend with their families and professions.
            Business leaders and college coaches know that, to get the people they are targeting, they must offer attributes and opportunities that attract them.  If EVERYTHING the Rotary world did helped member clubs attract local targeted audiences, retaining and attracting members would be much easier.  We are in the seminar and assembly season; training club and district leaders for the next Rotary year.  Answer these questions honestly – are your Presidents-Elect Training Seminars (PETS) designed to attract president-elects by helping them lead their clubs to become more effective at attracting and retaining members from their local social fabrics; on the importance of conducting weekly and board meetings that attract attendance and participation?  Are club officers and committee chairs attracted to your assemblies?  Would they attend if they were not ‘required’ to do so?
            Of course, if these events are promoted as helping local clubs become more effective, do they deliver that promoted promise?  Do they help clubs engage and attract local business, professional, and community leaders – people who can get things done?  After all, regardless of the number of projects and programs clubs and districts have or the amount of contributions made to TRF, the only true measure of an effective club is its ability to attract and retain members.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Will Rotary, Hanging on Service, Hang Itself?

     Several years ago, Rotary International contracted with Levy Marketing Research to explore non-Rotarian interests in Rotary.  In Levy Marketing’s 2009 report titled Non-Rotarian Focus Groups – US Markets, a 30 – 45 year old Chicago professional female, responding to Rotary’s volunteer service activities, said, quote, “I don’t need the title of Rotarian to do any of these things, I do that stuff already.” unquote.   Service to others, serving the community, or even Rotary’s motto, Service above Self, does not differentiate local Rotary clubs from other charitable or service organizations. (Reference: What Is Rotary.)
    Clubs must differentiate to retain and attract local business, professional, and community leaders.  Whether we Rotarians admit it or not, these people already are, as the Chicago female said, ‘doing that stuff already.’  While Service above Self is a wonderful motto and annual themes could be effective in inspiring leadership teams, they do not differentiate Rotary in the eyes of potential Rotarians because Rotary is not What Rotary Does; Rotary is Who Rotarians Are.
      I have spent over forty-five of my seventy-seven years as a Rotarian. In that time I have participated in ‘doing that stuff’ inside and outside the realm of Rotary.  I have remained in Rotary, not because of ‘that stuff’ that was or is being done by the club, Rotary International, or The Rotary Foundation.  I have remained a Rotarian because I like to associate with people who get things done because they adopted Rotary's Ideal of Service; people who make an impact in our community and the world.
     Rotarians did not make the world, but Rotarians certainly have helped make the world better . . . One community at the time  Why?  Because that’s who Rotarians are, people who get things done to help make their communities and the world better.  For a great example of Rotarians getting something done, please read this short Rotatorial Is to Too Late for Rotary