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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rotary International - Is it Member-centric?

     Successful organizations are founded on customer-centric goals and strategies.  Everything is tailored to what customers actually want, not what the organizations want or what the organizations think its customers want.  Rotary International’s (R.I.) customers are present and future association member clubs; Clubs’ customers are present and future leaders drawn from each clubs’ locale. To reverse present membership trends and restore loyalty to the Rotary name, R.I. must adopt member-centric attitudes and philosophies absent in recent decades.
For larger image, click here.
    For most of the twentieth century, R.I. was recognized as an organization whose member clubs were populated by local business and professional leaders.  Today, particularly in North America, many local clubs have, at R.I. associate’s encouragement, changed into being local service organizations doing good things and striving to become, as one R.I. sponsored study stated, local service organizations of choice. On a strategic base, this changed operational philosophies and activities from being member-centric to being beneficiary-centric.  In order to launch a sustainable plan to improve membership retention and attraction, it is vital that R.I. and all member clubs adopt member-centric philosophies and match them to local social fabrics.
     All levels of Rotary must recognize who Rotarians are, not by their physical attributes but by their physchographic characteristics.  Only by knowing these characteristics will R.I. associates be able to develop and operate on member-centric strategies that encourage, inspire, and assist local clubs to become, as past R.I. president Ray Klinginsmith coined, Bigger, Better, and Bolder.  When developing such strategies, Rotary at all levels must understand the competitive forces local Rotary clubs encounter and how R.I. and its member clubs should differentiate. Working within Rotary’s tradition of changing leaders every year, sustaining member-centric strategies rests heavily on R.I. and club associates.
     The only path to regain membership momentum is for the entire Rotary network to become member-centric.  Are Rotary leaders at all levels strong enough to adopt and sustain member-centric values, philosophies, attitudes, and activities?
The image caption and highlighted passages have links to other documents.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rotary's WHY Factor

     Rotary leaders, let’s be honest with ourselves.  What most local Rotary clubs do is not much different than what other similar organizations do.  Hundreds of organizations hold fundraising events and sponsor  various health, hunger, and/or humanitarian projects and programs. Many, in fact, do more impressive projects and programs than Rotary clubs.  So what clubs do is really not a point that would consistently differentiate most clubs from other similar local or international organizations.
     But Rotary clubs continue to attract members.  If it is not what clubs do, is it how they do it?  What clubs do does not take any heavy equipment or sophisticated technology.  Everyone eats meals; billions pick up trash, handle shovels, use hammers, drive cars, serve in food lines, ride bicycles, swim, etc.  Millions of people donate funds to polio eradication and charitable organizations.  Virtually all organizations similar to Rotary have charitable foundations that support what they do.  Even more are charitable organizations that anyone can support without joining a local club or chapter.  So the differentiation can’t be how clubs do what they do.
    If clubs are not differentiated by what they do or how they do it, then why do people continue to join Rotary clubs?  Probably because of Rotary’s WHY factor.  Well, what is Rotary’s Why factor?  Perhaps the best way to define it is by example, and there is none better than Rotary International’s polio eradication campaign.
    A bit of history – between the end of World War II and the mid-1980s, the World Health Organization, after spending billions of $US trying to rid the world of polio, claimed virtually no success.  Yet, in the mid-1980s, Rotary leaders, because of Rotary’s WHY factor, undertook the challenge believing that it could be done.  No small undertaking because Rotarians are independent business, professional, and community leaders of different ethnicities, religious orders, genders, economic systems, generations, and political structures.  Yet this diverse group undertook this enormous endeavor because they believed they could make their family, village, town, city, and country safer by eliminating this dreaded disease.  These Rotarians used their resources and leadership skills to influence local and national tribal, religious, and political leaders to commit to freeing their children from this scourge.  For twenty-eight years, millions of Rotarians have banded together and, even after ridding their own countries of polio, expended personal time, resources, and influence to sustain the cause.  Why did they do this?  They did not do it to perform the hands-on service of putting a few drops of liquid on a child’s tongue – almost anybody can do that.  They did it to make the world a better place to live by eliminating polio.  Not just anybody can do that.  That’s Rotary’s WHY factor – Who Rotarians Are – Leaders who get things done; Leaders who impact their communities, leaders who advance the Object of Rotary.
It is Rotarians, not Rotary, who make the world better. . . One community at the time. People are drawn to Rotary because of this - its WHY factor.  Solving internal problems of why those drawn are not staying may be a more formidable challenge than eliminating polio.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is Rotary International on the Verge of Rediscovering the Rotary WHY Factor?

   This graphic, according to its source, emphasizes the primary reasons Rotarians and Rotaractors joined their clubs.  These are the same reasons people support other non-profits, so this is not a breakthrough discovery – except perhaps for some Rotary International (R.I.) Associates.  Effective Rotary clubs already know this and differentiate themselves from other local organizations.  This differentiation is their WHY factor, the core element around which all activities orbit.  
   The Rotary WHY factor seems to be as evasive to R.I. Associates and many clubs as the Higgs Boson has been to physicists.  But indications are that R.I. may be on the verge of rediscovery, thanks to outside professional help, caring staff, concerned Rotarians, and Open Leadership,   and successful clubs who attract and retain those who are already making a positive impact in their community – local business, professional, and community leaders of all genders, ethnicities, and generations.  
   Organizations’ WHY factors (brands, differences, distinctive positions) are authenticated by target audiences, and only target audiences!  R.I.'s target audience is present and future clubs.  Clubs’ target audience is present and future Rotarians – not the general public – and the only true measure of an effective club is its ability to retain and attract Rotarians.  They are Who Rotary is!

Sunday, March 10, 2013


   Thanks to PRID John Smarge’s 2011 address to the International Assembly, the Internet, and Open Leadership (as discussed in “Open Leadership” by Charlene Li) 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders are identifying and addressing critical membership retention and attraction issues.
    It is obvious that, because of the Respect and Knowledge people have for and about Rotary, clubs in general do not have difficulty attracting members; their problem is retaining them.  District 7510 Governor Dwight Leeper says, in his ‘Opposite George’ essay, Of the people who have left our District this year, one third were less than a year of service, half  were less than two years, and 80% were less than five years.  This is not a new phenomenon.  In 2007, when I was Assistant Zone 34 Membership Coordinator, R.I. staff member Jennifer Deters discussed this topic.  I suspect Ms. Deters had and has discussed it with R.I. management and other Rotary leaders.  I also suspect that the topic generated little interest, attention, or action because membership simply has not been R.I.’s top priority.  But, thanks to Open Leadership, this and other membership principles are becoming frequent topics of discussion.
    Autonomous Rotary clubs are members (clients, customers, etc.) of R.I., who has at times amateurishly tried to address the membership issue through closed leadership and the Top Down Syndrome (TDS).  Like most organizations, R.I. has difficulty changing ineffective or regressive practices For example, the last page (22) of the February 28, 2013 Comparison to Start Figures Membership Report says that on June 30, 2012 R.I. had 34,533 member clubs with 1,227,189 Rotarians; a net gain for the year of 49,805.  When the July 1, 2012 semi-annual reports (SARs) and accompanying dues payments were booked, R.I. officially had 34,565 member clubs with 1,202,151 paying Rotarians.  So what purpose, other than to foster egocentric ‘this in my year’ thinking, does comparing or making decisions based on June 30 or any other unofficial data have?  All business, citation, and award decisions should be made and compared solely on officially booked July 1-July 1 and January 1-January 1 SAR information, which should include the number of members inducted and lost during the reporting year.
    Through Open Leadership, I am confident that 1.2 million Rotarians, if they are treated like the leaders they are; know the issues; are given accurate information; and receive professional support, will find solutions on how to help clubs retain and attract members - the only true measure of effective Rotary clubs.
(Highlighted and/or underlined passages have links to other references.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Does Rotary Really Want to Grow Membership?

            It is refreshing to hear that Rotary International (R.I.) President-elect Ron Burton, addressing the Rotary Public Image Coordinator and Rotary Coordinator assembly this week, said "Every one of us wants to grow our membership." The proof of his words will only come when R.I. Associates (officers, directors, management, staff, coordinators, etc.) consistently put them into action.
            I recently had conversations with the presidents of a highly respected college and a nationally recognized industry.  Both told me that they no longer felt that Rotary was worth their time.  This is not a new revelation; it has been happening in North America for a couple of decades.  But it does bring up serious questions:  What changed?  What did or did not adapt?  Why?
            I look back over my years in Rotary and experiences in and beyond the club level.  I cannot help but suspect that the major change came when R.I. began promoting and recognizing Rotary clubs as being local service organizations populated by volunteers doing good things instead of local networks of business, professional, and community leaders advancing the Object of Rotary.  Big difference!  Huge difference!
            Why am I questioning R.I.?  Membership, according to the Code of Policies, should be its top priority.  Examine R.I.’s strategic plans; Membership isn’t top priority. In a Resigned Member Survey R.I. deployed in the summer of 2007, R.I. asked a multiple choice question, “If these former Rotary club members were to volunteer again, they would choose ….”   If membership is not R.I.’s top priority, and R.I. staff considers Rotarians to be ordinary volunteers, little wonder that many clubs languished and the two presidents (and other business, professional, and community leaders) would consider Rotary membership to be a waste of time.
         So I will believe that “Every one of us wants to grow our membership” when:

  • Specialized training and prestigious recognition is given to district membership chairs; 
  • When specialized support from R.I. helps districts and clubs with demographic data bases;
  •  When clubs with high RG Indexes receive the same or higher recognition than those that meet TRF giving goals;
  • When public information begins recognizing who it is that does all the wonderful things Rotary clubs do;
  • When differentiation between Rotary clubs and local service organizations exists and is recognized;
  • When Rotarians, especially Rotary leaders, can uniformly respond when asked, “What is Rotary?”
(Note:  Underlined passages are links to previous Rotatorials.)