Why Organization's Fail

Rotary didn't stop developing membership because people were not interested in joining local Rotary clubs. Recent membership metrics have proven that. It stopped growing because Rotary and its member clubs became product oriented instead of member oriented. They marketed the results of the Object of Rotary instead of its value to its member clubs and Rotarians - its customers - those who fund its operations.

Red Text Note

==============Red text has a link to a previous Rotatorial or referenced document.==============

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.)