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.)