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Retention Central is monitored occasionally by its creator, Jim Henry, who may be contacted by email at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rotary Network - Airliner Emergency What do they have in common?

Picture yourself on an airliner cruising comfortably at 35,000 feet.  Suddenly the cabin loses pressure and the aircraft begins a rapid decent.  Oxygen masks drop from their overhead compartments.  Your seatmates are having difficulty with their masks.  What should you do? 
If you paid attention to the flight attendants prior to takeoff, you know that you should put your own oxygen mask on first. That way you will survive by inhaling life sustaining oxygen, enabling you to engage in assisting those in need.
Where does Rotary International and its over 34,000 member clubs get the oxygen that enables them to survive and assist those in need?  Rotary International gets its oxygen from its member clubs who get their oxygen from their members.  
Rotary club members should be active or retired leaders.    Leaders are those who, through position and/or social influence, get others to accomplish, or assist in accomplishing, common goals. Effective leaders are not elitist, but they should be influential. The entire Rotary network should not be restrictive, but it should be selective.
Rotary clubs and administrative districts should duplicate what Rotary International does very well – connect influential leaders to each other – give them the resources and tools to help them make greater impacts and share successes.  Engaged Rotarians are the Rotary network’s oxygen supply. Engaged Rotarians perpetuate Rotary’s Circle of Life.
Rotary clubs do not make communities, but Rotary clubs, inhaling the oxygen supplied by engaging, retaining, and attracting members, do make communities better.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rotary Membership - Attendance Engages; Required Attendance Disengages

     Attendance engages members.  Clubs are encouraged to attract members and keep them engaged.  This is a super good thing – probably approaching revolutionary – and it fits right in with eliminating required attendance. Recording attendance has many benefits, among them allowing others to be in touch when members miss events; gauging members’ interests in projects and programs, etc.
     Required attendance disengages members over a period of time.  Requiring attendance minimizes the importance of sustaining and improving an event’s value.  Voluntary attendance will improve any event’s value quicker and more effectively than any form of leisurely investigation.  This simple truth applies to clubs as well as events such as North American Rotary hierarchy’s favorite exhibition platform – Presidents-Elect Training Seminars (PETS), where presidents-elect are supposed to be customers; persons to be attracted and served. 
     Attendance requirements should be dropped at all events where members or clubs have to pay to attend. By eliminating attendance requirements, event conveners, to attract and engage attendees, would have to (1) market the event’s value and (2) assure that the event delivers its marketed value.  Delivering value will engage members – attendance and membership will increase.  Not delivering value will disengage members – attendance and membership will decrease.  Voluntary paid attendance is the simplest, most effective measure ever devised to gauge whether or not an event is delivering value. 
     This post will create a flurry of objections from Rotary leaders who want to force attendance to PETS.  From the clubs’ point of view, PETS contracts to deliver services that should assist presidents-elect (PEs) in guiding clubs to become more effective.  Is PETS delivering this service? North America is the epicenter of multi-district PETS yet North American membership has been declining for twenty years.  If PETS attendance had been voluntary, would Rotary leaders have learned years ago that a president-elect's major concern is membership development and running their club; that attracting and retaining (engaging) members is the only true measure of an effective Rotary club?
Concerned Rotary leaders would probably have learned this by simply asking, "What does it take to attract presidents-elect to PETS?”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rotary says, “Retaining members is even more important than attracting new members.”

     Is the Angry Rotarian is actually trying to crack a smile? This Retaining Members statement appears on page 14 of the Membership Supplement published by Rotary International (RI), available at this link.  When the full importance of retaining members becomes embedded in mindsets throughout the Rotary network, RI’s future will become even brighter because the fundamental reason retaining members is more important than attracting new members is LRV – Lifetime Rotarian Value.
    All organizations have growth cycles somewhere in their lifetime.  Many analysts use organizations’ customer retention rates when evaluating their future.  Retention rates help stakeholders predict whether or not growing organizations will be able to sustain growth.  Analysts also use customer retention rates to help predict whether or not stable or slow growth organizations are sound long-term investments, or if slumping organizations can stabilize or return to a growth state.  The reason:  retained customers are happy customers; valuable assets that have what analysts call Lifetime Customer Value.
     Rotarians are local Rotary clubs’ customers.  Retained Rotarians are valuable assets because they are Rotary advocates and have positive LRVs; more-so today than in yesterdecades because their word-of-mouth advocacy spreads through social networks like it is written in the atmosphere.  Unhappy customers are liabilities because their unhappiness also spreads through social networks, often at Category 5 hurricane wind speeds.
    Retained members LRV grow with their time in Rotary.  Until recently, RI had no idea of its true retention rates, much less LRVs.  Every club, district, zone, and region should know its RG Index, and RI should have some idea of what LRVs are after one year, two years, five years, ten years, etc.  Individual clubs certainly cannot afford to conduct such analyses, but RI could.  Meanwhile, many RI present and past senior leaders continue to operate on yesterdecades’ premises’ which are reflected in North America’s twenty-year declining membership and RI’s fourteen-year membership stabilization.
     LRV variables include, but are not limited to, who Rotarians are, the dollars of dues paid, contributions to local club efforts and The Rotary Foundation (TRF), plus other intangible assets, such as visions, influences and initiatives Rotarians bring into the Rotary network.  An LRV analysis would most likely stimulate changes of magnanimous proportions in RI management, public information, seminars, assemblies, and training literature.
   The Angry Rotarian’s smile will broaden and eyes will light up when RI, which is supposed to be a worldwide network of premier clubs consisting of business, professional, and community leaders, is as effective in sound management initiatives as it has been in world health initiatives, which, by the way, RI nor TRF can sustain if local clubs do not retain customers – er – members.

Yes.  The Angry Rotarian actually is cracking a smile.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Rotarian Seemed a bit Angry.

In a recent conversation, a Rotary leader suggested that I seemed a bit angry at Rotary International (R.I.)   I responded, “You mean there’s doubt?”  This leader asked why.  After all, R.I. works hard to bring leaders together – connect them to each other – give them the resources and tools to help them make greater impacts and share successes.
    Yes, R.I. does a wonderful job at doing that.  But that’s not why this Rotarian ‘seems a bit angry.’  What R.I. is doing is exactly what all 34,000 Rotary clubs should be doing in their local social fabrics – working hard to bring leaders together, connecting them to each other - giving them the resources and tools to help them make greater impacts and share successes.  But is R.I. encouraging its member clubs to bring leaders together; recognizing local Rotary club members as leaders?
   On R.I.’s About Us web page, the narrative says, “In more than 34,000 clubs worldwide, you'll find members volunteering in communities at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.” Does this recognize Rotarians as leaders?  Does it differentiate Rotarians from the millions of members in thousands of other organizations who are volunteering to do the same things?  Would this attract more of local clubs' target audiences if it said “In Rotary International’s more than 34,000 member clubs worldwide, you'll find active and retired business, professional, and community leaders, at home and abroad, making the world community at the time.”*
   The About Us narrative goes on to say, “Explore this site to learn more about Rotary and how you can join your local Rotary club.”   This implies that anybody reading the About Us page will be able to join a local Rotary club.  But at least the R.I. web site is consistent.  On the site’s Members page is a graphic of a Rotary jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece.  On the puzzle is this statement: “YOU ARE THE MISSING PIECE.”  Is the 'you' anybody who can read?  In North America that's over 350,000,000 anybodies; worldwide that’s over 5,000,000,000 anybodies.
    Why would anybody dedicate time, treasure, or talent to be recognized, identified, and treated as anybody?     The United States Marines doesn't target anybody.  They target ‘The Few. The Proud.’ and have little difficulty attracting them.  What Rotary does, or has done, is rooted in who Rotarians are, but R.I. just doesn't seem to grasp that reality.    
    North America is in a twenty-year membership decline. Worldwide membership has been stagnant for fourteen years.  The Code of Policies says membership should be R.I.'s highest priority, but, for decades, it obviously has not been.  Yet the 2013 Council on Legislation approved a dues increase to R.I.
And somebody actually wonders if this Rotarian, who has been in Rotary for over 46 of his 77 years, is a bit angry.  I wonder why more Rotarians aren't.  Could it be that they don't care enough about Rotary to be a bit angry? Or maybe, since Rotary  doesn't seem to care that they are somebody, they just walk out and rejoin the anybodies.

*Edited Sept 23, 2015.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Is The Way Rotary Thinks About Service Self-Limiting or Dead Wrong?

  Rotary clubs, according to conventional wisdom, are service clubs.  Rotary International itself says its member clubs are service clubs.  When we say service, we think serving the needy, the homeless, the community, etc.  And that’s fine and dandy – for us individually. After all, our motto is Service above Self.
  But when it comes to Rotary clubs, that line of thinking is DEAD WRONG!  Businesses survive by serving their customers. Rotary clubs are not-for-profit businesses.  Present and future members are their customers.  To survive, clubs must serve present and future members; not the needy, not the homeless, not the community; not Rotary International; not the Rotary Foundation – present and future members.  Clubs that don’t serve their members struggle to survive.
   So how do clubs’ serve their members?  They do so by being active in all aspects of Rotary’s Circle of Life – advancing the Object of Rotary.  Soundly pursuing the first and second Objects of Rotary attracts and engages members immediately while encouraging them to engage in the third and fourth Objects of Rotary, which attracts even more members.  Rotary clubs make their communities and the world better places by serving their members.
  What the Rotary World does is rooted in Who Rotarians are, so when someone asks me ‘What is Rotary’ I respond with something like ‘Rotary is a network of local business, professional, and community leaders who work to make our community and world a better place to live.’
Highlighted or underlined text have links to previous Rotatorials.