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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Will Rotary International Follow Kodak?

For almost twenty years, Rotary in North America has undergone a dramatic drop in membership.  At the 2010 Regional Rotary International Membership Coordinator (RRIMC) Assembly, word came out that some Rotary International (RI) Directors had said that membership was primarily a North American Problem.  Zone 33 and 34 RRIMC's Bevin Wall and Jim Henry posted a Rotatorial on this matter indicating that North America was a projection of RI's future unless it addressed some basic issues.
     Past RI Director John Smarge, in his 2011 presentation before the International Assembly, highlighted one of the basic issues when he announced that between the years 2003 - 2010, Rotary clubs throughout the world inducted 1.1 million members while membership held steady at approximately 1.2 million members.  Many Rotary leaders, unaware that RI had suffered a net loss of 1.1 million members - 157,000 per year - gasped.
     During this time period, records show that North American clubs had a gross loss of approximately 43,000 members.  Accurate records do not exist regarding regional net losses, but, using the numbers from Director Smarge's presentation, let's take a trip down Logic Lane and assume that North American clubs inducted 300,000 members. This would mean that North America's net loss was 343,000.  What regions lost the other 757,000?  Because of poor membership management, the only thing we know is that RI lost 1.1 million members - half of its customers - in a seven-year period.  What would the directors of any thriving company say to management when given this information?  What does the RI Director representing your club say about RI's membership management?
      Let's be honest with ourselves.  Membership, particularly retention, is a worldwide issue.  A reputable worldwide firm hired by RI concluded over a year ago that RI is in the same position now that Kodak, a once mighty worldwide photographic giant that recently filed for bankruptcy, found itself in 1997 and did little to alter its future (Graphics 47-52 of the document available at this link.)
North America is warning RI of its future.  The Rotary world, from bottom to top, must cease addressing symptoms and refocus from being top-down What: service-centric supported by members to being bottom-up Who: member-centric impacting local communities and the world.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rotary International's Organization Chart - Shouldn't it Look Something Like This?

Rotary International - Does it have the Will, Talent, and Fortitude to Transform its Membership Fortunes?

  1. What business is Rotary International (RI) in?
  2. Who is its customer?
  3. What do its customers value?
  4. What results does it want?
            Only when RI (or any other organization) answers these questions will it be in a position to embark on creating an effective plan to achieve its desired results.
            RI's planning group, The Guiding Coalition, must be a powerful force! No one individual has the capabilities to develop the right vision, communicate it to large numbers of people, eliminate all the key obstacles, generate short-term successes, lead and manage dozens of high energy-type people, and anchor new approaches, particularly in an established organization's culture.   The Guiding Coalition must have high credibility, and its first action should be to ban RI's organizational structure from its thought processes.  Leading change takes transformational leadership.  Teamwork is essential.  Unfortunately, most senior level Rotary leaders today, sadly mostly male, developed when teamwork was a metaphor; when 'teamwork' was accomplished by the 'team' - Boss and his direct yes-sir subordinates.
       This type leadership is no longer effective because innovators, the very people who should be attracted to local Rotary clubs and RI staff, do not fit in organization chart squares because it boxes them in and minimizes the use of their brain power.  RI should lead the way by creating an organization where the goals of all staff members and Rotary leaders, while applying specialized talents, overlap so all are striving to attain one single result - grow at a steady rate by delivering to Rotary clubs, Rotarians and TRF donors what they value.
            RI is an association with a worldwide customer base - over 35,000 member clubs, each to whom RI should be delivering what the clubs value.  Each club's customers - Rotarians - have enterprising minds and want to connect with like-minded people to make greater impacts in their communities and the world - each to whom clubs should be delivering what their members value.  RI and its member clubs, to sustain a steady growth rate, must transform themselves from their perceived positions of 'service' organizations to 'member' organizations that deliver value.  Nothing should be off limits to change: what doesn't help attain the desired result must be abandoned; what does help must be strengthened; and the quicker the better.
 Transformational leaders, knowing what business they are in, who their customers are and what they value, lead from the front. They are results oriented, employ the power of language, disperse leadership, and create accurate measures of performance.  Does this type innovative leadership exist in RI's hierarchy?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What are Rotary International's Targeted Results?

            Now that Rotary has chipped away at the Mound of Basic Factors hindering membership growth by clarifying “What business Rotary is in”, “Who Rotary’s customers really are”, and "What Rotarians value"it is vital that Rotary International (RI) defines the results it wants to achieve.  The lack of defining results has been a major membership impediment because, since 1996, the number of Rotarians has hovered just over 1.2 million.  This proves one of two realities:  RI's desired result was to sustain membership at just over 1.2 million or, if RI's desired result was to grow membership, it has not dedicated sufficient leadership and resources to the effort.
         There should be no question that RI's desired result should be to sustain a healthy growth rate.  To think anything has a higher priority is irrational because RI's existence depends on income from dues-paying Rotarians.  To achieve a continuous growth rate, RI must dedicate sufficient leadership and resources to the effort.
        The Rotary Foundation's (TRF) results should be changing lives of beneficiaries while helping RI to grow membership by honoring what its customers - its donors, most of whom are dues paying Rotarians - value.  TRF's results should not be centered on addressing needs.  TRF should take the more business-like approach in its endeavors by defining needs and achieving results as demonstrated by its polio eradication campaign.  In this arena, results become moving targets because TRF should ensure that its plans are designed in such a way that results can be measured.  TRF must avoid the temptation to only undertake challenges that can be easily quantified.  Results should be TRF's goals as well as its test, but often results require time to realize their effectiveness.  A commonality to all TRF's results is that its undertakings must change beneficiaries lives while delivering to its donors what they value.
     RI's growth and appeal depends on local Rotarians connecting and improving lives in their community and worldwide by resourcefully utilizing Rotary's many attributes including, but not limited to, TRF.  

  • This is what will strengthen local Rotary clubs;
  • This is what will make it easier to start new clubs;
  • This is what will grow RI and TRF;
  • This is what will sustain Rotary's legacy.

Next in chipping away at the Mound of Basic Factors hindering membership growth is developing plans to achieve desired results.  Skipping any step discussed in this Sisyphus series will render planning time and resources useless and wasted.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sisyphus Complex - What do Rotarians Value?

Now that Rotary has chipped away at the Mound of Basic Factors by examining “What business Rotary is in” and “Who Rotary’s customers really are” it is necessary to discuss what Rotary’s customers – average Rotary club members – value; what satisfies their needs, wants, and aspirations.  Rotary leaders at all levels should not even try to guess what these values are, but should keep updated by continuing to seek answers from the only ones who can answer – Rotarians; local leaders who act rationally within their own situation and reality.
Everything exemplary leaders of successful organizations do is centered on creating and delivering value to their customers.  Unfortunately Rotary leaders have fallen into the trap that has taken many organizations to the Organization Cemetery: answering for the average Rotarian by rationalizing that the quality of Rotary International’s (RI) projects and programs is paramount; seeing the organization as the end in itself.  That’s the RI bureaucracy talking, not the Rotarian; that’s the RI bureaucracy asking, “Does it fit within our projects, programs, systems, and practices?” when it should be asking, “Does it deliver value to local clubs; to local Rotarians?” 
All Rotary clubs would do well to determine what members’ value and what they expect the club to deliver.  Once clubs determine what members’ value, it is not difficult to understand what has to be done.  It may be difficult to implement, and clubs may need assistance.  Where will they get it?  Click here to read about how the Rotary Club of Sarasota, Florida, USA, is Bucking the Downward Trend because it knows what business it is in, its customers and what they value.
If Rotary leaders do not chip away at the Mound of Basic Factor by knowing what business Rotary is in, who their customers are, and what their customers value, growing membership will remain an eternal Sisyphus struggle. 

The next Sisyphus Rotatorial will discuss the importance of being results oriented.